Severe Weather Toolkit

1.8 Wildfires

Wildfires in Texas continue to threaten people and property. Many new schools are being constructed at the edges of communities, which in some cases, may increase their susceptibility to the threat of wildfires. The threat of wildfires is directly related to high heat, drought and wind. Schools should therefore collaborate with local agencies in Texas and the National Forest Services to plan for mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery from wildfires.

The Texas A&M Forest Service has established the Predictive Services Department that provides short and long-term forecasts and analysis of wildfires. Their permanently staffed services provide information and products used at the local level by firefighters, elected officials, and public administrators at the state and national level.

If a district has identified wildfires as a potential hazard or threat to their schools and community, protective actions should be included in the EOP. The Texas A&M Forest Service Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal is a tool that can be used to identify wildfire risks on campuses or in districts. Collaboration with local fire departments and Texas Forest Service can assist with the development of EOP protective actions. Potential evacuation and reunification sites may need to be extended beyond the distance of other hazard evacuation areas. Due to the effect of the wind direction and speed changes, multiple evacuation sites and alternative transportation methods should be identified.

Fire Weather Watch

The NWS issues a fire weather watch when potentially dangerous fire weather conditions are possible over the next 12 to 72 hours.

Fire Weather/Red Flag Warning

The NWS issues a fire weather warning or red flag when fire danger exists and weather patterns that support wildfires are either occurring or expected to occur within 24 hours. Authorities may issue a fire weather watch before a warning, but a warning may also be the initial notification.

Some communities may use the National Fire Danger Rating System to provide a daily estimate of the fire danger (i.e., low, moderate, high, very high and extreme).1

Evacuation Notice

If the danger is imminent, local authorities may issue an evacuation notice to alert residents that are nearby to leave the area. Evacuation orders vary by state and community and may range from voluntary to mandatory alerts. When authorities issue a mandatory evacuation notice, leave the area immediately.

Wildfire Resources

Fire Weather Watch and Warning Checklist

NCEF: Wildfires and Schools

Texas A&M Forest Service Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal

National Fire Protection Association: Wildfire Preparedness

References

1 How to Prepare for a Wildfire—America's PrepareAthon! http://ready.gov/prepare