December 3rd, 2012 10:49 am ET - Blog Administrator
Project Wildfire in Deschutes County, Oregon has been recognized by CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response’s (OPHPR) Learning Office and the CDC Foundation as a community effort that reflects and embodies FEMA’s Whole Community approach to emergency management.
Marshall asked Safeco Insurance if they would invest in an education program designed to teach people to help themselves prepare for wildfires. “A new piece of equipment might save one more home,” Marshall said. “But to really save homes, individuals have to take responsibility for their property before a fire.” His ultimate aim: To change the values and behaviors of citizens for generations to come.
Safeco agreed and FireFree was born. FireFree is a year-round educational program that was launched to promote 10 simple steps that homeowners can take to protect their homes from wildfires and reduce their risk of loss. The number one FireFree tip, and the main focus of the behavior change campaign, is to create “defensible space,” a minimum 30-foot buffer zone around a house that can be created in one weekend, and easily maintained. To encourage citizens to prepare for wildfires, FireFree partners with Deschutes County Department of Solid Waste and Deschutes Recycling to provide free collection and recycling of yard debris and waste during the spring. Later in the fall, residents can recycle their yard debris at Deschutes Recycling for half price. The program ran with the tagline, “It’s quick. It’s simple. It’s everybody’s responsibility.” Sixteen years later, FireFree continues to effectively change attitudes and behaviors about wildfires.
This initial program became part of a larger endeavor. County elected officials took notice of these efforts and passed a county ordinance that created Project Wildfire to help manage and support FireFree, as well as provide long-term wildfire mitigation strategies. At the core of Project Wildfire’s organization is a community driven approach, with a diverse membership that provides a wealth of local knowledge and broad educational outreach.
While Project Wildfire has accomplished much over the last decade, our achievement is due in no small part to our successful working relationships with our partners. We continue to implement programs that encourage neighbor-to-neighbor education and understanding while leveraging opportunities for public/private partnerships.
The Whole Community Approach
The “Whole Community” is FEMA’s philosophical approach on how to conduct emergency management in a way that integrates the needs, capabilities, and resources across the community. It attempts to engage the full capacity of the private and nonprofit sectors, including businesses, faith-based organizations, and the general public, in conjunction with the participation of federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal government partners.
Project Wildfire has been identified as one of seven programs to continue their Whole Community work during the pilot program period October 2012 – March 2013. During this time, we will provide a learning opportunity for CDC and CDC Foundation staff to gather information on what works well in starting and maintaining community programs, identifying strategies to create and build partnerships, and techniques to empower local action. The project findings will outline recommendations for fostering a Whole Community approach to emergency management, sustainability, and program replication.
To learn more about Project Wildfire, please contact Kate Lighthall at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on the web at www.ProjectWildfire.org or www.FireFree.org.
Follow #PromisingExample on Twitter to learn about the other six communities that embody a whole community approach to emergency management.