By Katrina Stacey
In 2011, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) launched the Ready, Set, Go! (RSG) Program. The vision for the program is to provide tools, resources and a platform for fire and emergency response agencies to engage their community in both preparing before and during a wildland fire. The RSG! program can be applied to all-risk events, such as wildfires, floods and high wind events, which occur across all private and public lands.
The program takes individuals through three stages of mitigation and preparedness: ready, set and go. The Ready Stage contains mitigation actions, increasing understanding of the wildland fire threat in the individual’s area and teaching actions that can be taken to mitigate risk and prepare for evacuations. Local conservation district staff are often asked for pre-fire prevention efforts when reducing hazardous fuels around homes. The Set Stage calls for residents to become acutely aware during warning times and changing hazardous conditions such as increasing winds. Residents should consider voluntarily relocating to a shelter or with family/friends outside the affected area during this stage. Lastly, the Go Stage is when individuals are expected to leave their homes.
The program provides a number of educational resources to guide individuals through the different stages. These resources include an RSG! National Action Guide to prompt thinking and the development of action plans, go bags to get people prepared for evacuations, and a Farmers & Ranchers Guide that walks individuals through the RSG! Program on those landscapes.
“These resources are designed for fire and emergency response agencies, but we do have some conservation districts that are members and other local nonprofits,” said Jennifer Dietz, program manager for IAFC Wildland Fire Programs. “The more organizations that are involved in this effort, the more the information spreads.”
The Kittitas County Conservation District in Ellensburg, Wash., is one district involved in the program. The district started focusing on forestry work in 2009, when the Board of County Commissioners asked them to help complete the County Wildfire Protection Plan. Then, in 2012, when the Taylor Bridge Wildfire burned over 20,000 acres in the area, forestry activity picked up rapidly.
“We at the district were overwhelmed with requests for home-site assessments and assistance,” said Anna Lael, district manager of Kittitas County Conservation District. “We used the Ready, Set, Go! materials that we were able to order and put into packets to hand out.”
In 2019, the Kittitas County Fire District 1 received a RSG! Grant for a project in the Sunlight Waters Community and partnered with the district to implement it. The project, aimed at fuels mitigation for this small, but high-risk, area, is nearing completion.
The district also highlighted RSG! in their virtual workshop video series. “We put that video out there so that people could see what the levels of evacuation were and also understand that sometimes you don’t get levels one and two,” Lael said. “Sometimes the fires are moving so fast they’re banging on your door in the middle of the night.”
Be sure to visit the Ready, Set, Go! website to learn more about the program and how you can use it in your district. Any organization can sign up for free and begin using their materials.