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A one-day hackathon is being hosted on the 42 Silicon Valley Campus in recognition of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 4, 2019. The goal of a hackathon is to get computer programmers, graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others together in one place to create software or other functioning projects for a specific purpose.

Recognizing the deadly 2018 wildfire season which caused $9 billion dollars in damage, IBM and other supporters including David Clark Cause as part of a multi-year global initiative, are rallying developers to create positive change by developing applications based on cloud, data, and AI (artificial intelligence) that can help create changes in wildfire and emergency preparedness. This hackathon is part of a larger project called Call for Code® which encourages developers to volunteer to be a part of helping design positive change.

California residents are especially encouraged to participate to help create new solutions. According to the event description, “Californians have a unique perspective that can help drive innovation in this field. Developers, makers, and builders have lived through disasters and know what is at stake. Bring your best!”

Registration for the event is free. The event starts promptly at 8 AM PDT in Fremont, California and ends at 6 PM. Parts of the event will be recorded. This is one great way to help create neighborhoods that are safer from wildfires on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day! What will you be doing?

This Old House host Kevin O’Connor interviewed Dan Gorham, from The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS®) to learn techniques for making homes safer during wildfire events.   This Old House a television show dedicated to sharing step by step tactics to make home improvement projects easy for anyone has added a new Ask This Old House segment about project work to improve the survival of your home on its latest show.

Dan talked to Kevin about the fact that houses are burned during wildfires mainly because embers generated during a wildfire ignite combustible materials close to the home.  He also shared some ways people can make improvements to the home by using noncombustible building materials and making landscaping improvements especially within the 0-5 foot area around the home.  Check out this segment of This Old House on You Tube; https://youtu.be/D1WxCBU6JAM

And for more resources that you can use to make your home safer from wildfire check out NFPA® research fact sheets produced in collaboration with IBHS. The topics covered include making improvements to decks, attics and crawl spaces, coatings, fencing and more!  

Image of WUI community from NFPA's Community Wildfire Safety through Regulation guide

The American Planning Association (APA) has just published a new report that is available at no cost to download (though users have to create a guest account and password to log in), thanks to the sponsorship of the USDA Forest Service as well as state and private forestry programs. The report specifically looks at the wildfire-related risks faced by two-thirds of the population of the United States, emphasizing that many more areas outside the West are vulnerable. One need only look at the past few week's news stories to recognize this, including reports of an 11,000 acre fire in New Jersey, a wildfire in the panhandle of Florida, and multiple smaller fires that broke out in North Carolina.

The purpose of the report, "Planning the Wildland-Urban Interface," is to provide planners with some tools to make better planning choices to help create more resilient neighborhoods. The report states, “Planners across the country have important roles to play in helping communities reduce their vulnerability to the destructive and tragic consequences of wildfires such as the Camp Fire.” It provides useful resources including references to NFPA standards for new construction and NFPA's Firewise USA program.

The report explores the fact that those who choose to live in beautiful areas that are close to nature must be aware of what their risk is and take appropriate steps to reduce their risk of loss. Everyone has a part to play. Read the report to get some information about how planners can participate in helping to design WUI communities that are safer from wildfire loss. 

 

Image from NFPA's Community Wildfire Safety through Regulation: A Best Practices Guide for Planners and Regulators, 2013.

Your successful Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project can not only help your community be safer in the event of a wildfire event but also shine as an example of success for other communities to copy.   Remember the old adage; “Copying is the best form of flattery.”  Just think your success and your success story can actually help another community somewhere be able to make their own project plan in the future.

You may be wondering how you can share your success story with others.  Did you know NFPA® has free downloadable resources to help your project shine like a star in the night sky!  

For example a new resource on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day webpage is a press release template to help you connect with local media outlets to share the good work that you are accomplishing.  To take great photos to go along with your press release NFPA created another new resource that gives you tips on taking good photos of your project work.

There is also some great information in another new free downloadable piece the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit.  This piece even provides you with a beautifully designed flyer that you can very easily personalize, print and distribute in locations like your local library and schools.

Share what you are doing on social media on the Firewise USA® Facebook page.  Or tweet your success at #WildfirePrepDay.  Shout out your success you can become a wildfire superstar this year!   You can be the person who helps, save a home, lives and neighborhoods.  Learn more about how you can participate in this national campaign today.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is looking for assistance from community members in Sevier County, Tennessee who were affected by the Chimney Tops Fire in 2016.  They want to know more about their experiences and responses to emergency notifications during this wildfire incident and are asking people to complete a survey online or by telephone.

NIST will use the survey results to help improve emergency messaging, training and education of emergency personnel and to develop evacuation models that can be used for wildfire planning.  According to a press release from NIST, “The study may lead to the development of changes that could improve current standards and practices so that communities across the U.S. can become more resilient to natural hazards.”

The survey is being conducted for NIST by a research firm called the Fors Marsh Group.  Some people living in the area were sent a letter in October 2018 with a web link to complete the survey, which according to NIST takes 20 minutes to complete. The survey sign-in page can be found at www.NISTfiresurvey.com and participants can either use a “personal code” they received in one of the letters mentioned above that were sent or can use their home address.  Additionally, if you are interested in participating you can also call the Fors Marsh Group at 877 891-2465.

 

Photo credit: Destroyed home in Sevier County, Tennessee, 2016, by Faith Berry, NFPA.

Map showing point locations of the one hundred fifty $500 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day funding awards.

Point locations of the one hundred fifty $500 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day funding awards.

Communities from across the nation applied for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day funding awards to help them complete a project on Saturday, May 4th.   These one hundred fifty, $500 awards provided with generous support from State Farm are going to be given to communities in 27 states from across the United States to help create neighborhoods that are safer from wildfire loss.  NFPA® is pleased to announce the winners of the funding awards.  The winning applications shared incredible narratives about the project work these communities intend to complete on Prep Day, May 4th.

Everyone who takes action to make their homes and the landscape surrounding their home safer from wildfire losses are all winners!  NFPA® provides great resources to help you embark on a journey of creating communities that are more resilient in the event of a wildfire.  You can be a winner too!  Check out information about many of the improvements you can make to your home and the landscape surrounding your home that can help make where you live and those you care about better protected.  Many of these changes and improvement projects do not have to cost a lot of money.  Simple things like cleaning out your gutter, sweeping your porch, and cleaning flammable materials from under your deck can all make a big difference!

Will you survive the next wildfire?  Find out how you can be a winner and encourage others to be a part of this National Campaign on May 4th.

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People raking vegetation debris as part of their Wildfire Prep Day activity

Wildfire safety preparedness is something that we all have a part to play no matter who we are.   Communities across the country have come together to work on wildfire risk reduction projects that have made a difference.   Their stories serve as an inspiration to others, that wildfire safety project work can be merely a matter of elbow grease and good old fashioned neighborhood participation.  Thanks to a generous donation from State Farm 150 communities from across the United States will get $500 to use on a wildfire safety project along with a beautiful free 3 foot by 5 foot banner to promote what they are doing.

 

Last year one of the $500 award winners Falls Creek in Durango, Colorado survived the 416 Fire due in large part to the wildfire safety project work completed by the community both to their homes and the landscape immediately surrounding their homes.  Their work was applauded in the Inci Web report for the fire by the supervising fire officer.

Little girl with shovel at a Wildfire Prep Day event

Will you be a wildfire safety superstar this year? This is your chance to tell others what you are doing on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Map your wildfire safety project on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page for free to let others know where your project is so they can jump in and give you a hand.

 

Don’t know where to start?   Check out this handy, free downloadable toolkit.   In it you’ll find a project idea checklist, a beautiful, downloadable, fillable flyer to advertise the day, and a safety tip sheet to help keep you and your volunteers protected. Want to get a shout out to promote what you are doing locally?  Check out a fillable proclamation you can share with local elected officials.   

 

Let this be the year you take action!  The role that you play, no matter who you are, can make a difference. Participate in Wildfire Prep Day and be a part of creating safer communities and tell us what you are doing.  Be a wildfire safety hero.

 

 

Photo credit: Top - Bustins Island Wildfire Prep Day event, Faith Berry; Right - Wildfire prep day activity courtesy of April Van Hale

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.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is conducting a full-scale demonstration live today, March 6.  According to a press release shared by IBHS they will cast embers at a fully built structure inside of their test laboratory in Chester County, South Carolina.  The test structure is built like a small family home.  One side of the structure resembles a home that follows wildfire resistant building and landscaping techniques, while the other side is built ignoring wildfire resistant building techniques.

Because embers or firebrands, small or larger pieces of burning materials that are spread by winds during wildfire events cause most home ignitions, this experiment will allow you to see where ember ignitions can occur in the home ignition zone during wildfire events.

The demonstration will be recorded so that you can view how homes ignite during wildfire events and learn why it is important for residents in wildfire-prone areas to make changes to the home and landscape immediately surrounding the home to reduce their risk of loss during a wildfire event.  Check out some of NFPA®’s resources to help you improve your safety before the next wildfire burns where you live.

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

Could you use a little financial help for a  Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project?  Don't delay, apply today!  The application period for $500 project awards closes on Friday, March 1.

What can you do with $500? Use it to do a project or put on an event where residents can work together on wildfire safety. Participation helps create a sense of community, where neighbors begin to look out for each other.  Wildfire Community Preparedness Day projects can also help strengthen relationships between residents and the local fire department, land management agencies, community leaders and elected officials.

NFPA has provided many resources to help you get started and be successful.  Not sure how to apply?  Check out a great YouTube video that helps walk you through the application process step by step.  The video tells you why it is important to participate, how to fill out your online form and shares tips about creating a successful narrative. 

Also check out a brand new resource, the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit!  Download our new toolkit to help you get started.  From picking a project to tracking progress and promoting the event, the toolkit provides a number of great resources to guide you through the process and your journey to wildfire preparedness.  Follow along on Twitter for more wildfire updates @FaithBerry_NFPA.

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Teens with aunt on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 2018 in Aroostook County, MaineHelp youth in your community be empowered to make a difference.  Young people have told NFPA® that they want to be involved in making a difference in the wildfire safety of the neighborhoods where they live. Wildfire Community Preparedness Day provides great opportunities and resources for mentors to help coach these young members of society to make effective changes that can help make a difference in the survivability of their community.  Participation in project work can also help them learn about science-based changes that can be made to the home and the landscape surrounding the home to help improve a home and neighborhood’s ignition resistance.

Individual teens, as well as members of youth groups like Boys & Girls Clubs, Scout Troops, faith-based groups, 4-H Clubs, and after-school groups, can apply to receive funding to be used for a project on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page.  There are one hundred fifty opportunities for young people to apply for and possibly receive a $500 dollar award provided with generous support from State Farm® through NFPA®.  A how-to video on YouTube provides step by step help for them to complete the project application before March 1, 2019.

NFPA also provides a free downloadable “Tool Kit” resource with everything they need to plan and execute project work on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  There is information in the toolkit about project safety, how to pick a project, how to work with the media to promote their efforts and even a customizable flyer to encourage other young people to participate. 

It has been my experience that this wonderful young generation really has the heart to make the world a better place. Help them get started by learning how they can participate in wildfire safety project work on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day today!

Photo by Faith Berry: teens and aunt at Prep Day event 2018 in Aroostook County, Maine

There’s a movement happening in Marin County, California. Residents living in the county of more than 260,000 people are taking a more active approach in preparing their homes and communities for wildfire. 

Last year brought an explosion of growth in the number of Firewise USA® sites in the county, making it the fastest growing county of the year. Prior to 2018, the county had nine participating sites, the first site getting its start in 2009. Marin County has now grown to 30 recognized sites and has the fourth highest participation in site numbers by county in the country. 

Todd Lando of FIRESafe Marin said after the 2017 fires in the North Bay, local fire departments were overwhelmed with questions from residents. They used the Firewise USA® program to start to teach homeowners what they can do to reduce their wildfire risk. 

The program allowed local experts to handle the overwhelming interest because neighbors were working together and helping each other learn about the things they could do to make their home more ignition resistant.  

Lando says the communities are seeing the added benefit of getting to know each other and bond with each other by working towards the same goal. 

It can sometimes be a challenge to talk to your neighbors about wildfire risk reduction. One tip Lando gives to homeowners is to start with working on your own home. Once you start taking action around your property, it can be easier to talk to neighbors about why you are doing the work and what they can do as well. 

The success in Marin County was recently highlighted in the Marin Independent Journal. Program participants explained to the paper why they’ve decided to participate in Firewise USA®. The spread in the number of sites was described as contagious. Mill Valley fire Battalion Chief Scott Barnes told the Journal, “Someone hears about a neighborhood forming a Firewise community, and then they say, maybe we should think about the same.”

Lando doesn’t expect the interest in Marin to slow down anytime soon. He is already working with several more communities that plan to apply for recognition in 2019. 

Photo Courtesy Todd Lando. Marin County residents meet to learn about reducing their wildfire risk. 

Follow  Marie Snow on twitter @MarieSnowNFPA.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit Image

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is only a few months away. And while many communities, organizations, groups, and individuals are thinking about what project to undertake on May 4, they may not know how to take the needed steps to organize an event.

 

To help, NFPA has created a new Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit just for this purpose. From picking a project to tracking progress and promoting the event, the toolkit provides a number of great resources that are easy to download and can help get you started on your project and your journey to wildfire preparedness! Take advantage of this free resource and download the toolkit today!

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