Ep. 54Community-Informed Wildfire Communications, With Isabeau Ottolini

Isabeau Ottolini is one of the foremost experts on imbuing risk communications with values that are informed by communities themselves. As a PhD candidate on community-based communications at the Open University of Catalonia in Spain, Isabeau spends a significant amount of time thinking about how we can best reach those most at risk of wildfire’s impacts, while also allowing those folks to inform how we approach them on this subject.

The ways we talk about wildfire are often highly localized—and dependent on a number of factors like community values, history and available resources. However, the things that make for successful risk communication are largely universal, with mutual respect being chief among the elements of successful communication. This is a primary point of Isabeau’s: that when we are talking to community members about wildfire or other climate risks, embracing a two-way communication approach (rather than top-down, as she calls it) is essential. In other words, ensuring that you’re actually listening to the community you’re attempting to communicate with.

Isabeau is also a current member of PyroLife, which is a PhD training program that supports students across the globe to pursue cross-disciplinary, wildfire-focused research projects. She recently published a paper called “A toolkit for fostering co-creation and participative community engagement with vulnerable communities at risk,” where she expands on many of the topics we cover in this episode—we’d highly recommend giving it a read. 


05:36 – Introduction

06:51 – Interest in Wildfires

09:05 – Community Collaboration Over Expert Dictation

10:36 – Community Experience as Starting Point

11:35 – Limitations of Wildfire Communication

15:07 – Spain vs. US Wildfire Management and Communications

17:43 – Communication as Top Priority

18:23 – Leveraging Social Media Platforms

19:38 – Tips for the Upcoming Wildfire Season

23:09 – Future of Wildfire Prevention Gaps

24:50 – Complexity of Wildfire Management

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