Take Part in the 1st Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 3rd

Heritage Preservation’s annual MayDay campaign encourages cultural institutions to do one thing for disaster planning during the month of May.

This year, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and State Farm are encouraging communities to recognize Saturday, May 3rd, as National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. State Farm is offering up 20 grants of $500 to fund community projects that will reduce the risk of wildfires.

Interested project organizers may enter the contest through NFPA’s website or Facebook page. The deadline to enter is March 19th, so make sure to get your entry forms in!

If you’re looking for project ideas, NFPA offers several suggestions in addition to project resources and a program video. Wildfires pose a significant danger to upwards of 72,000 U.S. communities, with more than one quarter of US states at increased risk.* Please be sure to share this information with any relevant parties.

*Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida

Source: Natural Disasters by Patrick L. Abbott, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005

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Assessing Exposure Risk – Lessons Learned from California Wildfires

More than one-quarter of the country’s states* are susceptible to wildfires, especially western and southwestern states. If yours is one of them, read on!

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) released a study that verifies the importance of determining exposure risks and developing plans to minimize fire damage.

In looking at the wildland-urban interface (the “WUI,” defined as an area where human development meets undeveloped wildland) and the particular risks faced by some properties, NIST and USFS developed a WUI Hazard Scale to assess exposure risk. After reviewing data from the destructive 2007 California “Witch Fire,” NIST and USFS confirmed that assessments aligned with the damage incurred. Defensive actions taken pre-event yielded better results in those areas with low-exposure risks.

In addition to previous studies on the event, (which confirmed the success of defensive actions taken) this latest report has potential to inform future policy. By using the WUI Hazard Scale, there is the possibility for updating building codes and creating new firefighting policies that focus on low-exposure areas.

*Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida

Source: Natural Disasters by Patrick L. Abbott, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.

St. Louis Forum Recap

HEP St. Louis

Our second forum was held in St. Louis a few weeks ago and it was just as lively as our Philadelphia forum. It was wonderful to have representation from a number of very enthusiastic emergency managers who now seem determined to incorporate cultural heritage into their state emergency plans.

These forums offer a space where state emergency managers are brought into contact with state cultural stewards, and it was clear from our discussions that each group often knows little about what the other does. Feedback from the forums has made it clear that our goal of fostering new and lasting relationships between these two groups is welcome and necessary:

“I was just so thrilled to meet folks from the Emergency Management part of the spectrum even if they were from other states. Not only did I get their perspective on priorities, but I could put some human faces to that aspect of the mix. I saw them as very involved, caring people. I think the mixing of tables was crucial to broadening (and narrowing!) perspective.”

The best part of my forum experience was “understanding what the library, museum and arts contribute to the well-being of the state–both financially and culturally.”

“I thought having Emergency Management people together with cultural resource people was a great idea. I wouldn’t have guessed we’d be so lacking in knowledge about the other group and what they do. This meeting certainly helped bridge that knowledge gap.”

“Just bringing us all together. The conference was a great excuse to do what we should have been doing at home.”