Topic: Wildfire

Free online learning courses launched: learn how to reduce wildfire risk to property

Thanks to a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from FEMA, NFPA has transformed its existing classroom-based wildfire mitigation training into a digital learning experience. Two new courses on Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property – one for property owners, the other for wildfire mitigation professionals – will help bring key information and knowledge to millions of people. Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property: Protecting Your Home or Business helps educate homeowners, business owners, and property managers on the key factors that determine risk to property from wildfire, steps they can take to protect their homes and businesses, and tips on how to share the information with other community members. An Individual Property Protection Plan is built into the course, which offers tailored, practical steps to help prevent the destruction of property. The course also comes with a mobile app, the NFPA Wildfire Risk Simulator that includes an interactive 3D and augmented reality (AR) tool illustrating wildfire risk to structures. Users can select the environment, type of structure, and other details that most closely match their own scenario. As the simulated wildfire approaches, users will see the variables that help contribute to the destruction of their virtual home or building. Based on this learning, users can then adjust those variables for a more successful outcome. Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property: Professional Online Training is designed for wildfire mitigation professionals who want to increase their knowledge and confidence in evaluating wildfire risk in their communities and effectively communicating with property owners and community leaders. The two-hour self-guided online training includes interactive exercises to help users practice how to communicate risk and mitigation options to home and business owners and guide them to take effective steps to protect their property. This course provides continuing education units that can support job requirements as well as the maintenance of the NFPA Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist (CWMS) credential. In addition to the financial support from the FEMA Fire Prevention & Safety Grant, NFPA’s training team had expert support to develop the course from wildfire experts including former NFPA Wildfire Field Office Manager Tom Welle (currently with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office); Jerry McAdams, MC Fire, LLC and Boise (Idaho) Fire Department; and Justice Jones, Wildfire Mitigation Officer at City of Austin (Texas) Fire Department. The course material is distilled from seminal research by Dr. Jack Cohen (ret.), US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, and the Disaster Research Center of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The new courses support the tenets of its Outthink Wildfire™ policy initiative by dramatically increasing public access to wildfire risk reduction education. With nearly 45 million American homes at high risk to damage from wildfire, it is critically important that property owners and professional advisors have access to knowledge about wildfire causes and disaster prevention strategies. The trainings are designed to engage people in safety actions long before a fire starts, spurring much needed risk-reduction measures at the property and neighborhood levels. To learn more about reducing wildfire risk to property and to register for these free courses, visit nfpa.org/wildfirepreparedness.

PyroLife: training the next generation of wildfire scientists

Did you know about NFPA’s partnership with the European PyroLife project? Read on to learn more about this project and the importance of international partnerships in advancing Integrated Wildfire Management around the world. PyroLife is a PhD training network funded by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (EU Horizon 2020). Specifically, it is a PhD training program on wildfires, aimed at advancing holistic, integrated wildfire management in Europe and globally, with the support of a worldwide network. The network is made up of 15 PhD candidates and over 20 academic and non-academic institutions in Europe and beyond, including NFPA (more information about the network here). The PyroLife PhDs conduct research from very diverse areas, such as wildfire impacts on water and soil systems; the economic costs of wildfires; wildfire governance; wildfire building safety; and communicating with communities at risk. To foster learning and research across disciplines, sectors and geographies, and help them become the next generation of wildfire scientists, the PhDs are involved in multiple activities beyond their individual research projects. These include trainings, workshops, dissemination activities, and secondments. And this is where NFPA’s partnership with PyroLife comes in. NFPA has greatly contributed to organizing and facilitating training and dissemination events, like the PyroLife International Symposium in 2020, the PyroLife webinar series during 2021, and the Basics of Risk Communication training in November 2021.   Moreover, NFPA hosts four of the PyroLife PhDs for secondments. By doing these research exchanges, the PhDs are exposed to working environments that are complementary to where they usually conduct their research. This fosters cross-disciplinary, intersectoral, and geographical transfer of knowledge, building networks, and paving the road for future wildfire collaborations across the globe. For instance, Isabeau Ottolini, who researches community-based wildfire communication at the Open University of Catalonia (Spain), has recently spent her secondment with NFPA. Thanks to this, she has presented her research at two conferences: the 2022 NFPA Conference & Expo and the IAWF Fire & Climate Conference. Furthermore, she travelled across California, Colorado and Massachusetts, learning about wildfire management, communication, and community engagement on the ground. These extremely valuable learning opportunities would not have been possible without the PyroLife network and the partner's willingness to be so actively engaged in it. In a next blogpost, Isabeau will share lessons learned on wildfire communication from her time with NFPA, so stay tuned! About the author: Isabeau Ottolini is a PhD candidate from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain) and part of the European project, PyroLife. She is researching Community-based Wildfire Communication and has recently spent her secondment at NFPA’s Wildfire Division.

Sound Policy: A Means to an End of Wildfire Destruction in our Communities

There are 44.8 million homes located in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) in America. According to experts, over the past three years, the nation has seen over 100 fatalities, 40,000 structures destroyed, and nearly $40 billion in insured losses from wildfire in high-risk WUI areas. The picture remains dire, experts warn, and the destruction we have seen in the past few years is not just an anomaly, but a look into the near future. As widespread destruction from wildfire continues, many people remain unsure that what they do will make a difference. During a session at NFPA’s Conference & Expo on Wednesday morning, Michele Steinberg, NFPA Wildfire Division director, Meghan Housewright, NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute director, and Ray Bizal, NFPA Director of Regional Operations, led a panel discussion to remind attendees the safety of our communities is in our hands and comes through more sound local, state, and federal policy. The panel, who were among a group of experts instrumental in the development of NFPA’s “Outthink Wildfire™” campaign, went on to outline the campaign’s five tenets needed for all levels of government to foster collaboration, enact change, achieve resilience, and enhance protection from wildfire, and highlighted some of the policymaking activity and initiatives already underway in states like Oregon, Colorado, and California. But when it comes right down to it, they said, everyone plays a role in reducing wildfire risk. And just as better policy is paramount, more and continued collaboration is also needed between policymakers, the fire service, and the public if we are to move the needle in a more measurable way. “States are taking action,” said Steinberg, “but there are still obstacles we must overcome. While we have seen a lack of political will and public acceptance about the wildfire problem, we continue working closely with communities and policymakers across the country to help address these challenges.” More information about “Outthink Wildfire” and its five tenets is available at nfpa.org/outthinkwildfire.
Jim at General Sessions

NFPA General Session Focuses on Leadership, Innovation and Reaching Beyond Historical Success

NFPA President Jim Pauley gave a rousing keynote to thousands of attendees who were excited to be part of the 2022 NFPA Conference & Expo, which was back in person for the first time since 2019. He said, “While we had to delay our celebration of NFPA’s 125th anniversary, it is fitting that we are here in Boston to recognize this special milestone.” Noting that the conference was held only a short distance from the birthplace of NFPA in 1896, Pauley chronicled the 125-year past of the organization and stressed how it is driving the work NFPA does to further reduce loss and tackle the fire, life, and electrical safety issues of the times. “It is important to honor our past. But we don’t see our rich history as an easy chair to rest in, but a catapult to propel us forward - aimed at greater challenges than our predecessors experienced,” said Pauley.  He talked about the digital transformation impacting so many aspects of life. In particular, he spoke of the relevancy of NFPA LiNK™, which is dramatically changing the way professionals interact with codes and standards and related information. The digital platform provides better access to more robust information by delivering intuitive, seamless, information on demand when and where practitioners need it. This digital transformation is also a key factor in NFPA certification and training programs.  Online learning solutions feature interactive modeling, simulated training scenarios, and 3D virtual experiences. NFPA recently launched a new platform to make applying for and renewing certifications easier than ever and introduced remote proctoring for certification exams. Pauley also talked about one of the most prevalent fire threats today – wildfire – and a new NFPA initiative to reverse the disastrous trend. Outthink Wildfire™ is rooted in two facts – one is that wildfires are going to happen, whether they are caused by nature, by people, or the built environment.  And two, that fire departments will never be able to save all the property in the path of a wildfire. Outthink Wildfire is about how we build, where we build, and how we bring policymakers, first responders, and the public together to take action. Pivoting from the enormous success of NFPA and its critical role in providing resources that protect people and property from hazards, Pauley addressed a direct threat to NFPA. “NFPA is challenged by a vocal minority who have the erroneous view that standards, once incorporated by reference, should lose their copyright protection. They argue that if a governmental body decides to incorporate a standard into law or regulation to help with public safety, then the standard immediately is open for anyone to take, copy and distribute – even start a commercial business by offering them to the public – without any compensation to NFPA. This is a very misguided view,” he said. “The continued assault by special interests on copyright protection threatens the ability of NFPA and organizations like us to fund this important work… Without copyright protection, we would not be able to support the codes and standards development process, nor would be able to continue providing the research, public education programs, wildfire mitigation efforts, and other resources that are inherent to our mission and available for free.” Pauley emphasized that NFPA is continuing to fight this battle on all fronts to unequivocally confirm what is known: That standards are protected by copyright, even when they are incorporated by reference, allowing for a system that benefits government, businesses, and the public.  He concluded by looking forward. “What began 125 years ago to solve the fire problem in a young, industrialized nation is now a global force advancing safety worldwide. We are leading with innovative approaches to new and lingering threats. Through our work together, more people and property are saved in more places.”
A facilitator listening to a group

Outthink Wildfire summit works to build a bridge between barriers to wildfire mitigation and strategies to overcome them

As the past several years have shown, the mounting wildfire crisis in the U.S. presents a significant danger to people, homes, and communities, particularly those in wildfire urban interface (WUI) settings. While we know what’s needed to measurable reduce these risks, putting them into action requires buy-in and support from individual property-owners, communities, and policymakers at each level of government. Therein lies the challenge. Motivating these audiences to do their part isn’t always easy. But to truly increase safety from wildfire, we need to identify viable pathways to better combat the growing wildfire problem and put those measures into action. As a next step toward that end, NFPA hosting its first Outthink Wildfire™ summit last week in Sacramento, CA. NFPA launched Outthink Wildfire last year as a major policy initiative to stem the tide of wildfire-caused human and property losses through significant changes at all levels of government. Outthink Wildfire is about how we build, where we build, and bringing policymakers, fire service and the public together to solve the problem. The summit focused on developing a set of recommendations for the built environment, primarily tackling ways to get existing homes better protected from wildfire. Representatives from nearly 40 organizations were invited to share their input, insights, and recommendations, and to help create a template for effectively reducing wildfire risks in WUI communities. While space for this event was limited, it serves as a launchpad for many more individuals and organizations to participate going forward so that we can collectively move the needle on wildfire mitigation. Outthink Wildfire participants (in alphabetical order) American Property Casualty Insurance Association Brian Meacham Associates Build Strong America CAL FIRE California Association of REALTORS® California Building Industry Association California Building Standards Commission California Fire Safe Council California Fire Science Consortium/Cal Poly San Luis Obispo California Governor's Office City of Austin (TX) Fire Department Colorado Div. of Fire Prevention & Control Colorado Wildfire Partners Desert Research Institute Fire Marshals Association of Colorado U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Insurance Information Institute International Code Council Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. National Association of State Fire Marshals National Disability Rights Network National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) National Volunteer Fire Council National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) NorCal Fire Prevention Officers Oregon Building Codes Division, Dept Consumer & Business Svcs Oregon Fire Marshals Association Oregon State Fire Marshals Office Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) Foundation Sonoma County (CA) Fire Prevention & Hazardous Materials Div. Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment U.S. Fire Administration UL Fire Safety Research Institute USDA Forest Service Western Fire Chiefs Association Wildland Fire Leadership Council A full report on the summit and next steps will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, a tremendous thank you to the 50-plus representatives who attended the summit this week. The enthusiasm and commitment displayed reinforces my hope and belief that we will truly be able to meet the ultimate Outthink Wildfire goal of eliminating wildfire hazards in 30 years. I also look forward to hearing from all the wildfire safety advocates and officials who were not at the summit but would like to get actively involved in the Outthink Wildfire initiative. It takes buy-in and engagement from all of us to make holistic, impactful wildfire mitigation a reality.
Hands holding a house

Spring in to action: financial preparedness for wildfire

As we work through the last month of spring, NFPA wants to make sure you are ready for wildfires.  There are many actions when it comes to preparation ahead of a wildfire, one important step that often gets overlooked is financial preparedness. Homeowners and renters need to have property insurance in place to help recover from a wildfire or other disaster. Recent wildfire losses are highlighting a real problem of underinsurance. According to a posting on insurance.com, "Most homes are underinsured. Nationwide estimates that about two-thirds of American homes are underinsured. Some homes are underinsured by at least 60 percent and the average is about 22 percent. CoreLogic estimates that three out of five American homes are underinsured by an average of 20 percent." This means that when a loss from wildfire or other disaster occurs, much of the repair or rebuild cost will fall on the homeowner as an out-of-pocket expense. To ensure your coverage is update to-date, our friends at American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) recommend doing the following each year: Update your policy after remodels or home improvements. Ask if your policy has coverages for three key things to prevent underinsurance: Extended replacement cost; Building code upgrade coverage; and Annual inflation adjustment. Be sure your policy reflects the correct square footage, number of bedrooms / bathrooms and doors and windows. Make sure your policy reflects your home’s finishes like granite countertops or hardwood floors. Renters need property insurance too. Consider bundling renters’ insurance with your auto coverage. Add comprehensive coverage to your auto policy to protect car in a wildfire Another important step to determine if you have enough coverage to replace your possessions is to create a home inventory. This task may seem daunting, especially if you've been in your home for many years, but it can be manageable. Some simple steps from the Insurance Information Institute include: Pick an easy spot to start, an area that is contained such as a small kitchen appliance cabinet or sporting equipment closet List recent purchases Include basic information – where you bought it, make and model, what you paid County clothing by general category Record serial numbers found on major appliances and electronic equipment Check coverage on big ticket items Don't forget off-site items Keep proof of value – sales receipts, purchase contracts, appraisals Don't get overwhelmed – It's better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all When creating your home inventory, embrace technology! Take pictures or videos, back them up digitally. There also many apps available to help organize and store your records. The current wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico remind us that wildfires can occur any time of year when the conditions allow.  Start your financial preparedness now – visit APCIA to download the How to Update Your Insurance and How to Create a Home Inventory tip sheets to guide your annual insurance review.  Share with your friends and family so they can be ready too!
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