Westhills FireSafe Council Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan for Westhills FireSafe Council

This document comprises a strategic plan for the Westhills FireSafe Council. It reviews its strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities; presents a series of fundamental statements relating to the Westhills FireSafe Council’s vision, mission, values and objectives; and sets out the Westhills FireSafe Council’s proposed strategies, goals and action programs.

The Westhills FireSafe Council will be organized under the Westhills Homeowners’ Association (WHA), a 501(c)3 organization. It serves a subdivision of 176 single-family homes in the western end of the San Fernando Valley in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County.  According the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, it is located in a “Very High Fire Hazard Zone” and has a single access to the neighborhood.  __________________________________________________

Vision

The Westhills FireSafe Council shares the vision of the California FireSafe Council as stated below:

Together, people and communities have eliminated the impact of catastrophic wildfires to all they hold dear.  

Mission Statement

The Westhills FireSafe Council also shares the mission statement of the California FireSafe Council as stated below:

Mobilizing the Westhills community to protect its homes, community and environment from wildfires.

Organizational Values

The organizational values governing the Westhills FireSafe Council’s development will include the following:

  • The Westhills FireSafe Council is committed to processes that are both transparent and inclusive. We welcome participation from all members of the community and commit to provide information on the council’s activities through the homeowners’ associations newsletters and web site.
  • We are also committed to making use of the resources and expertise of other organizations and individuals, recognizing that there is little to be gained by “re-inventing the wheel”.

Objectives

During 2009-10 the primary objectives of Westhills FireSafe Council include:

  • Establish the Westhills FireSafe Council as a viable and active resource that can be used to improve the safety of the community.
  • Encourage active participation by members of the subdivision
  • Develop successful methods for fund raising to support a variety of activities.

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Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats

This strategic plan addresses the following key strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities which apply to the Westhills FireSafe Council now and in the foreseeable future:

Strengths

  • High awareness of fire danger to the community
  • Support from existing, successful homeowners’ association (WHA)
  • Use of WHA’s popular quarterly newsletter and website (www.westhills91307.org)
  • Community members with extensive skills of use to the Council including grant writing, project planning and management, training, newsletter and website development, survey research, and engineering
  • Member of the Board (Howard Schultz) is a retired, 30-year veteran of the LA County Fire Department
  • Established relationship with the County Supervisor’s office

Weaknesses

  • All-volunteer effort requires methods to attract and maintain community participation
  • Limited initial budget

Opportunities

  • Building upon experiences of other FireSafe Councils in the area
  • Use of extensive materials available through the California FireSafe Council
  • Building upon the acceptance/recognition for effective action from the WHA

Threats

  • Inability to raise sufficient funds in the current economic environment to take on significant projects
  • Challenges in attracting broad community participation in Westhills community

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Key Strategies

The following critical strategies will be pursued by Westhills Fire Safe Council:

  1. Make use of resources available from the California Fire Safe Council including workshops on grant proposal development and publicity, mentoring opportunities with other Fire Safe Councils and printed materials and other resources for distribution in the community.
  2. Select initial activities that are low in cost but provide an opportunity to introduce the community as a whole to the Fire Safe Council concept and encourage wider participation in our efforts.
  3. Develop grant proposals to fund more expensive future functions of the Council.
  4. Use quarterly newsletter and website (www.westhills91307.org) of the homeowners’ association (WHA) to publicize activities of the Council and engage community members in its activities.

First-Year Goals

  • Introduce the Fire Safe Council concept to neighborhood members and solicit additional members for the Council.  Provide materials from California FireSafe Council and stickers for front entrance that identify the number and type of pets to develop interest in the concept.
  • Develop community information survey that will allow Council to identify key information of use to fire fighters in event of a fire emergency. The information could include location of hydrants, areas where trucks can turn around, locations of swimming pools that could be a source of water, residences where individuals have first aid/CPR skills, etc.  Compile information and make available to all members of the community.  Seek guidance from the County Fire Department on the best way to distribute this information during a fire emergency.
  • Develop plans for maintaining currency of the information.
  • Begin development of a notification/buddy system for the neighborhood.
  • Begin development of a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in the neighborhood.  The CERT program is a FEMA-sponsored, free training to educate people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and train them in basic disaster response skills. One member of the Board is already attending a CERT class; two additional Board members are planning to attend programs starting in February.
  • Develop grant proposal designed to support one or more of the following activities:
    • Survey neighborhood to identify opportunities to make homeowner landscaping more fire safe and provide financial support for individual homeowners to convert landscaping that is not fire-safe.
    • Work with the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District to improve water pressure in the area
    • Remove fire hazards in the neighborhood (e.g., eucalyptus trees in Knapp Family park, pine trees on property that could potentially block single exit from neighborhood)
    • Add fire break wall to yards adjoining El Scorpion Park  
  • Hold neighborhood functions to raise money to donate to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to support their purchase of open land adjoining the neighborhood.  This land would join three parks in the area: Knapp Ranch Park and El Scorpion Park (both LA City parks) and the Upper Las Virgenes Open Space Preserve.  Making the land part of the park environment would help to improve brush clearance and maintenance of the property.

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Tentative First-Year (2009) Time Line

January

  • Complete and submit application to California Fire Safe Council
  • At least one member of board attend CERT training and Grants Workshop for California FireSafe Council
  • Write article for newsletter and develop page for website
  • Establish permanent monthly meetings

February

  • Develop neighborhood survey instrument and design survey process
  • Update website

March/April

  • Complete survey
  • Compile and distribute results
  • Update website
  • Plan fund-raising activities
  • Update website

May/June

  • Hold fund-raising function
  • Update website

July/August

  • Develop notification system for neighborhood
  • Update website

September/October

  • Develop goals and strategies for 2010
  • Plan fund-raising efforts for 2010 activities
  • Update neighborhood information

November/December

  • Finalize plans for 2010
  • Attend FireSafe Council Grants Clearinghouse Workshop for 2010 grants
  • Begin development of grant for submission in 2010.
  • Conduct fund-raising activities as designed

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First-Year Budget

The Westhills Homeowners Association (WHA) has provided $300 as start-up money for the organization.  We will also seek funds or in-kind contributions from real estate companies in the area.  The funds will be used to produce the survey instrument and information to be distributed to the neighborhood and to support (in part) the fund-raising activities in May/June. All other activities will be supported by volunteer efforts.  

If grant money becomes available during the year, other activities as noted above will be possible.