Current Events and Issues

WUI fire evacuations: how national address point data helps

Posted: Feb. 24, 2020

Longer fire seasons and expansion of communities into wildfire prone areas has led to an increased risk to life and property in the wildland urban interface (WUI). A national address point database could potentially be of value to incident commanders and emergency managers during wildfire evacuations by allowing for more precise mapping and evacuation modeling/zones, and improved information sharing.

The increased risk to life and property is exemplified in California where the Tubbs and Camp Fires recently destroyed thousands of structures and caused over 100 deaths.

Tubbs Fire (2017)

5,636 structures destroyed.

22 people killed.

Camp Fire (2018)

18,804 structures destroyed.

88 people killed.

When a wildfire moves towards a community, incident commanders issue protective action recommendations about whether to evacuate or shelter based on factors like wildfire speed and direction, location of at-risk population, and evacuation routes. Address point data contains both the textual address name and the georeferenced coordinates of an address. It may be the key to managing these decisions.

Address point data is successfully used in Australia to build modern wildfire evacuation systems. However, the United States does not have a complete national address point database.

Address point data in the U.S.

Address point data is developed and maintained in large part at the local level. This means that the database schema used in one county may differ from its neighbors or differ in quality and scope. This can seriously impede interoperability during events that cross jurisdictional lines.

There are currently two ongoing efforts to develop a national address point database. These projects are not complete, but they have great potential.

National Address Database

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is working with 30 state and local partners to develop a public national address database (NAD) that uses a rich set of attributes for its schema. It uses the ESRI ArcGIS data format and has over 48 million address point records. DOT sees many potential applications for this database including Next Generation 911, mail delivery, permitting and school siting.

Open Addresses project

The Open Addresses project hosted on GitHub is a free and open data initiative. It has 128 contributors. So far, this platform covers about 65% of the land area and 82% of the population in the U.S. However, the data in this crowd-sourced system is not always of uniform quality and can sometimes lack essential textual address information or other important metadata.

Applications for address point data in wildfire evacuations

WUI mapping

Address point data can improve WUI mapping through direct measurement of household density or used in combination with census block data. It would be more precise than current mapping methods and useful for wildfire evacuation planning and mitigation applications.

Wildfire evacuation warning and zoning – household level warning systems

Address point data can be used to issue tailored protective action recommendations to specific at-risk households. It could also be used with computer models, e.g., wildfire spread models, protective action trigger models, etc., and other open data initiatives such as LANDFIRE for evacuations. Address point data could also be used to facilitate a safer and more timelier re-entry process for evacuees.

Wildfire evacuation traffic simulation

Address point data would allow for much more accurate modeling of the spatial distribution of the evacuee population. Currently, evacuation modelers must invest a lot of time into collecting address point data from city/county governments. The data from these disparate sources are not always consistent and interoperable. A common, national address point database would greatly aid evacuation traffic simulations for wildfires as well as for other hazards such as hurricanes.

House loss assessment and notification

Public safety officials could deliver news to evacuees more readily about the potential impacts of a wildfire on their property. Aerial photographs from satellites, planes or drones can be used with the address point database to provide timely and accurate damage assessments at the household level.

Recent events highlight the need for more precise national WUI mapping, improved evacuation modeling, timely establishment of evacuation zones and improved information sharing between evacuees and local officials. A national address point database has the potential to meet these needs and significantly improve public safety.

Further reading

Radeloff, V. et al. (2018). Rapid growth of the US wildland-urban interface raises wildfire risk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Vol 115 (13) (March 27, 2018. doi:10.1073/pnas.1718850115

Li, D., Cova, T. J., & Dennison, P. E. (2015). A household-level approach to staging wildfire evacuation warnings using trigger modeling. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 54, 56-67.

Cova, T. J., Dennison, P. E., Li, D., Drews, F. A., Siebeneck, L. K., & Lindell, M. K. (2017). Warning triggers in environmental hazards: who should be warned to do what and when? Risk analysis, 37(4), 601-611.

Learn more about this research

Summary information for this article was provided by the NETC Library. You can find this article in our library.

Li, D., Cova, T., Dennison, P., Wan, N., Nguyen, Q., Siebeneck, L. (2019). Why do we need a national address point database in the U.S.? International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction: 39 (1), open access. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2019.101237

This summary is for informational purposes only. As such, the content does not reflect any official positions, policies, or guidelines on behalf of the sender, the U.S. Fire Administration, FEMA, DHS, nor any other federal agencies, departments or contracting entities. Similarly, this summary does not represent in any manner an official endorsement or relationship to any private or public companies, organizations/associations, or any authors or individuals cited or websites associated within the article.

  • Filter:
photo of several row houses
NEW
New materials highlight row house firefighting safety

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently released a free fact sheet and poster that highlight tactics for fighting row house fires and areas for potential fire extension.

photo of a man and a woman staring looking at their destroyed home
NEW
Post-wildfire recovery

Considerations and suggested resources to help communities rebuild and individuals to recover after a wildfire.

photo of a woman and man preparing a meal
Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!

This year's Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 4-10) campaign works to educate everyone about the simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves, and those around them, safe in the kitchen.

photo of a small Oregon town
Include everyone in community wildfire preparedness

Pre-fire planning tips for wildfire to help ensure that your whole community's resilience is considered.

storm clouds with houses in the foreground
Preparedness Month and fire safety

Severe weather can happen at any time, in any part of the country. That's why it is important for your community to be ready for severe weather events and to understand the fire risks that can come with them.

firefighters wearing SCBA
Respiratory Protection Week 2020

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has assembled informative webinars and other content to help you make the best decisions about respiratory protection and to keep you safe.

pictograph illustrations
A pictograph is worth a thousand words

Our pictographs can help you reach everyone in your community with fire and life safety messages.

homes destroyed by fire at Ocean Isle Beach
Hurricane Isaias shows why storm fire safety matters

Despite making landfall as a weak Category 1 hurricane, the wind and storm surge from Isaias caused significant fire safety problems for Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.

graphic examples
New graphics highlight wildland firefighter safety messaging

Graphics for wildland firefighters that depict the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Watch Out Situations are available for download.

woman wearing a mask during a wildfire
Minimizing the effects of wildfire smoke during COVID-19

Inform your community about these actionable steps they can take to minimize the respiratory effects of wildfire smoke.

photo of an activated residential fire sprinkler head
Retrofitting homes with lower cost sprinkler technologies

USFA is working with the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute on research to reduce home fire sprinkler retrofit complexities.

photo of person installing gutter guards
Doing the little things makes a difference in wildfire safety

Learn about simple and low-cost actions that homeowners can take to protect their homes from wildfire.

photo of a burned out room
First responders: know your fire investigation role

This year's Arson Awareness Week (May 3-9) highlights the crucial role that first responders can play in a successful fire investigation.

photo of a marina
Fire onboard: safety tips for boaters in your community

Resources you can use to make people in boating communities aware of onboard fire dangers and how to prevent boat and marina fires.

burned out street after a wildfire with street signs propped up
WUI fire evacuations: how national address point data helps

A national address point database can be of value to officials during wildfire evacuations by allowing for more precise mapping and improved information sharing.

paramedics placing a patient into an ambulance
Mitigating the risk and impact of assaults on EMS responders

The SAVER checklist helps departments assess and implement training, policies and practices to mitigate assaults on EMS responders.

courtroom
Helping assaulted first responders during legal prosecutions

Recommendations to overcome common obstacles to the legal prosecution of people who assault first responders.

doctor looking at test results
How organizational factors affect firefighter cancer screening

Having two or more health and safety officers influences the availability of firefighter cancer screening.

family making a fire escape plan
Teach your community about the dangers of fire

A recent survey shows that many in your community probably don't understand the life-threatening risks from heat and toxic smoke produced in a modern home fire.

paramedics treating an older patient at home
Community paramedics helpful in treating home-bound patients

A community paramedicine program, integrated with an advanced illness management program, can be effective in treating frail, older adults in their homes.

wildfire threatens home
Mitigating wildfire vulnerability: one community's success story

Learn how the Montecito Fire Protection District used a socio-ecological mitigation approach to successfully fight the Thomas Fire.

President Trump at the ceremony
Medal of Valor ceremony recognizes two Kansas firefighters

U.S. Fire Administrator Keith Bryant attended the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor ceremony at the White House on May 22, 2019.

a man doing a push-up
Assessing cardiovascular disease risk with push-ups

Can a simple exercise like a push-up be an inexpensive way for fire departments to assess cardiovascular disease risk in firefighters?

graphene
Using nanotechnology to minimize fire damage

Nanotechnology, manufactured at scale and low cost while posing minimal health risks, may potentially point to a future with fewer fires that are less lethal and less damaging.

electric car and solar panels
A better DC hot stick technology is on the way

New tool will help prevent first responder electrical injury.

hoarded items in a home
Takeaways from a hoarding intervention strategy

A recent study of the City of Vancouver’s Hoarding Action Response Team provides key takeaways for fire departments.

firefighter gear
Firefighter decon challenges? Try a communication intervention.

Learn about a communication intervention strategy designed by researchers to increase post-fire decontamination behaviors in firefighters.

firefighters removing gear
Firefighter decon challenges: knowledge versus practice

Understanding firefighter beliefs related to decontaminating bunker gear is an essential first step to reduce exposure risks.

fire engine and ambulance
Dual dispatch to cardiac arrest: can it save lives?

Dual dispatch of EMT-trained firefighters shortens response time and increases survival chance for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients.

child sleeping with mother in background
Waking children with maternal voice smoke alarms

A new study from Nationwide Children's Hospital shows that maternal voice smoke alarms are more effective in waking children than conventional tone alarms.

home with wildfire mitigation measures in place
How one homeowner saved his house from the Carr Fire

Learn about wildfire mitigation measures one California homeowner took during construction and maintained over the years to make his home fire-resilient.

wheelchair patients
EMS Mobile Integrated Health during disaster response

How one community's MIH providers assisted with patient care during severe flooding.

paramedics treating a patient
Training helps EMS workers identify human trafficking signs

Learn about the key components of a human trafficking training and awareness program for EMS workers.

firefighter wearing SCBA at a house fire
Reducing airborne contaminant exposure with fireground tactics

New study provides valuable insights into fireground exposure risks and ways to mitigate them.

Facebook logo and a cordless phone
Smoke alarm messaging: Facebook ads versus phone calls

Study shows automated calls were more successful than Facebook ads in getting residents to request a free smoke alarm install.

person using the Airbnb app on a phone
Fire and life safety concerns in peer-to-peer lodging

Fire departments and communities around the U.S. are starting to recognize and address the unique fire safety concerns that peer-to-peer lodgings, like Airbnb, present.

circuit training
Circuit training impact on volunteer firefighters’ cardiovascular health

About 20 percent of volunteer firefighters meet the VO2 max fitness level recommended by NFPA 1582. So how might volunteer firefighters best improve their cardiovascular fitness? A study published this year explored how circuit training may help.

sprained knee
Mitigating fireground injury risks: Suggested interventions

Firefighting poses many hazards that come in a wide variety of work settings. A recent study focused on the scope and nature of fireground injuries to determine what steps fire departments can take to better mitigate hazards posed by certain risks.

man holding a smoke alarm in his hands
Home fire safety canvassing: Achieving better results

Planning a home canvassing event? These research-based tips can help you to win maximum neighborhood participation.

firefighters removing SCBA
Firefighter burnout and workplace safety

Are firefighters who show symptoms of burnout less likely to follow safety procedures? A team of researchers recently set out to learn if burnout impacted a firefighter’s ability to follow required safe work practices.

husband and wife using a laptop
New Firefighter Cancer Registry will help to monitor cancer incidents

The voluntary registry will include the number and type of fires each firefighter attended.

nurse, mom and her baby
Study reveals successful smoke alarm installation partnership

Find out what happened when Maricopa County, Arizona firefighters partnered with nurses from a home visiting program to get smoke alarms into homes of the “hard-to-reach.”

main street usa
Fire sprinkler tax incentives for small businesses

Fire service officials: Here’s some news that you can share with local small business owners to encourage them to install fire sprinklers.

paramedics entering a hospital with a patient
EMS prehospital documentation accuracy: Can body-worn cameras help?

This article discusses the results of a pilot study where EMS providers used body-worn cameras to see if they could help to improve the accuracy of their prehospital documentation.

binder of safety procedures
Factors that contribute to preventable firefighter deaths

A recent study highlights the importance of SOPs in preventing firefighter fatalities.

home boarded up with clear board
Clear boarding creates a ”no ply“ zone

There’s a new alternative to plywood for boarding up vacant and abandoned buildings that can help prevent arson: clear board.

firefighters walking away in PPE after a fire
Clean gear is the new badge of honor

This article looks at firefighter perceptions of dirty gear and how Palm Beach County Fire Rescue promoted organizational resilience to combat the risk of firefighter cancer from dirty gear.

firefighters in smoke
Clean your PPE and skin post-fire to reduce chemical exposure risk

Firefighting activities can lead to chemical contamination. This article presents research findings on cleaning personal protective equipment and skin to reduce chemical exposures.

drone delivering an AED
Transforming cardiac emergency care with drone delivery of AEDs

Preliminary studies suggest that medical drones may make a life-saving difference in providing emergency care to cardiac arrest patients, especially those in a rural setting.

fire station
Turnout times: How important is time of day?

Research findings from a recent study into how station design of dormitory location and the time of day of the emergency affect turnout times.

firefighters at the scene of a car accident
The effect of repeated exposure trauma on firefighters

This article details findings from a research project that studied the impact of repeated exposure trauma on firefighters.

chlorine test release
New report offers insights for emergency responders on chlorine releases

Multiagency chlorine release experiments were conducted in part to help emergency responders meet the planning, tactical and operational challenges of a catastrophic Toxic Inhalation Hazard release.