Firewise USA Program Benefits

 Program Benefits

There are several benefits for communities and individual homeowners who decide to put in the work and time to become a Firewise USA recognized community:

Increase access to funding and assistance: Grant applications can be very competitive as there are more grant requests than there are available funds. Granting agencies want to support entire communities rather than helping individual homeowners and are more willing to help communities that have demonstrated that they are putting in the work and committed to continuously reducing their wildfire risk. Becoming a Firewise community is a great way to demonstrate that your community is actively involved in wildfire risk reduction because Firewise is a nationally recognized program with standardized requirements. Additionally, the SBCFSC will be applying for funds to help with wildfire risk reduction activities. Prioritization will be given to Firewise recognized communities because, like granting agencies, we want to help communities that are helping themselves and provide aid at the community scale.

Build community connectedness: Perhaps the most underrated, but arguably most important benefit. Rallying together for a common cause, in this case helping to protect and prepare your community for a wildfire, is a great way to strengthen or kindle community connections. Close-knit communities tend to be more resilient to disasters as information and resource sharing amongst neighbors result in faster decision making, which is important during an evacuation, and reduce the time it takes to recover after a disaster.

Learn about wildfire: When people are more aware of their risk and better understand their risk, they tend to be more proactive in reducing their risk. Fire history has shown Santa Barbara County residents live in and around an environment with frequent wildland fires. In addition to fires occurring more frequently, fire behavior is becoming more severe. As neighbors work through the process, they learn about local wildfire risks in the community and simple steps they can take to reduce them. They connect with experts – local firefighters, state forestry professionals, and national researchers – to continue to learn about fire and find resources to accomplish fire-safe actions.

Community organization: The Firewise USA program provides your neighbors with a framework for reducing the risk of wildfire for the entire community. Meeting the criteria for becoming a Firewise USA™ site helps communities get organized and find direction for their wildfire safety efforts. The criteria help get a community started toward annual, systematic action to reduce their risks from wildfires. Additionally, one requirement of the framework is to select residents who will act as the point of contact for the community, which is helpful for organizations like the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council and the Fire Department because it is easier to disseminate and gather needed information. This is extremely important in emergency situations and for pre-emergency planning. For example, since people on the Firewise committee are knowledgeable about their community they can act as liaisons and inform the Fire Department with critical information, such as who may need assistance evacuating. Knowing this valuable information could save lives.

Peace of mind: People feel empowered when they take their fate into their own hands. Knowing they are using the best information available and actually taking steps to reduce the risk of damage from fire helps people start to feel safer in their environment and in their homes. Having a plan for what to do in the event of a fire helps people become calmer, think clearer, and better prepared to take appropriate actions quickly during an emergency.

Publicity: The program provides communities with metal signs, a plaque and other materials that can be presented publicly to honor their status as a Firewise USA recognition site. These recognition ceremonies are great ways to shine the spotlight on community efforts. News media find this to be a great story to cover, and the national program features community stories regularly on the website and its publications. All this publicity results not only in satisfaction for the residents involved, but also provides one more way to reach large numbers of people with information about wildfire safety.

Insurance discounts:

The number of residential property insurance companies offering insurance discounts for fire-hardened homes and communities has increased since Insurance Commissioner Lara took office in 2019.  Several companies offer both community-wide discounts (for example, a home in a Firewise or a Shelter-In-Place community) and home-specific discounts (for example, maintaining defensible space or home-safety measures against wind-blown embers). In some cases, these discounts can be combined.  Because discounts and eligibility differ by company, we urge you to contact your local representative to learn how much of a discount you would get, how to apply it to your plan, and if your property qualifies. Follow the link below to see the current list of Insurance companies who are offering discounts. 

Insurers Currently Offering Discounts

Recent evidence suggests that residents of Firewise USA sites are less likely to see “non renewal” letters from their insurer (a growing concern for California homeowners). Four known insurance companies that provide discounts to homeowners who live in a Firewise recognized community: USAA, Mercury, CA Fair Plan, and Rivington Partners. 

Much of the material found in this section has been reproduced from NFPA’s website, © NFPA 

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