Improving Readiness to Respond to Wildfires in Wildland–Urban Interface Areas

More people are living closer to nature, and thus closer to wildfire danger zones and other hazards. That means new challenges for firefighters and public safety agencies. How do governments around the country ensure emergency response teams are prepared to address this growing concern?

The hottest issue: Wildfires

Aside from a hurricane or pandemic, wildfires may be the biggest challenge a response agency ever encounters, both in training and operations.

Better, faster training

Serving populations living near fire-prone areas means more services, more coverage, and more training, with an added need for diversity in education and capability. Where a typical urban firefighting team may receive little more than cursory training on dealing with fast-spreading outdoor fires, covering wildland–urban interface (WUI) locations is more demanding. Training must be doubled: Teams can be dual-trained in the skillsets needed to fight house and outdoor fires; individual teams may be kept on-shift; or entirely different personnel may be deployed.

Quick and agile training management is essential to meeting the challenge of rapid deployment. Successful organizations use training management technology to rapidly train firefighters from other states, as well as volunteers and those in different but related fields such as forestry personnel and park rangers.

Specialized equipment and centralized operations

Operational expenses needed in WUI areas might be completely foreign to fire emergency services in another setting. Equipment frequently poses a similar barrier: An urban agency may not anticipate the need to purchase equipment for the unique risks of wildfires, or plan for the purchase of key suppressive tools such as heavy earth-moving machinery.

Readiness means managing logistics with complete and centralized records. This includes not only monitoring personnel who are transferring in or out, with their individual areas of training and expertise, but also tracking inventory and equipment and matching resources with the personnel who are certified to use them.

Tips from Cal Fire

A PDF from California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) explains both these points in extensive detail. Unsurprisingly, many of the techniques and strategies provided rely on better training and centralized recordkeeping.

Cal Fire recommends a team-based approach, an environment in which personnel receive blended learning in certain areas of the fire services and specialized education in others. Other teams receive training only for specific high-risk or complex operations.

Obviously, a training management system specifically designed for emergency preparedness is essential to keep all these facets of wildfire response trained, certified, and ready for action.

Quick decisions are essential

Considering how fast a fire can spread in a WUI area, the time taken to allocate resources, deploy trained personnel, or decide who needs to receive which communication can mean extra danger for personnel and public alike. Thus, access to modern learning management tools with centralized reporting isn’t a luxury in the expanding WUI environment; it’s a necessity.

Finally, just as fire isn’t the only risk factor in the WUI, firefighting organizations are not the only ones in need of the strengthened training regimens and better recordkeeping provided by software like the Acadis® Readiness Suite. Any organization in the public safety field needs the ability to access information quickly, build and track key records data, and provide learning content in a way that best suits the message—needs that will only grow as people and nature try to coexist.

Posted on Mar 2, 2021