When it comes to wildfire, communities all across the globe are continuing to find ways to work together to prepare ahead and reduce their risk. In Tuesday’s session at NFPA’s Conference & Expo, “A Little Help From Your Friends: Lessons Learned from Wildfire Engagement Campaigns from Around the World,” panel members Faith Berry and Lucian Deaton from NFPA, Kelly Johnston of Partners in Protection in Canada, and Oriol Vilalta from the Pau Costa Foundation in Spain, discussed their experiences and challenges, and highlighted examples of community-wide engagement campaigns taking place in the U.S., Canada, and Spain that are motivating people to act to help make where they live safer from wildfire.
Over the last few years, wildfires have made headlines due to the record-setting number of fires and acres burned. In 2017, the U.S. saw one of the worst seasons on record with more than 71,000 fires burning more than 10 million acres. Across the border in Canada, British Columbia had its second worst fire season on record. And across the Atlantic, a recent fire map showed massive flames burning across Italy, Romania and Russia while New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil saw wildfires destroy hundreds of homes. In Portugal, 60 people died over the course of one weekend in June due to wildfires.
Yet despite the overwhelming numbers, residents living in high-risk wildfire areas continue their efforts to adapt and prepare. One of the ways they are taking action is by participating in NFPA’s Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. The panel was excited to discuss how events like Prep Day are gaining momentum, reaching a global scale. In 2015, Canada launched its version of Prep Day and just this year, Spain and Italy joined the global stage with similar campaigns.
"We are so excited to see how much interest there is in Preparedness Day," said Berry. "Each year since our pilot program, the number of applications have grown considerably, and every year we collaborate with more and more great organizations who are committed and passionate about wildfire safety."
"Preparedness Day is a really great integrated international program," said Johnston. "And here in Canada we have been working very hard at educating communities about their risk. Because of this, we continue to see community involvement in this event increase every year, which is exciting."
Vilalta echoed this sentiment by saying," The Foundation, which was developed to provide a platform for exchanging knowledge on forest fire ecology and management at a European level, continues to work with communities on a regular basis so they are not just prepared, but well aware of and understand their risk before a fire threatens their area."
After initial introductions to their individual programs, the panel then focused on a handful of key questions and shared insight with their audience. Questions like: How do you engage local stakeholders in wildfire mitigation like insurance agencies, fire departments and government officials in your communities? What are the kinds of materials you create to help promote Preparedness Day events? The open dialogue proved a great way to help inspire and engage members of the audience to go back to their own communities and take the next step.
Because of local, community action, people are making a difference where they live when it comes to wildfire safety. To learn more about Prep Day, visit us at www.wildfireprepday.org. Additional information about NFPA’s international partnerships and the great work these global communities are doing, can be found on NFPA’s wildfire webpage.