National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Launched in Canada

Opportunity for communities to join effort to reduce wildfire risk

EDMONTON, Feb. 9, 2015 /CNW/ - In collaboration with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), and The Co-operators, FireSmart Canada today announced the launch of the first ever National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in Canada scheduled for May 2, 2015.

During Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, communities across Canada are encouraged to participate in local mitigation projects to help reduce the risk of wildfire damage to their homes and neighbourhoods.

Groups and individuals are encouraged to apply for a stipend towards their local event.
In addition, one community will be chosen as the media launch site for the initiative. For a list of contests rules and project ideas, visit firesmartcanada.ca.

According to Kelly Johnston, Executive Director of Partners in Protection, "wildfires have always been a natural process in Canada's forests, however, a changing climate, increasing large fire activity, and increasing development trends, create a serious threat throughout Canada – putting neighbourhoods, communities, the public, and firefighter safety at risk every year. Due to these circumstances,  it is becoming the norm for these fires to quickly overwhelm fire suppression resources and increase annual suppression costs to exceed hundreds of millions of dollars. Unless Canadian communities take action, this problem will only become worse. Empowering community members to develop their own local solutions to reduce wildfire risk is essential for more communities throughout Canada to become FireSmart."

"As a co-operative and an insurer, we're in the business of managing risk and protecting our communities", noted Kathy Bardswick, President and CEO of The Co-operators. "Proper risk management requires a partnership in which insurance companies, emergency responders, property owners and others each play a crucial role.  That's why we're excited to support the National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, through which a variety of people and organizations will work in communities across the country to reduce their exposure to the devastating effects of wildfires."

"Fire research predicts an alarming increase over the next 20 or 30 years in the risk of property damage in the wildland-urban interface, including risk of homes destroyed by fire. Fortunately, most of these losses are preventable if property owners and communities take the time to prepare", said Paul Kovacs, Executive Director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at Western University.

"NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division is dedicated to helping protect people and property in communities at risk from wildfire through advocacy, outreach and education" said Shayne Mintz, Canadian Regional Director of the NFPA. "Fire science research has shown that community engagement and individual action ahead of time can reduce property loss and human suffering from wildfires. As the founder of Wildfire Community Preparedness in the USA, the NFPA is excited to help bring this initiative to Canada!"

Projects on May 2 can range from a short time commitment up to an entire day and can be undertaken by individuals, families or groups. Potential projects include hosting a chipping day, distributing wildfire safety information to neighbours, organizing brush clean-up and more. Residents of all ages are invited to participate in the effort.

Moreover, for communities officially recognized through the FireSmart Communities Recognition Program, participating on national Wildfire Preparedness Day can count towards their 2015 "FireSmart Day" event.

To learn more about the first National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in Canada, and about the recognition program, please see the attached backgrounder or visit www.firesmartcanada.ca

About FireSmart Canada
FireSmart Canada (FireSmart) is the go-to national program committed to helping Canadians reduce their wildfire risk and become fire adapted through community-based solutions.  FireSmart is administered by Partners in Protection; a non-profit coalition of federal, provincial, first nations', private industry and municipal fire, emergency and land management experts. Through publications, programs, outreach training, and workshops, FireSmart provides tools for Canadians to become pro-active in reducing the risk of wildfire to their homes and communities. FireSmart programs and products are supported through membership and ongoing active support from organizations such as the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, the National Fire Protection Association and The Co-operators. For more information on FireSmart visit www.firesmartcanada.ca .

About the National Fire Protection Association:
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed at no cost at www.nfpa.org

About the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction:
Established in 1998 by Canada's property and casualty insurers, ICLR is an independent, not-for-profit research institute based in Toronto and at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. ICLR is a centre of excellence for disaster loss prevention research and education. ICLR's research staff is internationally recognized for pioneering work in a number of fields including wind and seismic engineering, atmospheric sciences, water resources engineering and economics. Multi-disciplined research is a foundation for ICLR's work to build communities more resilient to disasters. Visit www.iclr.org.

About The Co-operators:
The Co-operators Group Limited is a Canadian-owned co-operative with more than $37 billion in assets under administration. Through its group of companies it offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products.  The Co-operators is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. The Co-operators is listed among the 50 Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt; Corporate Knights' Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada; and the Top 50 Socially Responsible Corporations in Canada by Sustainalytics and Maclean's magazine. For more information please visit www.cooperators.ca.

SOURCE The Co-operators

For further information: Kelly Johnston, RPF, Executive Director, Partners in Protection Association, 250-319-0494, execdirector@firesmartcanada.ca; Glenn McGillivray, Managing Director, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, 416-364 8677, gmcgillivray@iclr.org; Shayne Mintz, Canadian Regional Director, National Fire Protection Association, 705-812-2924, smintz@nfpa.org; Leonard Sharman, Media Advisor, The Co-operators, 519-767-3937, leonard_sharman@cooperators.ca

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