What is an assessment?
Home owner assessments consists of two parts: one is to educate the homeowner on ways to reduce risk to their property in the event of a wildfire; the other is to gather important information in specific communities which we utilize to create maps and documents for fire agencies responding to a fire.
When canvassing an area, a very brief assessment is done to get an idea of the overall hazards. GPS coordinates, and information such as available water sources, fire apparatus accessibility, and alternate means of egress are also noted. If a homeowner is home at the time and has questions, it's a great opportunity to spend some time talking to them.
More thorough assessments can be helpful should a homeowner want to apply for grants to create defensible space around their home.
We also create maps, and informational documents which are available for fire departments, but also any outside agencies responsible for responding to a wildland event in the areas we cover. This information can be extremely helpful in aiding departments unfamiliar with the area.
The brief assessments can also be made available via Google Earth.
Public Education and Outreach
When out in the community, you have a chance to speak with one on one with homeowners, explaining what you are doing and why and educating the homeowner at the same time. This can often result in one or a few members of the community becoming interested in mitigation and wildfire safety. They then tend to become "sparkplugs", helping to build trust and concensus within the community, by facilitating community outreach meetings, organizing community-wide projects, Firewise, etc. Once the community is assessed, the assessments create a great visual aid to the community members, showing them the exact extent of the risk.
Assessing creates an opportunity to go down roads and driveways not seen before, observe areas for hazards and note areas for use as staging, safety zones, etc. Once these areas and home assessments are mapped, they become useful tools for preplans and make documentation for incident command transitions. Shared among responding personnel, this information makes for better and safer decision making.
Project and Grant Justification
Having hazard assessments completed and mapped can be a great way to justify the need for funds. Visually seeing where the problems are and being able to convey that to grantors is extremely effective in getting the point across.