The University of California Disaster Resilience Network (UC DRN) is a comprehensive program designed to harness the University’s breadth and depth of expertise to assist communities to mitigate, prepare for, and recover from disasters and crises, both human-caused and natural.
Through this proposed collaboration with the UCSB NRS, the UC DRN will demonstrate its role in harnessing UC expertise towards a more resilient California. The coordinated approach of the UC DRN leverages the power of the UC to enhance understanding of the conditions that lead to disaster and how to improve management, response, and recovery, for safeguarding public health and safety, the economy, and the environment. The UC has tremendous will, expertise, and physical resources for meeting California’s disaster resilience needs, but a platform has been lacking. The UC DRN – UCSB NRS partnership answers this call.
A Framework for a More Resilient Future
As a system-wide initiative, the UC DRN has naturally built-in partnerships that provide an opportunity to scale effectively within and outside of the UC. The UC DRN Executive As a system-wide initiative, the UC DRN has partnerships that can scale effectively within and outside of the UC. The UC DRN is utilizing wildfire as a first topic for incubating innovative research with the goals of convening and supporting critical disaster-related research, through facilitating connections across disciplines and partners.
Addressing California’s critical challenges. As an inaugural demonstration of how the UC DRN can facilitate researchers in addressing myriad issues including drought, sea level rise, equity in climate mitigation and adaptation, earthquakes, and conservation of biological diversity (such as the 30×30 initiative), the UC DRN is partnering with the UCSB Natural Reserve System (UCSB NRS) in a proof-of-concept initiative to address one of California’s most critical challenges – wildfire. A wealth of UC research is in progress regarding wildfire, including within the Natural Reserves of the UC NRS, the world’s most extensive network of field stations and protected lands, with 41 sites distributed across more than 850,000 acres in the State of California. By partnering with the UCSB NRS to identify and facilitate researchers whose efforts are poised to significantly inform California’s wildfire preparedness and response, the UC DRN aims to demonstrate its power to convene and support disaster research that is critical to policy formulation and management decisions in wildfire resilience.
Sendai framework. Human-caused and natural disasters are threats that can be viewed through the lens of disaster risk management (DRM). The international standard for DRM is the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which was signed by 187 countries in 2015. Sendai’s four priorities are:
- Understanding disaster risk.
- Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.
- Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience.
- Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
By pursuing these priorities, the Sendai Framework seeks to achieve a substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural, and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities, and countries between 2015 and 2030.
Following is a description of the planned wildfire research within the overarching Sendai Framework that will provide substantive impact on California’s ability to address wildfire.
Framework: Applying the UC Disaster Resilience Network to Wildfire
Toll from wildfires. Wildfires in California and throughout the West are becoming one of society’s biggest natural hazards. They result in loss of lives and property, generate negative economic costs, and lead to harmful health effects. For example, the 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California killed 85 civilians, wiped out the town of Paradise and destroyed almost 19,000 structures. Insured losses from this fire totaled over $10 billion, making it the costliest in US history. Additionally, there are uninsured losses and health costs. Wildfires produce high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which has been linked to a host of negative health outcomes, including premature death, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and other respiratory illnesses; recent studies have found that these wildfire-related factors have sickened and prematurely killed thousands of people in the Western US in 2020.
Developing knowledge for resilience. We propose a package of multidisciplinary, UC DRN-coordinated research in order to help California and other affected communities build resilience to the growing impacts of wildfires. In collaboration with practitioners, we ask new questions that will translate science into action using advanced technology, particularly novel methods of data sharing and synthesis. The effort is based out of UC Santa Barbara which manages seven Reserves, representing diverse ecosystems and geographies with varying proximities to urban areas. UC Santa Barbara’s Natural Reserve System geographically spans the Channel Islands, the central California coast, inland, and north to the Eastern Sierra.
Severe wildfires are projected to continue and grow throughout the western United States in the face of climate change. Now, more than ever, we need to catalyze improved understanding, coordination, management, and awareness to live more safely with wildfire.