New Community Assessor app aims to protect WUI residents in the South

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

By Mindia Brown | This blog is cross-posted on the Southern Group of State Foresters' website.

It is imperative that communities located within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI, for short) learn about their vulnerabilities to wildfire and act to mitigate their risk. But knowing which mitigating actions to take requires onsite assessments of just how "fire adapted" a community is. To help in this process, the Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF) and Timmons Group have developed the Community Assessor, a new module in SouthWRAP that empowers the 13 southern state forestry agencies and their partners to do mobile field assessments of "Communities at Risk."

In the past, individual SGSF states developed manual ways serve to these Communities at Risk, including paper-based assessment forms and non-digital mapping of community boundaries. Across the region, there was no consistency in the assessment criteria and mitigation strategies recommended to localities, making the development of Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) difficult. 

With Community Assessor, field assessors can use iOS and Android mobile apps to quickly enter assessment details and capture photos for pre-mapped and ad-hoc communities. Remote communities are no problem, because field assessors can work in online or offline mode and still capture data and use the map. After assessments are synced from mobile to the Community Assessor web app, the Single Community Assessment Report can be downloaded listing automatically generated mitigation strategies tailored for that community. Finally, there is also a Project Report available detailing all communities for the project, including a map and table with the total hazard rating for each community.

With the addition of the Community Assessor application to SouthWRAP, SGSF states will not only help Communities at Risk safely coexist with wildland fire, they will be able to show the impact of this technical assistance regionwide.

Mindia Brown is a senior consultant to the Timmons Group. She can be reached by email at Mindia.Brown@timmons.com.