Risk Management and Analytics in Wildfire Response

Matthew P. Thompson, Yu Wei, David E. Calkin, Christopher D. O'Connor, Christopher J. Dunn, Nathaniel M. Anderson, John S. Hogland
2019 Current Forestry Reports  
Purpose of Review The objectives of this paper are to briefly review basic risk management and analytics concepts, describe their nexus in relation to wildfire response, demonstrate real-world application of analytics to support response decisions and organizational learning, and outline an analytics strategy for the future. Recent Findings Analytics can improve decision-making and organizational performance across a variety of areas from sports to business to real-time emergency response. A
more » ... k of robust descriptive analytics on wildfire incident response effectiveness is a bottleneck for developing operationally relevant and empirically credible predictive and prescriptive analytics to inform and guide strategic response decisions. Capitalizing on technology such as automated resource tracking and machine learning algorithms can help bridge gaps between monitoring, learning, and data-driven decision-making. Summary By investing in better collection, documentation, archiving, and analysis of operational data on response effectiveness, fire management organizations can promote systematic learning and provide a better evidence base to support response decisions. We describe an analytics management framework that can provide structure to help deploy analytics within organizations, and provide real-world examples of advanced fire analytics applied in the USA. To fully capitalize on the potential of analytics, organizations may need to catalyze cultural shifts that cultivate stronger appreciation for data-driven decision processes, and develop informed skeptics that effectively balance both judgment and analysis in decision-making. risk is a value-laden concept predicated on defined objectives and that objectives can be positively or negatively impacted (e.g., fire can enhance or degrade forest health). Risk management (RM)-a set of coordinated activities to direct and control an organization with regard to risk-has become somewhat of an organizing framework for wildfire management, with applications ranging from programmatic budgeting to fire prevention, fuel reduction, community planning, and broader topics such as performance, communication, and governance [1, 5-12, 13•]. Wildfire management is rich with opportunities to apply and refine RM acumen-organizations around the globe implement RM practices as a matter of routine. As one example, the Australasian Fire Authorities Council a d o p t e d I n t e r n a t i o n a l S t a n d a r d 3 1 0 0 0 R i s k management-principles and guidelines [1] as a guidepost for all firefighting operations [14] . As another, the USDA Forest Service describes RM as a required core competency for fire managers, and promulgates a RM protocol to guide assessment, analysis, communication, decisionmaking, review, and learning [15] . RM can help these organizations increase the likelihood of achieving objectives, establish a reliable basis for decision-making and planning, efficiently allocate and use resources, improve operational effectiveness and safety, and improve organizational learning [1-3]. Here, we limit our review to evaluating RM concepts and principles in the context of wildfire response, i.e., the development of a response strategy and its operational execution over the duration of an active fire incident from detection to containment. Strategies can range from full suppression to managing for ecosystem benefit, depending on a variety of factors like relevant policies, land ownership patterns, potential socioeconomic and ecological impacts, fire growth potential, and availability of resources. Important components of response strategies include mobilizing/demobilizing fire management resources, allocating and assigning resources to various tasks (e.g., line construction, structure protection, mop-up), and monitoring and updating strategies in response to changing conditions. As the complexity, duration, or size of fires increases, response strategies may increasingly entail blend direct and indirect tactics, mobilize a greater amount and diversity of ground and aerial resources, and require coordination of a wide variety of activities such as locating drop points and conducting burnout operations [16] . These incident response decisions can be complex, uncertain, time-pressured, and require balancing tradeoffs across many dimensions (e.g., fire impacts, suppression expenditures, and public and responder safety), which highlights the need for structured and timely decision support [3, [16] [17] [18] . Indeed, there is a
doi:10.1007/s40725-019-00101-7 fatcat:gb2fpq3kwzbf5plr5bgamjmafu