Through a FAC Neighborhood Ambassador Approach, mitigation professionals empower local residents to be catalysts for wildfire adaptation in their neighborhoods. This approach provides structure, training, and resources to recruit, train, support, and retain volunteers while collaborating with partners to meet the needs of local residents.
The FAC Neighborhood Ambassador Approach is a proven methodology that empowers communities to take action and mitigate wildfire risks effectively. By fostering local leadership, collaboration, and knowledge sharing, this approach helps communities become more resilient and better prepared for future wildfire events.
FAC Neighborhood Ambassador – a volunteer who is supported to spearhead wildfire preparedness in their neighborhood. These volunteers are encouraged to work in tandem with other volunteers with different skills. They may go by different local titles (see An Ambassador by Any Name Doth Broaden Wildfire Resilience). Neighborhoods include any area the volunteer is dedicated to supporting such as a homeowner association, a neighborhood block, shared roads, or ditch or lake associations. In rare cases, some even represent non-geographic communities where they serve as liaisons to their professions such as builders, realtors, or insurance agents.
Wildfire Adapted Partnership in southwest Colorado has coordinated volunteer neighborhood ambassadors since 2004 following an initial NFPA Firewise USA® gathering in Durango, CO, and building upon the Firewise USA® model of neighbors influencing neighbors. The wildfire council in southwest Colorado captured their system of networking neighborhood volunteers and providing them with tailored local support and resources with support from the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (FAC Net) – the FAC Neighborhood Ambassador Approach.
By transferring knowledge, developing resources such as the FAC Ambassador Approach Guide, offering Building Your FAC Neighborhood Ambassador Approach workshops, and providing ongoing support including quarterly professional volunteer coordinator calls, FAC Net, Fire Adapted Colorado, and Wildfire Adapted Partnership are cultivating a network of professionals dedicated to neighborhood-based wildfire resilience efforts.
Different communities have implemented variations of the ambassador approach based on their local context and resources. The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise USA® program can provide a solid framework for building upon and supporting volunteer-led initiatives.
FAC Neighborhood Ambassador Coordination – a volunteer coordinator serves as a central point of contact, providing guidance, support, and coordination to volunteers. Their role enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of volunteer efforts, promotes volunteer satisfaction and retention, and contributes to the overall success of the neighborhood ambassadors. While professionals have limited capacity and primarily focus on high-risk areas, a volunteer coordinator serves as a valuable bridge between professional firefighters, foresters, and residents. They leverage their knowledge, skills, and the volunteer workforce of neighborhood ambassadors to effectively communicate and demonstrate the importance of wildfire mitigation and spread local resources to achieve wildfire mitigation outcomes.
The Neighborhood Ambassador Coordinators Toolkit and Building Your FAC Neighborhood Ambassador Approach Workshops are designed for professional wildfire mitigation leaders who want to amplify their efforts through neighborhood volunteers. Within the toolkit, there are resources for program development, such as coordinator job descriptions and sample volunteer training schedules as well as sample volunteer notebook and orientation materials that can be tailored to the local volunteer program needs. The full toolkit is available to professionals who have participated in a workshop or connected directly with Fire Adapted Colorado or Wildfire Adapted Partnership.
- FAC Net Webinar: Community Wildfire Engagement Panel: a 15-minute overview of the Neighborhood Ambassador approach in Southwest Colorado.
- Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists: 55-minute dive into example strategies for supporting FAC Ambassadors.