Wildfires are one of the most unpredictable natural disasters out there.
Unlike hurricanes or winter storms, they are impossible to forecast ahead of time. They can start up in an instant—after a lightning strike, unattended campfire, or a gender reveal party gone wrong. Researchers estimate that 85% of wildfires are human-caused.
To top it off, wildfires spread extremely quickly—up to and exceeding 10 miles per hour. In just a few hours, a fire that starts off very small can engulf wide swaths of land.For all of these reasons, wildfire maps are very useful to both individuals and organizations. A wildfire map provides a visual image of how widespread the fire is at that point and time—so that you can make decisions about how you or your organization should respond. The impact of wildfires on business is enormous, but using wildfire maps effectively can give your organization a visual of the threat and the information you need to respond effectively.
Not all wildfire maps are created equal, though. Different maps from different sources have unique strengths and weaknesses—especially when it comes to protecting your business. In this article, we will discuss the three primary types of wildfire maps—and when to use each.
Wildfire Maps from Local Government
The first type of wildfire map is the map provided by state or local government. These maps typically focus on the boundaries of any evacuation area(s).
Wildfire Map: State of Oregon
The wildfire maps provided by state or local governments are created to give individuals a clear visual of evacuation zones. These maps are the best way to see whether or not you are in an evacuation zone, and how close you are.
Often, these maps will also include the different “levels” of warnings for different areas. For example, the map above displays three warning levels:
- Green — Level 1: Be Ready (Prepare to Evacuate)
- Yellow — Level 2: Be Set (Prepare to leave at a moment’s notice)
- Red — Level 3: Go (Leave immediately)
There are many limitations to these government wildfire maps as well, though. Some of the limitations include:
- Poor ease of use
- Minimal context/description
- Often inaccessible on mobile devices
- Hard to find
These maps are not designed to be used by businesses—except if advising employees within the evacuation zone to do so. They do not provide context on the spread of the fire, where it is projected to go, or what businesses in the area should do. In fact, wildfire maps like these can be misleading: your business should start taking actions to prepare long before you are in the mandatory evacuation zone.
Ultimately, government wildfire maps should be used for their one, limited purpose: helping individuals visualize evacuation areas.
Wildfire Maps from News Organizations
The second type of wildfire map is provided by news organizations, such as The New York Times. These maps have a journalistic purpose, created for those wanting to learn more about the fires or write about them.
Wildfire Map: The New York Times
Unlike government maps—which are created for residents of the area—maps from news organizations are often created for the opposite audience: those not living in the area.
For this reason, they focus on the fires themselves, rather than evacuation zones. These maps often clearly display the current reach of the fire, where it has burned recently, and where it burned earlier.
Wildfire maps from news organizations are ideal for those wanting to know more about the different fires, but who do not live in the area. They are often paired with accessible journalistic commentary regarding how the fire started and how successful containment has been to this point.
The limitations of wildfire maps from news organizations are a mirror image of the government maps’ strengths:
- Limited if any data on evacuation areas
- Often no guidance for residents or local businesses
- Journalistic perspective
These maps are not created for residents or those working in the area, and their weaknesses reflect that. If you are looking to protect your business, the high-level, journalistic nature of these wildfire maps will not give you the details you need. But they are perfect for use by non-residents who simply want to stay up-to-date on the spread of the fires.
Wildfire Maps from Threat Monitoring Providers
The final type of wildfire map is the one provided by threat monitoring providers like AlertMedia. This type of map is designed to give organizations a tool they can use to visualize the fires at a glance, see where it stands in relation to their people and assets, and get actionable advice they can use to protect their business and employees. Unlike the others, these wildfire maps are created with local businesses in mind.
Wildfire Map: AlertMedia
See the impact to your people and assets
While other wildfire maps only show the fires and/or evacuation zones, a map from a threat monitoring provider shows you the fires in relation to your people and assets. On one map, you can see the size of the threat—along with where your organization has offices, employee home addresses, or people traveling.
A threat monitoring map translates incident into impact. Instead of just seeing the fires in a vacuum, the map automatically shows you how close it is to putting your people and assets at risk.
Get actionable insights
A threat monitoring provider will also provide actionable information to the organizations using it. Instead of just describing the spread of the fire, the map will include advice on what to expect going forward and how to respond now.
These maps include details regarding:
- Evacuation orders
- Road closures
- Areas with poor visibility
- Areas where the fire is being contained
Unlike wildfire maps from local governments or news organizations, threat monitoring maps are designed to provide actionable insight, which businesses can use to keep their people safe.
Communicate with employees
For example, AlertMedia allows users to craft a message from the map—by clicking on the “Send Notification” button for the wildfire in question. The system will automatically draft a message going to any of that organization’s employees/offices within the impact radius of the fire (as determined by trusted threat analysts).
Tying threat monitoring and communication together is what sets this type of wildfire map apart. While the other maps have their place, an interactive threat monitoring map like AlertMedia’s is the only one that organizations can trust to protect their employees and key assets.
Want to see our threat monitoring map in action?