It is springtime in the western United States and a drought emergency has been declared across most of the state of California. The short-term implication is that the state’s already high risk of wildfires is certain to increase. Of course, the western United States isn’t the only region experiencing these severe weather patterns. What hazard reduction management strategies can organisations in climate-impacted regions implement to prepare?
Why hazard reduction management strategies are more important than ever
Indeed, the United States counted nearly 100 major drought and wildfire incidents in the thirty-year period ending in 2019. Less populous countries, like Australia, weren’t too far behind, either. Australia recorded more than 30 over the same time, with an additional seven major extreme temperature incidents, according to the Ecological Threat Register.
What the affected countries have in common: dense development in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), a transitional area between unoccupied land and human development.
So, why does it matter? Well, growth in the WUI is being achieved through new housing in the absence of counter-balancing increases in wildland vegetation. An unintended consequence of this type of activity turns out to be exacerbated wildfire risk. Practically, this means organisations serving the area, especially heavy-asset dependent organisations like utilities, must think seriously about hazard reduction management strategies.
Hazard reduction management strategies to consider
From the research, hazard reduction management strategies shouldn’t be undertaken as isolated steps. Instead, they must form part of a comprehensive hazard reduction management program.
And to power that program, organisations will need comprehensive risk and incident management capabilities as part of their emergency management software stack. That technology solution will provide a smarter way to prevent, prepare, respond to, and recover from disruptive incidents and emergencies affecting, networks, assets, and customers.
What, then, are the specific factors to consider? For starters, eliminating wildfire risk entirely – say the risk of tree exposure – isn’t possible. Risk assessments should instead catalogue trees that could contact lines.
In turn, that analysis will inform the frequency and intensity of tress assessment patrols. Integrated, risk and incident management technology should support this wildfire risk management process, with functionality that does the following:
- Conducts a risk-driven approach to emergency management through risk assessments and risk analysis
- Identifies where hazards are
- Manages the entire risk assessment process including implementation and review of controls to ensure that the occurrence of incidents is mitigated
- Conforms with risk management standards
Extreme weather, of course, exacerbate wildfire risk. And therefore, asset-dependent organisations should procure technology with advanced weather reporting capabilities, i.e., software that pulls in information and intelligence from weather services, spatial data feeds, social media, and other sources. Other capabilities to consider:
- Comprehensive weather alerts dashboards
- Quick views of weather feeds and notification alerts
- Integrated RSS feeds to ensure up-to-date information is presented
This targeted, weather reporting feature-set should go alongside functionality that enables organisations to maintain situational awareness more broadly. Along those lines, technology should provide users with a common operating platform through flexible dashboards. The solution should also come fully-spatially enabled, so that teams can map the locations of their networks, assets, and staff.
Complaints from the field also yield valuable intelligence. And that’s why integrated complaints management functionality can also bolster risk and hazard mitigation efforts. Specific functionality to consider, here, include:
- Capture and track all network-related complaints
- Record the category of complaint and customer acknowledgement status
- Capture incidents related to network operations from any channel, e.g., verbal, social media, email, letter, website, etc.
That’s not the half of it, though. Heavy-asset dependent organisations must adjust to a new normal of extreme heat, dead trees, and rapid population growth in reclaimed rural areas, all of which exacerbate wildfire risk. As such, technology has to be part of the conversation. Not convinced? For more, download our Emergency Management Software Buyer's Guide: