Editors’ Note: This week, we’ve gathered some resources on communications from the fire community and the FAC Net Blog archive. The more informed and clear we can make our communication about fire the better. While not exhaustive, the resources below (organized by four key categories) can be helpful whether you’re planning an outreach campaign or simply discussing fire topics around the dinner table.
Featured header image: Ed Keith, Deschutes County

1) Familiarize yourself with the terminology and context. Like any industry, the world of fire has specialized terminology. Our “Wildfire Terminology Dictionary” blog post is a good starting point for familiarization. Knowing some key terms and references is helpful in sophisticated conversations about fire, but it’s also important to make fire communications accessible to the general public where appropriate. 

Beyond phrasing and word choice, understanding the context of fire will support better informed communication. eFire, a website dedicated to helping people understand the process and utility of prescribed burning, is an interactive resource with a multimedia approach. In addition, the cultural use of fire by Indigenous peoples is a critical part of the story. A recent video released by FAC Net member Dovetail Partners highlights the cultural relationship between the land, the Ojibwe people and the traditional use of fire. The video, Oshkigin Spirit of Fire, is an excellent contextualizing resource. 

2) Include accessibility in your conversations. Consider the importance of wildfire information in more than just English. Maria Estrada shares some Spanish-language resources that go beyond just direct translation and include sensitivity to cultural and linguistic factors in her blog, Six Great Wildfire Adaptation Resources in Spanish: It’s About More Than Word-for-Word Translations.

Beyond language differences, “Access and Functional Needs” refers to the consideration of folks with different abilities when communicating and planning for emergency situations. A full Functional Needs Planning Toolkit is available through the National Response Network. Additionally, the Evacuation Transportation Planning Tips for People with Access and Functional Needs sheet, produced by Nusura, Inc. as part of the California Emergency Management Agency’s Evacuation/Transportation of People with Access and Functional Needs Planning Project, provides tips and resources for accessible evacuation planning. 

The Emergency Communication Board (pictured) is a resource for communicating with people who may not speak English or who are non-verbal.

Spanish version of the Emergency Communication Board, from Temple University Institute on Disabilities. Click image to access the full PDF (available in English and Spanish).

3) Prioritize sensitivity for communities impacted by fire. Experiencing a wildfire event can be life-changing. The last thing a fire practitioner wants to do is add to the stress of communities that have gone through traumatic fire events. Jenifer Bunty, with the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists, has contributed great insights on how to be sensitive in her posts on the blog. In Talking about Lighting Fire Near Recently Burned Communities: Communications at the Southern Blue Ridge TREX, Jenifer offers tips on lessons learned, from social media tactics to scheduling processes to ensuring information sharing wide and far. An additional blog post featuring Jenifer’s observations on communicating during controversy can be found here

Practitioners on a prescribed burn in Northern California. Photo credit: The Watershed Research and Training Center.


4) Inform yourself through educational webinars from professionals in the field. Sarah McCaffrey, a Research Forester with the Forest Service out of Fort Collins, CO, is a specialist in wildfire communications and the social aspects of fire management. Her recent webinar on communications in wildfire (embedded below) draws upon her 20 years of experience and research. She offers insights useful to both seasoned fire professionals and those new to the understanding of fire. Her 2013 paper, Best practices in risk and crisis communication: Implications for natural hazards management, co-authored with Toddi Steelman, is a useful accompanying read.

Do you have other helpful fire communication resources to share? Please share in the comments below!

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