Looking at the FEMA issued map of disaster declarations for the last 50 years, I realized that there is a lot more work and research that needs to be accomplished to help communities be more resilient. What does it mean to be resilient? From a NIST statement, it is; “The ability of a community to prepare for anticipated hazards, adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions.”
The NIST report went on to state; "Over the last 10 years, natural disasters have caused, on average, $62 billion in damages and killed more than 550 people annually. From 2011 to 2013, the federal government spent an estimated $136 billion on disaster relief." The message is a wake-up call for every community that we need to be better prepared to fare better in the event of a disaster.
Wildfire is one event that can be prepared for predisaster. According to a US Forest Service study, "Wildland fire and related natural disturbances continue to grow as major global threats to property, lives, and ecosystem integrity." The data from NIST state that more than 46 million homes and 77,000 communities in the US are at risk from wildfire.
So what can you do? Insurance industry leaders have looked at the data and recognized the value of living in a nationally recognized Firewise Community. NFPA's Firewise Communities program enables residents, firefighters, and community leaders have the information, education, and tools that they need to understand what their risk is and how they can best "mitigate" or work towards lessening their risk to loss from wildfire. NFPA is currently offering two activities directed at residents and firefighters.
The first, National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, on May 7th and the second, FEMA funded Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) training for firefighters. These activities will give individuals the opportunity to learn about and implement wildfire preparedness principles. You can also refer to the Firewise website for success stories, no cost grant funded educational products, and tools that you will need to develop and grow your own nationally recognized Firewise Community.