This is the first of a series of five blogs that takes a look at NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division's recently released report: Engaging Youth in Reducing Wildfire Risk. The blogs examine why middle and high school students can and should have a role in reducing wildfire risk in the communities where they live. The report looks at existing programs throughout the country, youth preparedness research, findings from a series of six interactive workshops with students living in areas impacted by wildfire and a questionnaire distributed to teachers in four communities that recently experienced a wildland fire event.
Currently, there is no nationwide wildland fire education program that focuses exclusively on impacting youth behaviors and attitudes as they relate to prevention, preparedness, and mitigation. There's a multitude of excellent programs that target environmental education topics with brief information on wildfire mitigation, and a few that do a good job of tying in multiple components; but most don't address the science of the home ignition zone and the work that can positively impact a home's chances of survivability.
Estimates indicate that more than 8.8 million students in grades six through twelve would benefit from learning how to reduce the wildfire risk at their home and in the communities where they reside; and as they mature into the next generation's wildland/urban interface home and land owners.
Researchers consider our nation's youth to be the best envoy for carrying preparedness messages home to their families and that they can convince their parents to prepare. Additional research by disaster safety experts demonstrates outreach to middle and high school aged students that emphasizes safety, prevention, mitigation and recovery is sorely needed in wildfire-prone areas. The gaps between what students want and and need to know - and what is currently available is extremely large.
Youth can be passionate about issues that concern them and can be empowered to make preparedness a priority through actions and by proactively spreading important mitigation messages.
Check out the other four blogs in the Engaging Youth in Reducing Wildfire Risk series at the following links: