What's a WERT?

California Watershed Emergency Response Teams (WERTs) help communities prepare after wildfire by rapidly documenting and communicating post-fire risks to life and property posed by debris flow, flood, and rock fall hazards. The WERT response is led by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and co-led by the California Geological Survey (Department of Conservation).

The WERT five-step process to risk reduction: 1. Determine soil burn severity. 2. Identify values at risk. 3. Identify, model, and classify hazards. 4. Develop emergency protective measure(s). 5. Communicate findings.WERT objectives are completed in a rapid step-wise manner to achieve the goal of risk reduction. A fundamental step in the WERT process is the identification and characterization of values-at-risk (VARs). VARs are the values or resources at risk of damage or loss by post-wildfire geologic and/or hydrologic hazards. The WERT process utilizes a qualitative approach to evaluate risk to these values, and relies on a combination of modeling and best professional judgment to guide relative risk determination and the development of emergency protection measures. The final step in risk reduction is to communicate the evaluation findings to local jurisdictions responsible for emergency planning and preparedness.

The decision to conduct a WERT response is made by CAL FIRE in coordination with local and federal agencies, and is also based on:

  • Fire size and intensity, and its location in relation to values-at-risk (VARs).
  • Proximity of intensely burned areas with steep slopes to housing developments.
  • Likelihood of debris flows based on topography, geology, climate, etc. impacting VARs.
  • Proximity of VARs to flood- and debris flow-prone areas affected by the fire.
  • Presence of transportation networks, water supply systems, campgrounds, etc. at potentially high risk.
  • Fire that includes a significant percentage of state responsibility areas.

Web page by:
California Geological Survey - Burned Watershed Geohazards Program

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