As the manager of the Wildland Fire Operations Division, I recently attended a Mass Evacuation Conference in Fairfax, Virginia along with colleagues, David G. Henry of the National Governors Association (NGA) and Ed Plaugher from the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). The purpose of the conference was to examine the mass evacuation landscape across the U.S., and included a special keynote address by new U.S. Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell, Jr. Discussions included how agencies set standards, what current research and approaches are available, as well as how protocol for all disasters, including wildfire, and which varies from state to state, is currently followed.
NFPA's Orlando Hernandez, a Sr. Specialist in Emergency Services, along with IAFC's Shawn Stokes, Director of Wildland Fire Programs, provided a 360-degree view of the current Mass Evacuation situation. This scenario-based activity provided participants an opportunity to analyze a mass evacuation scenario, and offer their professional insight into how they have responded (or would respond to a similar event in the future).
As you know, NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division currently collaborates with IAFC and “Ready, Set, Go!”, a program which works in complimentary fashion with our Firewise Communities Program and other existing wildland fire public education efforts. It utilizes firefighters to teach individuals who live in high-risk wildfire areas and the wildland/urban-interface (WUI) how to best prepare themselves and their properties against fire threats, including the steps they can take in an event of an evacuation during a wildfire threat. Together, representatives from IAFC, NGA and NFPA determined there is a need for a Mass Evacuation Project. The question now is, how best can we develop this national Framework for Mass Evacuation, and implement it across the country.
There will certainly be more information on this topic. Stay tuned for updates!