Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan

Partnering with meteorologists to share wildfire risk reduction messaging

Blog Post created by Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan Employee on Mar 9, 2018

 

In the world of wildfire risk reduction, it seems like we are always looking for another way to engage with our target audience - those residents living in or near the WUI. At the StormCenter Live Conference in San Antonio on March 3rd, I had the opportunity to speak to individuals that may prove to be useful partners in sharing wildfire messaging, broadcast meteorologists. These folks are trusted by their communities and have the ability to reach hundreds to thousands of people at one time.

 

Developed by broadcast meteorologist, for meteorologists, the conference is an opportunity to share the latest developments in forecasting, safety preparedness, extreme weather science, and best practices when dealing with extreme weather. Its mission is "to create content that educates, informs, prevent and alleviates human suffering in the face of extreme weather and disasters by mobilizing the power of media and working in partnerships with communities to create a more informed public." What an awesome idea!

 

I presented on the wildland fire issue - statistics from the last year and the shift we are seeing with fire as a year round event. I also focused on the relationship between embers and how homes burn, and steps people can take to reduce their risk. My goal was to expose the attendees to resources, tips, and tools they can share when forecasting conditions that influence wildland fire behavior.

 

In my previous work at a state forestry agency, we reached out to the major new channels before our typical fire season, but I'm not sure how much we tied in wildfire preparedness and mitigation to weather forecasts. Looking back, I wish we had pursued those opportunities more. We know that small actions in the HIZ can make a big difference. With a captive audience, meteorologists have a unique ability to slip in gentle reminders to "cut that grass" or "clean out those gutters" prior to a weather event, helping residents reduce the opportunity for embers to find a fuel source on or against their home.

 

I want to thank Alex Garcia, StormCenter Live, and Rob Galbraith, USAA, for giving NFPA the opportunity to speak at their event. Not only did I get to share about a topic near and dear to my heart, I got to learn from so many others. There was an excellent assortment of extreme weather presentations, including several related to hail, climate change, tornadoes, and severe storms, along with a really engaging session led by Gina Eosco on social science and communicating severe weather information.

 

Call to action:
Does your wildfire organization partner with its local news media to share wildfire threats and weather concerns? There's no time like the present to seek out those opportunities.

 

Top photo: courtesy Rob Galbraith, USAA

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