The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) launched a new wildland fire preparedness initiative–Ready, Set, Go!–at their annual Wildland-Urban Interface conference in Reno, Nevada. The program teaches residents of the wildland-urban interface–the area where development meets natural vegetation–how to prepare their homes against the threat of a wildland fire, assemble emergency supplies and maintain awareness when threatened by a wildland fire and, finally, how to evacuate early to keep their families safe and allow emergency responders the room they need to operate safely.
“Recent studies have shown that most homes being destroyed by wildland fires aren’t being lost to the fire itself, but to embers being blown far ahead of the advancing fire,” said Chief Jeff Johnson, IAFC president and chairman of the board. “Ready, Set, Go! teaches property owners how to protect their property in that very dangerous ember environment.”
The program was initially developed and tested in Southern California using a model from Australia. For the past 18 months, a number of fire departments–most notably the Ventura County Fire Department and the Orange County (Calif.) Fire Authority–have run trial Ready, Set, Go! programs. Those efforts were used to refine the elements of the program, which the IAFC is now taking to the next level. “We’ve identified eight fire departments from across the country to run the program in their communities this year,” said IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee chair Chief Bob Roper. “These departments will help us fine-tune Ready, Set, Go! for a nationwide rollout next year.”
Roper, who is also fire chief for the Ventura County (CA) Fire Department said that the program stresses fundamental actions homeowners can take to help their homes survive a wildland fire. This includes defensible space (a buffer zone between the home and vegetation) and the use of fire-safe construction, fire-resistant plants, and landscaping.
The eight fire departments are located in Arizona, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, Montana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The departments range from small volunteer departments to large municipal or county departments, but all face similar challenges from development in or near natural areas that are susceptible to wildland fires.
“We’re working with private industry and a number of local, state and federal partners to make Ready, Set, Go! a viable national safety and awareness program,” said Roper. “The U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fire Administration, NFPA Firewise and the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) have been instrumental in bringing the program to this point in its development.”
IBHS President and Chief Executive Officer Julie Rochman noted that Ready, Set, Go!, “is based on solid scientific research that we and other champions of loss prevention have undertaken in recent years–and we are very proud that property insurance companies will be active partners with the departments implementing the program this year.”
The 2010 fire season will be used to collect data from the departments using Ready, Set, Go! to further define the program’s components. “If all goes as we expect, our goal is to roll out a national version of Ready, Set, Go! next year,” said Roper. “Ready, Set, Go! protects lives, property and firefighters. It’s a win-win solution for anyone living or working in the wildland-urban interface.” Detailed program information can be found at www.iafc.org/ReadySetGo.