Photo Credit: Discover the tool that over 80 communities used to assess their community wildfire resilience progress and identify what they should work on next. Photo by Liz Rank, The Nature Conservancy

[This tool] determined the need for increased public outreach and a central contact during incidents. One year later, a new emergency manager independently reached the same conclusion. Synchronicity?”

Have you ever wondered if there is a “checklist” for becoming a fire adapted community? A lot of wildfire practitioners have. Because working toward wildfire resilience is a continuous effort and something that evolves, there is no single pathway that fits every community’s needs. There is, however, a tool to help people working on fire adapted communities gauge their current efforts and identify future strategic opportunities.

What is the FAC SAT?

The FAC Self-Assessment Tool (FAC SAT) is a tool that helps communities understand where they are in their fire adaptation journey, and identify priorities and potential actions. It aids communities in assessing their progress and tracking their capacity to live safely with wildfire over time. It can be used to assess individual neighborhoods, cities and even large counties.

The FAC SAT is designed to help community members:

  • Establish their community’s values at risk, such as recreational resources, tourism industries, homes, etc.;
  • Identify their community’s capacity to implement FAC actions;
  • Assess any gaps or limitations in funding, resources, partnerships, workforce, and/or volunteers;
  • Prioritize future fire adaptation actions;
  • Complement other work plans; and
  • Increase understanding of long-term community fire adaptation needs.

The FAC SAT is adaptable to meet a community’s needs. There is not one prescription for completing the FAC SAT. Some identified methods that have worked in communities include a multi-stakeholder/multi-meeting format, a group-driven rapid assessment, a leadership-driven assessment, or a FAC SAT crosswalk with another planning effort. Check out the Facilitator’s Guide to learn more about different methods for completing the FAC SAT.

Evaluating the FAC SAT

In the summer of 2017, FAC Net evaluated the use of the tool so we could adapt and improve it if needed. We wanted to know who was downloading it, how they were using it, and if it was useful to them. With the goal of revising the tool and providing additional support for leaders wanting to use the tool, we learned some interesting information about how communities are using the FAC SAT. Through our evaluation we learned that:

  1. A range of organizations from around the country are downloading and using the FAC SAT, including non-profits, fire departments, state governments, emergency management offices and others.
  2. The tool is being used at the neighborhood, city, and county levels, as well as other scales (such as internally within an agency, for an international community, or as a cross-walk with other plans).
  3. Most users are also using the Facilitator’s Guide.
  4. The majority of people using the tool are cross-walking their FAC SAT effort with another planning tool like a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, an All-Hazards Mitigation Plan, or a County Emergency Operations Plan.
  5. Lastly, most users said they plan to use it again to re-evaluate their priorities and plans.

What benefits are users getting?

We were really happy to see that the people using the tool were finding benefit in it. In addition, we were excited by the number of ways in which people were using the FAC SAT. Here is what a few people said:

[We] identified risks and issues. Used [it] as a tool to facilitate a dialogue between our agency and the public.”

It provided a [guided] discussion and thought process for helping with our internal risk assessment.”

Hyperlinked FAC Sat Tool button, for those interested in using the FAC Self-Assessment Tool

“[It gave us] greater awareness of the wildland fire hazards and more importantly how to mitigate the identified hazards.” -FAC SAT user. Click to download!

“ [It was] better at gathering the needed [information] for a county plan, [and] gave us a better starting point to update our current plans.”

Next steps for the FAC SAT

Evaluating the tool’s use prompted us to look at how else we could improve it and provide additional support to leaders who want to facilitate its use. We plan on making some additional facilitation support tools this winter, so stay tuned! Are you interested in using the tool in your community? Read more about the FAC SAT and download the tool.

Author’s note: We love feedback! Have you used the tool and come up with ideas for ways we could improve it? Do you have additional needs for facilitation support beyond the Facilitator’s Guide? If so, send us an email with the subject “FAC SAT.”

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