The March/April issue of Wildfire Magazine highlights the work NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division is doing to include the nation’s estimated 8.8 million youth, in grades six through twelve living in wildland/urban interface areas, in wildfire awareness and preparedness outreach efforts.
This young demographic has traditionally been under-utilized in the development of most education programs and strategic messaging; even though they hold tremendous potential and have the power to be valuable conduits for getting mitigation information into their homes. Their ability to initiate family conversations about wildfire preparedness and motivate their family to implement actions is significant and should be a key component in all outreach efforts.
If you have kids, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren, take a moment to think about the times they’ve been the motivator and reminder for you to incorporate safety actions into your everyday life; and how those things have now become part of your daily routine. Young people can be very persistent in getting us to change our mindset about what and how we do things. Ask any parent about the power their kids hold in getting them to make changes. Those conversations cover many topics…seat belts, talking on a cell phone while driving, reminding us to change the batteries in our smoke and CO alarms, wearing helmets while bike riding or skiing; the list is long. Begrudgingly, we need to give our kids the credit they deserve for being effective at giving us those annoying and not so gentle nudges in tackling the things we tend to avoid, or put on the back burner, even though we know they’re important.
So let’s empower them to nag a little more and get their families to take actions that reduce wildfire risk, and help them prepare for the day that a wildfire may be an uninvited guest knocking at the door. Young people are great motivators, positive influencers and messengers. They’re our future mitigation champions!
NFPA's report Engaging Youth in Reducing Wildfire Risk — Community Conversation Workshop Findings and Research is available in the Youth and Families section of the Firewise website.