Wildfire survey highlights gaps in wildfire risk reduction education

In an effort to help wildland urban interface (WUI) communities better protect their homes against wildfire, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) – the research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) – commissioned a comprehensive survey of residents, fire departments, and local governments in California and Oregon to explore perceptions of the wildfire problem and engagement in addressing those threats. The final report, “Stakeholder Perceptions of Wildfire Mitigation for Homes: Multi-Audience Survey Research,” which was publicly released today, underscores the need to better educate residents about ways they can reduce their homes’ risk. It also highlights the need for increased access to key information and resources.

According to the report, only half of the residents surveyed knew what specific actions they can take to reduce their homes’ risk to wildfire. Less than half (43 percent) knew where to find resources to help complete them. Only three percent of residents are aware of government grants, insurance discounts, and other incentives to participate in residential wildfire risk reduction. However, those who have taken advantage of such incentives are much more likely to implement a broad range of safety efforts.

“While the survey shows that residents overwhelmingly understand their wildfire risks, few people are conducting all the measures needed to mitigate them, and most aren’t doing the work as often as they should,” said Michele Steinberg, director of NFPA’s Wildfire Division. “We need to pull all available levers to help motivate residents to action. In spite of all the funding and support available from government and private organizations, most residents aren’t getting the message about these important resources.”

Key findings from the survey include the following:

  • Seventy-nine percent of residents surveyed were at least somewhat motivated to learn more about wildfire mitigation measures for their property, including a quarter (25 percent) who were very motivated.
  • Most residents have performed some form of vegetation maintenance mitigation measure at any point in time (79 to 91 percent) or at least once a year (63 to 79 percent).
  • Seventy-six percent of surveyed jurisdictions said there were “not enough resources and/or funding to help property owners”; 83 percent of jurisdictions reported a “lack of funding and resources” to be a major obstacle.
  • More fire departments have programs to assist residents in implementing vegetation management (52 percent) than home hardening/structure modification (35 percent).

Among the more promising survey results, residents who place a high value on the privacy and natural setting that the wildland urban interface (WUI) offers do not perceive mitigation efforts as problematic. On the contrary, these residents are highly engaged in wildfire risk reduction efforts. And those who are educated on wildfire risk and mitigation are not only motivated to learn more but also are more likely to take on risk reduction projects.

“Overall, the survey findings offer a mix of encouraging information about what motivates residents to mitigate wildfire risks on and around their homes, along with persistent obstacles that tend to hold them back,” said Steinberg. “These results help identify ways to increase participation in wildfire risk reduction and where we need to break through barriers, with the ultimate goal of empowering residents to become more proactively engaged in wildfire mitigation.”

Conducted by EurekaFacts, LLC, the wildfire survey targeted government officials, local fire departments, and residents in California and Oregon, states that both face elevated wildfire risks. NFPA will use the survey findings to develop information and messaging to better motivate residential wildfire risk reduction efforts.

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Media Contact
Rebecca Spayne Managing Editor, International Fire Buyer
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920
Email: editor@firebuyer.com

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