There are many things you can do to prepare your family and home for wildfire, but it is also important to have a plan for your community. September marks National Preparedness Month, sponsored by FEMA, and the focus for this week is all about getting your community prepared.
Why is it important to get involved in community preparedness?
Ultimately, a more prepared community is going to help you reduce your individual wildfire risk. Research shows that embers and small surface fires are the primary reason for homes burning in a wildfire. The key to defending our homes is to prepare the area zero to 100 feet surrounding our home, known as the home ignition zones. In many communities, those zones around homes overlap, so your risk can be impacted by your neighbor’s risk. This is why it is so important to work with our neighbors and have an overall strategy to educate, plan and prepare your community.
What are some of the things we can do to prepare our community?
- Lead by example – It is hard to take advice from someone who doesn’t take their own advice. So before telling your neighbor what they should do on their property, think about what you can do on yours. Consider having an individual home assessment done with a local wildfire mitigation specialist. They can help you identify and address specific risks for your home. This visit or the home repair and landscaping projects you do afterward are both good opportunities to share what you are doing with your neighbors. It may inspire them to think about what they can do as well.
- Provide support – You can provide your neighbors with support both educationally and physically. New homeowners moving into the area might not know about the wildfire risk your community faces, so welcoming them with some handy information about the neighborhood and what they can do to reduce their risk, is a great way to introduce yourself and get a conversation started. There may be neighbors living in your community who cannot physically do some of the home and landscaping projects needed to reduce their risk. Offer to lend a hand. Remember you are not only helping them but reducing the overall risk to the community and your home as well.
- Plan community events – Hold a day of action in your community that gets people outside and working together. People are more likely to take action when there is a specific day with a call to action. It is always good to include incentives for people to participate, like the use of chipper or an evening potluck to celebrate.
- Take it to the next level - The Firewise USA program helps communities build a framework for working with neighbors to create a more ignition-resistant community. The steps to becoming a Firewise USA site help your community learn about your risk, come up with a plan to address it and encourage neighbors to work together to take action. To share information with your neighbors on the Firewise USA program, consider ordering our newest brochure Taking Control of your Wildfire Risk. The brochure speaks to the importance of working together as a community.
You can find more information about preparing homes for wildfire and getting youth involved in wildfire preparedness on our website. Follow my colleague Lisa Braxton on Safety Source as she shares more resources for National Preparedness Month on home fires and other disasters.
Image credits: NFPA; Taylor Hunsaker of Kimberly, Idaho.