When wildfires hit Colorado and Texas, teenagers turned to traditional media

Teenagers who participated in workshops in Colorado and Texas communities hit by large wildfires from 2010 to 2012 said they relied on traditional media — TV and newspapers — first and the Internet last when they needed information about the fires.

The finding was published in a recent Engaging Youth in Reducing Wildfire Risk report produced by the Firewise Communities Program, a project of the Quincy, Mass.-based National Fire Protection Association.

The report summarizes a series of workshops held June and July, 2012 in the communities of Bastrop, Magnolia and Mineral Wells, Texas, and in Colorado in Conifer, Castle Rock and Boulder. One of the workshops was scheduled for Bellvue — affected by the 2011 Crystal Fire — but was cancelled due to the June 9-July 1 High Park Fire.

The workshops were targeted to communities that had experienced a wildfire in the previous 18 months. Eighty-one middle- and high-school students participated, along with 24 parents.

Teenage workshop participants said their primary sources of information about wildfires that hit their communities were:

1.) Traditional media, led by TV (online and broadcast) and newspapers (online and in print),
2.) Parents and school and
3.) the Internet.

“We were surprised about how connected these teenagers were to their community newspapers,” said Cathy Prudhomme, NFPA associate project manager of Wildland Fire Youth Education, who helped facilitate the workshops. “The common notion is that the middle- and high-school demographic doesn’t read newspapers, but what we found was that in places like Conifer, everyone reads the local newspaper.”

Other information sources mentioned by the teens were Facebook and email. Twitter usage was “in the single digits,” said Prudhomme.

Firewise is a nationwide wildfire safety program co-sponsored by National Fire Protection Association, the USDA Forest Service, the US Dept. of the Interior and the National Association of State Foresters.

The collaboration is advocating a nationwide education program for youth that would include wildfire prevention, preparedness and mitigation by doing simple tasks such as moving woodpiles away from homes and trimming overgrown weeds.

The group is also working to reduce long-term wildfire recovery impacts by integrating natural disaster and wildfire education into school curriculum.

To view the report visit firewise.org/information/who-is-this-for/youth-and-families.aspx

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