FAC Learning Network participant Annie Schmidt has depicted the essential elements of a fire adapted community as parts of a tree.

Topic: Communications / Outreach Type: Tools / Resources

What We Lack: A Great Way to Answer the Question “What is FAC?”

Authors: Wendy Fulks

It’s true – those of us working to promote the widespread adoption of fire adapted communities concepts struggle to explain FAC in a clear, compelling and succinct way. (This may be why FAC is often confused with the Firewise Communities/USA ® Recognition Program – we need to fix that!) Sure, there’s the sunrise diagram, but fundamentally, that’s just a list of tools / programs / activities that a community might use to become more fire adapted.

(Incidentally, I say “more fire adapted” because the nature of adaptation is such that a community never becomes fully fire adapted.)

We know that there’s a lot more to this practice we call FAC than the tools we use, which is why we have a learning network devoted to the practice.

This FAC infographic (hard copies can be ordered from the National Fire Protection Association here), in my opinion, gets the point across more effectively and includes information about the various segments of society that have a role to play in developing and fostering a fire adapted community. But by far the best explanation of a fire adapted community that I have seen is a Prezi presentation that FAC Learning Network member Annie Schmidt recently shared with the Network.

Annie’s presentation is packed with meaning (and lessons learned), visually interesting and memorable. Pretty much all of the concepts that we currently consider fundamental to fire adapted communities are here, organized and displayed as parts of an apple tree.

“Initially, I was disappointed the only tree available in the Prezi templates was an apple tree as opposed to a fire-adapted ponderosa pine,” said Annie. “But the apple reference has grown on me. It implies intention and attention, as well as the ability to harvest knowledge and seed new communities. Plus, I am from Washington State, near the apple capital of the world so this definitely resonates with my local audience!”

The diagram depicts the foundation—the tree roots–of a fire adapted community: Collaborative Partnerships and a Common Understanding of the problem. Some of the core aspects of FAC (e.g., “a fire adapted community understands its risks and takes actions to minimize harm”) are displayed as the core, or trunk, of the tree. Concepts vital to the nourishment of FAC communities (e.g., funding, capacity and communication) are depicted as the water that empowers growth. (Annie strongly recommends watching the “Change Your Words” video that’s embedded in the Empowerment frame.) Other FAC elements are presented, with explanation, as five branches: Healthy Forests / Land Management, Fire Department Planning, Home Preparedness, Government Participation and Planning and Business Resilience.

Annie used this presentation at a January 30, 2014 workshop in Yakima, Washington (see the agenda) that catalyzed in the formation of the Yakima Valley Fire Adapted Communities Coalition. According to Annie, the tree has evolved since its creation. “It is a little like our fire adapted community itself! It keeps growing and changing the more I use it.” Annie plans to continue to improve and update the Prezi as needed. “Learning to tell our story is one area that I think is tremendously important. In many ways, the success and growth of our fire adapted communities depend on our ability to learn, adapt and share.”

What resources do you draw upon when answering the question “What is FAC?”

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