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245 Posts authored by: lisamariesinatra Employee

hurricane andrew

 

Florida is a state with a lot to teach about how regulatory action can build resilience in the face of devastating natural disasters.

 

In her recent column in the May/June 2020 issue of NFPA Journal, Michele Steinberg, director of NFPA’s wildfire division, discusses how in the face of unprecedented losses from hurricanes, specifically Hurricane Andrew, Florida’s regulators, insurers, and policymakers came to the realization that maintaining the status quo was just another invitation for future disasters and loss. So they rolled up their sleeves and got to work, tackling weaknesses in the system, and developing  solutions like a risk-based building code, risk-sharing insurance program, a wind velocity map project, and more, all to help ensure the strongest protections from hurricanes in the most vulnerable areas across the state. Applying these lessons learned, Steinberg said, has positioned the state in a significantly better place nearly 30 years later.

 

So, what does this mean for wildfire? What Florida was able to do is a proof of concept that learning from past events can make a huge difference in the future safety of a community.  In this case, Florida’s efforts, said Steinberg, should be especially valuable to officials in California and elsewhere who are now undertaking the incredibly complex effort to blunt the surging impacts of wildfires on their communities.

 

Learn more by reading “The Andrew Effect” in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.

wildfire

 

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on NFPA Today in October, 2019, and has been edited. As spring and summer months approach, the topics of durable medical equipment, patient safety, and their relationship to natural disasters is once again, a timely one. 

 

As so often is the case when you work in building and life safety, and strive to bring attention to potential hazards, a tragic incident has occurred to underscore the concerns and opportunities noted in this blog. Newsweek reports that, a 67-year old, oxygen-dependent Northern California man with COPD and congestive heart failure, died when a utility company cut power to his home. His medical equipment required power to deliver the needed oxygen. Within 15 minutes of PG&E turning off electrical service in the area due to the threat of wildfire, local first responders received and responded to an emergency call from someone on life-saving medical equipment. Despite their rescue attempts – while using flashlights - the man died. 

 

Durable medical equipment (DME) is the term used for medical equipment that patients use in the home to maintain optimal health. In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in health care placing a greater emphasis on controlling patient health and the transitioning of health care from hospitals and doctors’ offices to patients' homes and mobile devices. Given this shift, it is safe to say that the use of DME will increase in the future.

 

The use of DME makes sense for health care organizations looking to reduce overhead and operational responsibilities; insurance industries interested in paying less in premiums; and patients hoping to save some money on medical expenses. Some studies show that patient healing is also enhanced while being treated or recovering in familiar surroundings. The thing is, those that use DME including oxygen concentrators, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, ventilators, IV infusion pumps, suction pumps, electric beds, and various other pieces of equipment, rely significantly on a dependable power source to ensure their safety and well-being. Most DME is electrically-powered, therefore if there is a loss of primary power to the home, patients could be at grave risk if there are no alternate power plans in place.


Power loss can stem from a natural disaster, power grid issues, or intentional controlled power outages (sometimes referred to as a “public safety power shutdown”), like those being considered in areas of Northern California by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). PG&E power lines have been responsible for some recent wildfires in their market, including the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 86 people, so the company is hoping to reduce or eliminate potential ignitions from its power lines by initiating controlled power outages in areas where there might be a high risk of a wildfire occurring.


According to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response, approximately 2.5 million people covered under Medicare in the United States use some form of DME, thus the reason it is essential that we have a resilient power supply infrastructure in place to ensure that DME is fully powered for proper use. The number of DME users covered by other programs such as Medicaid, private pay insurance and VA programs are unknown. Some DME may be equipped with back-up battery power, but that source will typically only last a few hours.


Ensuring the safety of patients reliant on DME should be a priority among emergency managers and those responsible for policy planning too. Jurisdictional emergency plans should include a way to identify the most vulnerable residents who rely on DME. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program, emPOWER, which uses the Medicare claims database to identify patients that utilize DME, can help with that effort. Emergency plans, for example, might call for the evacuation of the patient, if possible, and relocation to a health care facility that has a back up power system in place. Other plans may call for the patient to be checked on, if they have a generator or other means that enable them to defend in place. The latter option may be a better strategy, in some cases, if relocating the patient is impractical due to the patient’s condition, environmental conditions, resources available at the time, and logistics associated with moving the patient and multiple pieces of DME. Beyond evacuating and defending in place, the emPOWER database can also be used to help utility companies prioritize power restoration efforts and emergency managers to focus their response resources.


In June, NFPA staff members joined representatives from the Meridian Institute, Clean Energy Group, the health care industry, energy sector, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and several other organizations at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts to discuss today’s resilient power supply system and potential issues for patients that use DME. Two common methods of supplying back up power – generators, and combination solar/energy storage systems (ESS) – were considered.


Generators, it was noted, have their limitations as the equipment must be maintained, refueled, can be noisy, and are likely to produce pollutants. Solar and battery storage systems may be a good option, it was determined, but the cost can be prohibitive, especially for low-income patients. Key findings were shared in the Meridian Institute report, including recommendations that solar and ESS options be further researched to see how patients can affordably access and pay for potentially life-saving alternative energy solutions.


NFPA recognizes there is also a need to address resilient power for DME in its codes and standards. To that end, the National Electrical Code (NEC) Correlating Committee is currently forming a task group to examine how the current requirements in the NEC should be managed for DME. The objective will be to determine if changes need to be made to the code to address the interface criteria between alternate power sources and the distribution system for the DME. Additionally, the new NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems and NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems may also play a role in addressing DME resiliency; those documents will need to be reviewed to see how their requirements can further support the infrastructure for DME.

 

NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code already contains requirements for patient care, electrical appliances, and equipment, however, the current application of NFPA 99 excludes home health care. Therefore, there are currently no requirements for DME in NFPA 99. The correlating committee on Health Care Facilities is meeting in Phoenix, Arizona next month to complete their work on the 2020 edition of NFPA 99. The topic of DME will be on the agenda and dialogue about whether DME should be factored into the standard in the future is expected.


Addressing the resiliency aspect of DME in emergency management protocol, via forward-thinking collaborations and in the codes and standards that provide benchmarks for safety, will help to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community are safe the next time power is compromised by weather events, power outages, and forced shutdowns.

wildfire

Accepting that humans cannot stop wildfires from happening, no matter how much effort and money we throw at the task, is a necessary cultural shift that many wildfire experts believe is long overdue. As wildfires continue to burn across the country and around the globe, we must adopt the mindset that fire is a natural part of the landscape that cannot be eliminated and as such, we need to get serious about finding ways to effectively live alongside it.

 

In her current wildfire column in NFPA Journal, Michele Steinberg explains how one diverse group of experts, from academia to the fire service to public policy, came together in a two-day workshop to help identify new approaches to the wildfire problem, including the importance of incorporating more research into the narrative to help our understanding of how we can build better communities to resist wildfire.  

 

Read "A Way Forward" in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal.

Research around home destruction vs. home survival during wildfires points to embers and small flames as the main way the majority of homes ignite. Did you know that every day household items we keep outside can contribute to the spread of flames as well as ember ignitions?

In the video, Dr. Jack Cohen, Fire Science Researcher with the USDA Forest Service (retired), discusses how to spot these items and provides two quick and easy steps that can help reduce the risk of them igniting. 

As Wildfire Community Preparedness Day draws near, use this opportunity to embark on a plan for how you’ll address wildfire safety around your home and property.  

Find additional information about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and related project ideas on wildfireprepday.org.

Research around home destruction vs. home survival during wildfires points to embers and small flames as the main way the majority of homes ignite. While many of us may think that just our homes are at risk, there are places on our property like sheds, chicken coops, and other structures that are in danger too, and close enough to ignite and spread flames to the house.

In the video, Dr. Jack Cohen, Fire Science Researcher with the USDA Forest Service (retired), takes us on a tour of a local property and points out some of the key outbuildings that can pose a danger during a wildfire.

As Wildfire Community Preparedness Day draws near, use this opportunity to start thinking about wildfire safety at home and in your neighborhood. Find additional information about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and related project ideas on wildfireprepday.org.

Research around home destruction vs. home survival during wildfires points to embers and small flames as the main way the majority of homes ignite. Evaluating your home's risk to embers and flames can help you determine the areas around your home that are most vulnerable.

In the video, Dr. Jack Cohen, Fire Science Researcher with the USDA Forest Service (retired), takes us on a tour of a local home and shows us five key areas we may not have realized contribute to home ignitions. 

As Wildfire Community Preparedness Day draws near, use this opportunity to jump start your work with your state forestry agency or fire department who can help conduct risk evaluations of homes in your neighborhood. These professionals not only can help you identify areas around your home that need attention, but they can also provide guidance on the activities you can help make a difference.

Find additional information about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and related project ideas on wildfireprepday.org

wildfire

 

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.

Firewise USA, wildfire safety, Oregon, wildfire preparedness

 

Firewise USA™ welcomes Ashley Blakely, Public Information Officer and Fire & Life Safety Specialist, Jackson Country Fire District 3, White City, Oregon, as our guest blogger. Below is her account of Southern Oregon’s first Firewise Expo held in May. Ashley asked NFPA if she could share the success of the event and its activities with other community residents living in high-risk wildfire areas.

 

In May, fire agencies and emergency managers from Jackson and Josephine counties hosted the first ever Southern Oregon Firewise Expo held in White City at Fire District 3 regional training grounds. Over the two-day period, close to 1,100 community members visited the Expo to take part in hands-on learning that focused on burn pile safety and construction, poor vs. proper planning in the home ignition zone, and tips for how to identify fire-resistant and fire-prone plants within their landscape. 

 

Fire personnel from multiple local agencies facilitated several interactive demonstrations that highlighted how the community and their families could better prepare themselves and their home for fire season.


"The live fire demonstrations were especially impactful for landowners to experience. Southern Oregon is highly susceptible to wildfire and some of the more common fire-prone plants such as juniper, cypress and arborvitae, are commonly placed near the home. We wanted to show how vulnerable these types of plants could be to a home in the event of a wildfire," said Ashley Lara, Fire District 3 Fire & Life Safety Specialist and National Fire Adapted Communities Network Member.


There were also plenty of other demonstrations that fire crews helped with, including proper chipping techniques and how to make an emergency preparedness kit. For those who were interested in fire science, there was a discussion around the science behind Firewise landscaping [limiting the amount of flammable vegetation and materials surrounding the home and increasing the moisture content of remaining vegetation]. There was also a restoration area where natural resource managers, restoration experts, local nurseries and fire officials provided education on how to make “Firewise” choices for their home and landscape.


"Living in the Rogue Valley, being Firewise is not just a choice, but a way of life. Citizens must adopt fire safe practices around their home and neighborhoods to better protect our communities from the impacts of wildfire," said Alison Lerch, Ashland Fire and Rescue Fire Adapted Communities Coordinator and National Fire Adapted Communities Network Member.


The event was a great success and will be brought back to the National Fire Adapted Communities Network meeting in 2018 for others to share with their own communities. A number of PSAs, brochures and web material are currently being created to educate the community about Firewise USA™ and preparedness practices. Stay tuned for more to come!

 

Interested in learning about the Firewise USA program, and ways you and your community can reduce the risk of damage from a wildfire? Visit us at www.Firewise.org.

 

Photo: A demonstration at the Southern Oregon Firewise Expo.

Earth Day, Wildfire Safety, Firewise, Earth Smarts

Tomorrow the world celebrates Earth Day and NFPA is doing its part to protect Mother Earth by participating in activities found in our Earth Smart Checklist. The checklist is a great resource for kids and families alike and includes tasks everyone can do together. Did you know that by completing all of the activities on the list, you'll not only protect animals, trees and plants, but you'll also be helping reduce the risk of damage to your home and property from a wildfire, too!

 

The following are examples of some of the great activities you can do with your family on Earth Day :

* Rake dead leaves, sticks and pine needles off your lawn

* Remove leaves and twigs and anything flammable from under the deck

* Give the plants and shrubs plenty of water to keep them hydrated

 

But don't stop there. Go ahead and download the checklist to find more tips and ideas that will help you “stay green” and wildfire safe on Earth Day and all year long!

WUI, wildfire, wildfire awards, wildfire conference,

A handful of NFPA staff are attending the Wildland-Urban Interface Conference (WUI) in Reno, Nevada this week to network with and learn from peers from across the country on a wide-range of wildfire topics including forest protection, safety and preparedness, land management, and more. During the conference, there was a special presentation announcing the winners of the 2017 Wildfire Mitigation Awards. NFPA is pleased to help announce the names of the recipients. They are:


• Ann Hogan (Town of Riverview, Wisconsin)
• Bob Betts (Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission, Prescott, Arizona)
• Brianna Binnebose (Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands)
• Brian Schaffler (USDA Forest Service)
• Chief Walton Daugherty (City of Helotes Fire Department, Helotes, Texas)
• City of Borger, Texas
• Heather Campbell (Pollock Pines Fire Safe Council, Pollock Pines, California)
• Jim Tencza (FireWise of Southwest Colorado, Bayfield, Colorado)
• Joanne Drummond (Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, Grass Valley, California)
• John T. Mele (Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District, Snowmass Village, Colorado)
• Pete Padelford (Blue Lake Springs Homeowners Association, Arnold, California)
• Rebecca Samulski (FireWise of Southwest Colorado, Dolores, Colorado)
• Santa Fe Fire Department Wildland Division (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
• Yarnell Fire Mitigation Cooperative (Yarnell, Arizona)


In case you weren’t aware, the awards were established in 2014 and are the highest commendation for innovation and leadership displayed by individuals and organizations committed to wildfire mitigation. Know someone (or a group of people) whose work deserves recognition? Consider nominating them during next year’s nomination period!


In addition, Jack Cohen, USDA Forest Service retiree, received the 2017 Wildfire Mitigation Legacy Award for his work in developing the science behind many effective wildland-fire mitigation concepts used today across North America. For many who know Jack and his work, this award is well deserved.


The awards are sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), NFPA, and the USDA Forest Service (USFS). Learn more by visiting NASF's website, and stay tuned for more details on next year’s award nomination details!

 

Photo (L to R): Chief John Sinclair, President, IAFC; Vicki Christiansen, Deputy Chief of State and Private Forestry, USDA Forest Service; Jack Cohen, USDA Forest Service retiree, Lorraine Carli, Vice President for Outreach & Advocacy, NFPA; Jim Karels, NASF and Florida state forester. 


 

In 2015, the nation’s largest fire in terms of direct property loss was the Valley Fire that occurred in California. Three days after that fire began, the next-biggest large-loss fire of the year, the Butte Fire, also broke out in California.


Both of these fires ranked among the most costly in the state’s history, according to NFPA’s “Fire Loss in the United States During 2015” report, published in the September/October issue of NFPA Journal. Combined, the fires destroyed thousands of homes and other structures, were blamed for at least six deaths, and resulted in a loss of almost $2 billion dollars. These fires rank as the second- and fourth-largest wildfire losses in the state in the past 10 years. With the Valley and Butte Fires, 2015 was the ninth year out of the past 10 that a wildfire topped the list of the year’s biggest large-loss fires.


NFPA reports annually on large-loss fires and explosions that occurred in the U.S. the year before, defined as an event that results in property damage of at least $10 million. Get a breakdown and/or read the full report, including information and statistics on large-loss wildfires, in the latest issue of the Journal.

 

Photograph: Valley Fire/CA; Reuters images

My colleague, Fred Durso, the communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, recently shared a moving story about holiday fire safety, and in turn, I want to share it with all of you.

 

Sher Grogg lost her brother, sister-in-law and their four grandchildren in a devastating Christmas tree fire 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland, and she is urging the public to take simple yet proactive steps that could save lives this holiday season. Ms. Grogg is one of the newest voices for the group, Common Voices, an advocates' coalition determined to create a fire-safe America. She is also the face behind the coalition's #DoItForDon campaign.

 

Read Fred's blog to get Sher's story, watch her video and take a special pledge to keep home fire safety top of mind this holiday season. You can also read more about the coalition on the Common Voices website.

 

Find additional information about home fire sprinklers at www.firesprinklerinitiative.org. Tips, videos, checklists and more about Christmas tree and holiday fire safety are available on NFPA's Project Holiday webpage.

Tennessee native and country music star, Dolly Parton, with help from her friend Smokey Bear, are teaming up to help in the fight against forest fires in the Smoky Mountain region.


A new video PSA created by the National Park Service spotlights Smokey and Ms. Parton, who urges Tennessee residents to take action to help prevent forest fires by following a few simple but key steps, including observing all burn bans and tying up trailer chains to keep them from sparking and igniting a fire.

 

Watch the video below:


 

To date, according to the state Division of Forestry, there are close to 65 active wildfires in Tennessee burning more than 15,000 acres. Thankfully, most are nearly contained. But with the warmer temperatures and severe drought conditions affecting most of the state and across the south, there is still an increased risk for more fires to ignite.

 

Learn more about what you can do before a wildfire threatens your area. Find tip sheets, toolkits, project ideas and more at www.firewise.org and at www.nfpa.org/wildfire.

.

Awards.JPGKnow an organization or individual who has made great strides in wildfire preparedness and safety? Then why don't you nominate him/her (or them!) for the Wildfire Mitigation Awards!

 

The awards are sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), NFPA and the USDA Forest Service. The awards are a great way to say "thank you" to those who are making a difference in our communities. And if you didn't know, by honoring the outstanding achievements of these people, we are also helping to increase awareness of the value, benefits and importance of wildfire mitigation.

 

There are three categories that you can nominate people for:

  • National Mitigation Award
  • National Mitigation Hero Award
  • National Special Recognition Mitigation Award

 

Read the guidelines and criteria to learn more. Applications are being accepted through October 30, 2016.

 

So what are you waiting for? Take the time to fill out the application and nominate the person or organization you think deserves recognition for all of the great work they are doing around wildfire mitigation. You'll be glad you did!

Climate Change.JPGSince 1979, climate change is responsible for more than half of the dryness of Western forests and the increased length of the fire season, according to an article, “Climate Change Blamed for Half of Increased Forest Fire Danger,” in the New York Times.

 

This statistic comes from a new study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It explains that “the combination of a long period of drought in the West and hot temperatures have caused trees and undergrowth to become particularly tinderlike. Warmer air can draw more moisture, in general, from trees and plants, turning them into kindling.” Cyclical climate variations, which are also affected by patterns in the Pacific Ocean, and human-caused climate change together have caused the drying process to double.

 

“People tell me that they’ve never seen fires as active as what they’re battling right now,” Dr. A. Park Williams, one of the study’s authors, said, “What we’re seeing in (the) fire world is much different than what we saw in the 1980s, and in the 2030s, fires will be unrecognizable to what we’re seeing now.”

 

While humans can’t completely control climate change and its consequences, there are steps we can take to help us better prepare for the threat of wildfire. NFPA’s latest Firewise toolkit offers a homeowner’s checklist, steps to take during Red Flag Days, and so much more.

 

Additional resources like videos, tip sheets and project ideas for everyone of all ages can be found on the Firewise website. Materials are free and most are available to download and share with family, friends and neighbors.

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