Significant portions of the western U.S. are currently at above normal risk for wildfires, according to the lastest outlook from the National Interagency Fire Center. Already last week, wildfires prompted evacuations in Arizona and California. According to the same outlook, heightened levels of risk will continue, expand, and adjust to new areas of the West over the next few months. Meanwhile, many of the states that are already contending with or preparing for wildfires are also experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases. COVID-19-related hospitalizations are increasing in Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, and California. These states, along with Utah, also recorded their highest incidence of new cases this week since the start of the pandemic. Responding to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires, usually means large groups of people coming together, such as residents congregating in evacuation shelters or emergency management officials reporting to operations centers. But given the risk of spreading COVID-19 in these settings, everyone needs to take the time now to prepare. For individuals, this means equipping a go-bag with face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes and making arrangements now to stay with family or friends (and avoiding anyone at high risk for COVID-19). For organizations, this could mean adapting an emergency operations center to have fewer people and relying more on technologies for personnel to work from different locations, while ensuring they’re able to continue working in case of challenges like power disruptions. Read more at The Washington Post and the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Additionally, FEMA’s recently released All-Hazards Preparedness Exercise Starter Kit and Exercise Starter Kit for Reconstituting Operations (discussed in the June 2 Security and Resilience Update and May 14 Security and Resilience Update, respectively) are intended to assist partners by facilitating discussions, validating planning, and identifying and addressing gaps, including when it comes to preparing for hazards they may face in the COVID-19 environment.