American River Watershed Institute
Fire Safety Project | Remedies

Neighborhood Cooperation

"Perhaps the most common mistake made in fire prevention is to target individuals instead of social systems . . . human beings are social creatures and make very few choices without the support of their families, neighbors, coworkers, or other social groups.

"Important decisions such as making major modifications to homes and landscapes are virtually never made by individuals acting alone. The family is involved at the very least, and usually the matter is discussed extensively with neighbors and others whose opinions are valued before work is done. Even if the landowner does not talk it over with the neighbors, the neighbors will talk about it, and social pressures will be brought to bear if the idea does not meet with the neighbors' approval.

"Neighborhoods and other social systems are webs of shared knowledge, influence, and resources. People rely on each other for help in many ways, from borrowing tools to getting advice on how to do some task from some more experienced neighbor. Neighbors watch each other's homes and provide social support in times of personal trouble and distress.

"Fire professionals must treat the neighborhood as if it were an organization that must decide to adopt or reject your new technology as a whole. Focusing on individual landowners to change patterns in behavior, without involving their neighbors, will not be successful. The key to success is working with neighborhoods as a whole."