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A Barn Burner of a Fire Year Is Coming

Low rain and high heat torch the Western states.

There is no getting around it: The 2021 fire season is shaping up to be a significant one. The West has experienced 20 years of drought, punctuated with a few years of high rainfall.

2021 has the highest levels of drought seen in a generation. California has hired hundreds more firefighters for this fire season, and it looks like the state will need them.

When sagebrush burns and that is about it, no one cares that much. However, the West has seen many more people moving to the region and pushing the boundaries of where people should live considering the fire risks that have become commonplace.

I’m not hoping for it, but when fire burns it doesn’t care if a farm, home or subdivision is in its path.

If there is anything emergency managers in the West should be doing right now, it is preparing to issue warnings to people in the fire’s path — in a timely enough manner for them to escape.

Warning tools are like having tools in a tool box. Each does a different thing. Hammering on a screw with a hammer does little to help extract it. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all warning system. There are legacy systems like the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and many emergency management programs have purchased customizable commercial warning systems. Then there is the newer Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) that use cellular technology.

I’d like to call your attention to another system on the market today: ALERT FM. What makes it a beneficial addition to your portfolio of warning systems is that it is satellite-based, which allows for almost instantaneous messaging. Check it out and see what it does that your other systems are not doing for you today — and those that you avoid using because they are either cumbersome or unreliable in being able to target specific geographical areas.

I’ll have a future Disaster Zone podcast on the ALERT FM system where we’ll do a deeper dive into its features.
Eric Holdeman is a nationally known emergency manager. He has worked in emergency management at the federal, state and local government levels. Today he serves as the Director, Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), which is part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER). The focus for his work there is engaging the public and private sectors to work collaboratively on issues of common interest, regionally and cross jurisdictionally.
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