J2.2 Santa Ana Winds Fire Risk Classification Project: Developing a Decision Support Tool and Products for Public Use

Wednesday, 9 January 2013: 4:15 PM
Room 19A (Austin Convention Center)
Tamara Wall, Western Regional Climate Center, Reno, NV

Santa Ana wind events (a type of Foehn wind) generally occur across southern California October-May each year. During the early portion of this season, when the conditions for extreme wildfire events are present, high winds during this time period have led to devastating wildfires in recent years (1993, 2003, 2007, and 2008). In an effort to improve decision support services to fire agencies, emergency managers, and the general public living in the wildland urban interface areas of southern California, an innovative stakeholder-driven partnership with representatives from several California agencies and organizations began working on a tool to categorize these events. The goal of this project is to increase public safety and improve overall wildfire preparedness during Santa Ana Winds. Integrated with the decision support tool development is a three-phase social science research project to assess the how this decision support tool can be introduced to and effectively utilized by the general public and regional media outlets. The first phase of this project was a random survey (n=400) that was undertaken in 2012 of residents living in several wildland urban interface zones located in San Diego County, CA. The focus of the survey was to identify residents' sources for information about weather-related events, differences in the credibility and utilization of these sources, weather and fire-related information residents' believe to be relevant to their preparedness decisions just before and during a wildfire event, and their perceptions of their level of risk from wildfires. This presentation will discuss how data from the survey will contribute to developing products from the classification project that are effective in 1) reaching and being understood by the general public in the region; 2) improving individual responsiveness to Santa Ana wind-driven fire alerts that result in proactive risk reduction behaviors by wildland urban residents during high-risk wildfire categories; 3) informing individual decisions about current risk from wildfires; and 4) enhancing decision support to fire mangers in the region by improving their understanding of public perceptions of weather-related wildfire information and alerts.
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