When we think about wildfires and their aftermath, sometimes the discussions don’t look at what it really takes to rebuild lives and neighborhoods. When residents tell me that they are not going to prepare because that is what insurance is for, I don’t think they realize that their lack of preparation will not only cost them the loss of their home, but other things as well in the, “cascading effects” of wildfire”.
This phrase really resonated with me when I attended a recent forum in Washington D.C., where members of the insurance industry, IBHS, FEMA, NEMA and others presented about creating disaster survivability and how we can work together to look at different ways of reducing the risk of wildfire loss. At a presentations by Chris Rodriguez, Director of the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, he mentioned how difficult it is to look at what the real costs of disasters, including wildfire disasters, really are. He called this the “Cascading Effects” of the event in the lives of survivors and the communities at large.
So, what do these cascading effects mean in wildfire? I can think of four immediately:
- Extended separation time for family members and the anxiety this might especially cause children.
- The irreparable loss of antiques and other sentimental items, like yearbooks, family pictures, family documents, and even pets.
- Additional costs to the homeowner for hazmat removal – hazardous materials are created when the home and its contents burn – that may not be covered in their insurance policy.
- The time spent away from home, jobs, and school.
For neighborhoods, this cascade can also include rebuilding critical infrastructure, like water supplies, power poles, and cell towers.
So, how do we address this cascade of effects in wildfire? We should recognize that residents, agency partners, businesses, engineers, government entities, and others all have a role to play. When these groups come together to address both complex and simple mitigation strategies necessary to insure neighborhood and home survival, NFPA’s Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem can provide valuable framework for collective action and addressing gaps.
The resident can directly influence this as well. Learn more about how you can be a part of creating communities that are more resilient and recover quicker and better from the next wildfire.
Let this be our goal as we all work together to address the cascading efforts of wildfire and help to protect lives and property.