ALERTWildfire, a consortium of the University of Nevada Reno, UC San Diego and the University of Oregon has officially partnered with Camarillo-based telecom GeoLinks to deploy wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems across California.
Demand for the expansion was inspired by a new wildfire camera pan-tilt-zoom technology developed by Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at the University of Nevada Reno, that became instrumental in both the response and containment of the 2017 Lilac Fires in San Diego County.
GeoLinks plans to deploy 28 additional such cameras by year’s end.
“ALERTWildfire is excited to work with GeoLinks as their resilient communications network throughout California enables a rapid deployment of fire cameras in critical regions of the state,” said Kent. “No other service provider is able to scale to this urgent task.”
Located on GeoLinks’ vertical assets in Southern California including Ventura County, the cameras will send data over GeoLinks’ network to UC San Diego. There, WIFIRE, an integrated system for wildfire analysis, will analyze the data to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions and visualizations of wildfire behavior. The system ultimately will provide strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations and evacuation planning, GeoLinks said in a news release.
“The fact remains that California is now faced with wildfires year-round,” said Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks. “Wildfire detection, prevention, and situational awareness systems provide a solution that could make an immediate, lasting, and radical impact on the spread of fires and associated costs, damages and casualties. … If we had assets installed prior to the Camp Fire’s ignition, for example, we could have saved countless lives. This is really the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.”
FIRE IS CHAOS. Fire doesn’t care what it destroys or who it kills—it spreads without mercy, leaving total destruction in its wake, as California’s Camp and Woolsey fires proved so dramatically this month.
But fire is to a large degree predictable. It follows certain rules and prefers certain fuels and follows certain wind patterns. That means its moves with a complexity that scientists can pick apart little by little, thanks to lasers, fancy sensors, and some of the most powerful computers on the planet. We can’t end wildfires altogether, but by better understanding their dynamics, ideally we can stop a disaster like the destruction of Paradise from happening again.
But wildfires also create their own weather patterns. Blazes produce hot air, which rises. “You can imagine that if something moves from the surface up, there must be some kind of horizontal movement of air filling the gap” near ground level, says Adam Kochanski, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah. Thus the fire sucks in surface winds.
Wildfires don’t yet have the equivalent of a grand unified model to explain their behavior. The contributing factors are just so different, and work on such different scales—air dynamics for one, the aridity of local vegetation for another.
“That’s what’s really difficult from a modeling standpoint,” says Kochanski. You can’t hope to model a 50-square-mile wildfire with millimeter-scale resolution. So researchers like Kochanski simplify things. “We don’t really go into looking at how every single flame burns every single tree and how it progresses. No, we assume fuel is relatively uniform.”
Still, advances in computing are allowing researchers to crunch ever more data. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, atmospheric scientist Alexandra Jonko is using a supercomputer and a system called FIRETEC to model fires in extreme detail. It models, among other things, air density and temperature, as well as the properties of the grass or leaves in a particular area.
Jonko runs a bunch of simulations with different wind speeds, typically on the scale of 40 acres. “It’ll probably take me about four hours to simulate between 10 and 20 minutes of a fire spreading,” she says.
FIRETEC produces valuable physics-based data on fire dynamics to inform how fire managers do prescribed burns. This is pivotal for controlling vegetation that turns into fuel for fires. Wildfire agencies know generally the ideal conditions—low winds, for instance—but this type of modeling could help give even more granular insight.
To figure out where to do these burns, researchers are experimenting with lidar, the same kind of laser-spewing technology that helps self-driving cars find their way. This comes in the form of airborne lidar, which lets researchers visualize trees in 3D, supplemented with ground-based lidar, which details the vegetation underneath the trees.
That information is essential. “If we don’t know what the fuels are, then it’s a pretty big guess whether or not you’ve got dangerous fuels at a site,” says the University of Nevada, Reno’s Jonathan Greenberg.
The visualizations that come from lidar blasts are as stunning as they are useful. With this kind of data in hand, managers can more strategically deploy prescribed burns. California in particular has a serious problem with fire resources—in just the last year, the state has seen seven of its 20 most destructive fires ever. Money, then, goes to constantly fighting the infernos, leaving fewer resources for proactive measures like prescribed burns.
Another way to go about modeling fires is with reinforcement learning. You might have heard of researchers using this to get robots to learn—instead of explicitly showing a robot how to do something like putting a square peg in a square hole, you make it figure it out on its own with random movements. Essentially, you give it a digital reward when it gets closer to the correct manipulation, and a demerit when it screws up.
Turns out you can do the same thing with virtual fire. “It’s kind of like Pavlov’s dog,” says computer scientist Mark Crowley of the University of Waterloo. “You give it a biscuit and it will do that trick again.”
Crowley begins with satellite thermal images that show how a wildfire has burned over an area. Think of this as the simulated fire’s “goal,” like a robot’s goal is to get the peg in the hole. This approach is still in its early days, and Crowley is busy helping his artificial flames learn the art of being fire. If it accurately mimics how a real fire ended up traveling, the algorithm gets a digital reward—if not, it gets a demerit. “Then over time you update this function so it learns how to travel properly,” Crowley adds. In a sense, he can create a digital fire infused with artificial intelligence.
Out in the field, researchers are using a supercomputer at UC San Diego to confront the immediate threat of wildfires, with a program called ALERTWildfire. On mountaintops across California, lookout stations are loaded with sensors like high-def cameras and wind and moisture detectors. If the camera catches a fire breaking out, the system can pipe that atmospheric data to the supercomputer, which does real-time modeling of the blaze for fire agencies.
“They can see where the fire is going, what it’s going to look like in the near term and long term, and then continue to receive live updates,” says Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks, a telecom that’s partnered with the project.
Why a supercomputer? “The magic word here is fast,” says Ilkay Altintas, chief data science officer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. Wind-driven fires move quickly, and the bigger a fire gets, the more data it produces. “The computational complexity can depend on how big the fire is, how complicated the topography is, how the weather is behaving.”
As the detection network grows—85 cameras are deployed right now, but the researchers hope to expand to over 1,000 across California—so too does the torrent of data. Also, at the moment, human eyes have to watch the camera feeds to detect fires, though the idea is to get AI to do that in the future.
Tech won’t solve all our wildfire problems—we need to band together to reinforce our cities, for instance. But with ever more data and computing power, and ever better models, we can get better at confronting the wildfire menace. Fire is chaos, but it’s not impossible to understand.
CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ALERTWildfire, a consortium of three universities — The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Oregon (UO)— announced today it has officially partnered with California-based Telecom, GeoLinks, to deploy Wildfire Detection, Prevention, and Situational Awareness Systems across the state of California. With ample endorsement from the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), California’s new Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, and a multitude of utilities and state counties, the project demonstrates the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.
Demand for the rapid system expansion was inspired by a new wildfire camera pan-tilt-zoom technology (PTZ), developed by Graham Kent, Director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, that became instrumental in both the response and containment of the 2017 Lilac Fires in San Diego County. GeoLinks plans to deploy 28 additional PTZs by year’s end.
“ALERTWildfire is excited to work with GeoLinks as their resilient communications network throughout California enables a rapid deployment of fire cameras in critical regions of the state,” said Kent. “No other service provider is able to scale to this urgent task, and we look forward to dozens of cameras to be installed month-after-month as we ready ourselves for December 2018 and fire season 2019.”
Collocated across GeoLinks’ vertical assets in greater LA-Metro, Orange County, Riverside County, and Ventura County, the data collected from the PTZ cameras will be backhauled over GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network to WIFIRE at the San Diego Supercomputer Center in UC San Diego. WIFIRE, an integrated system for wildfire analysis, analyzes data collected from these cameras to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions, and visualizations of wildfire behavior. Ultimately, the system will provide strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations, and evacuation planning.
UC San Diego has already identified the next wave of key sites for GeoLinks to connect post initial project completion. Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks, notes that with the comprehensive coverage of fixed wireless broadband that will accompany the camera network, LTE-based data connectivity and the extension of all first responder handheld radio systems can be efficiently added to close all connectivity gaps.
“The fact remains that California is now faced with wildfires year-round,” stated Ditchfield. “Wildfire detection, prevention, and situational awareness systems provide a solution that could make an immediate, lasting, and radical impact on the spread of fires and associated costs, damages, and casualties. GeoLinks, ALERTWildfire, and a variety of other affiliates across the state, including CENIC, are actively pushing the state-wide expansion of these technologies. If we had assets installed prior to the Camp Fire’s ignition, for example, we could have saved countless lives. This is really the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.”
For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Smith at [email protected].
ALERTWildfire is a consortium of three universities — The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Oregon (UO) — providing access to state-of-the-art Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) fire cameras and associated tools to help firefighters and first responders: (1) discover/locate/confirm fire ignition, (2) quickly scale fire resources up or down appropriately, (3) monitor fire behavior through containment, (4) during firestorms, help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness, and (5) ensure contained fires are monitored appropriately through their demise.
Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked first in category on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in both 2017 and 2018, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WAN, Cloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.
GeoLinks’ accelerated success is largely due to its flagship product, ClearFiber™, which offers dedicated business-class Internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, and guaranteed speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. Named “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network is backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support. With an average installation period of 4 to 7 days, GeoLinks is proud to offer the most resilient and scalable fixed wireless network on the market.
Having a disaster recovery plan in place is one of the most essential parts of running a successful business. Just like business liability insurance, disaster recovery planning for your network ensures ongoing business continuity. Whether your disaster recovery plan is for site mirroring, load balancing or just staying online, it is the responsible thing to do for all business owners, CIOs, and IT managers.
This month, California witnessed one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in state history – the Camp Fire. Located in the city of Paradise, California, this tragic disaster resulted in massive loss of life, structure, property, infrastructure, and habitat. Southern California also experienced two horrific wildfires, the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire. These fires tore through both Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, taking down just near everything in their paths. Cities near the burn areas, while not officially evacuated, experienced county-wide network outages. That said, businesses with a disaster recovery plan have proven resilient. So, what exactly is a disaster recovery plan?
What is A Disaster Recovery Plan?
Disaster recovery planning entails outlining how to recover your business operations during or after a disaster. No business is immune to disaster, so having a plan in place protects your business from large financial losses, and in extreme cases, bankruptcy. While it may appear to be a daunting task, business owners will be happy they had one ready for when disaster strikes. So how do you go about planning for a disaster? First, it’s worth exploring Business Interruption insurance, this coverage insures the revenue losses a business might suffer in the case of a disaster. Next, consider following this quick checklist provided by Q Finance: The Ultimate Resource:
Business Impact Analysis:
This is where you identify what parts of the business will be most impacted by a disaster.
Calculate how much this will cost you if you lost them in a disaster for a day, a week, and two weeks.
Next, identify the maximum threshold your business can tolerate before being threatened with closure.
List the minimum activities required to deliver identified parts of the business.
Make sure adequate resources are available to provide those activities.
Risk Assessment Analysis:
Identify what the risks are to the organization, such as loss of staff, suppliers, IT systems, and telecommunications.
List plans already in place to deal with each risk.
List plans that need to be put in place to deal with each risk.
Assign a “likelihood to occur” score or probability to each risk.
Decide on what action to take for each identified risk:
Deal with a risk by planning to operate at a minimum level.
Tolerate the risk if the cost of reducing operations outweighs the benefits.
Transfer the risk to a third party or take out insurance.
Shut down / terminate the activity.
Write then share the plan(s):
Start by writing a general plan, then decide if you need more detailed plans within that one.
Write a scope and purpose for each plan.
Identify the resources and contacts that own each plan and are responsible for it.
List their contact details.
List tasks, processes, and procedures used to respond to an incident.
For business continuity, list the identified critical activities, how to recover them, and the timeline involved.
Test, update, and maintain plans:
Plans must be tested. That is the only way to ensure that the plan can work in the real world as well as it works on paper.
Involve staff and have them go through the plan and recommend improvements.
Telecommunications and Disaster Recovery Planning
The modern world has become extremely interconnected, especially now with online transactions largely taking over physical transactions. With most business activities occurring over a telecommunications network, companies depend on the reliability of their Internet connections now more than ever for business continuity. Not having a backup Internet connection, or one that guarantees uptime and redundancy, can cause major financial losses.
For example, if a brick and mortar store or restaurant loses their Internet connection, their POS System will crash. If a businesses POS system is out of order, they will be unable to charge customers for products and services. A major disaster might mean your business is delayed or completely halted for days or weeks at a time. This is, if a proper plan is not in place.
What if you are an e-commerce company? If you lose your Internet connection you will not have access to the online orders customers are placing. Delaying processing orders will delay shipping orders, which will result in upset customers and a domino effect that is sure to affect your ability to gain new customers.
At a minimum, organizations should have a disaster recovery plan for their telecommunications infrastructure. There are several ways telecommunications companies can guarantee uptime. GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network, for example, offers a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that guarantees 99.999% uptime. To achieve 100% uptime, businesses are able to bundle in technologies such as LTE failover.
Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Business Continuity
LTE became a reality in 2010, and it was a big deal for the telecommunications industry. It provided much-needed low-latency, high-speed, reliability and power efficiency to wireless networks. LTE networks are leaps and bounds better than their 2G/3G predecessors.
LTE is the reason why we can have a gig economy with Uber, Lyft, and delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash. It is also a wireless equivalent to a physical line. A well-designed network utilizes various types of technologies that can be depended on during different situations. For example, GeoLinks’ dedicated fixed wireless network, ClearFiber™, is connected to a fiber-optic backbone, and has the ability to failover to a LTE connection. Switching over to LTE is not like switching over to traditional mobile networks. Its low latency and fast speeds provide you with uninterrupted service, especially in times of disaster.
GeoLinks is proud to report our network has remained connected during California’s catastrophic fires. In fact, we are honored to be servicing CAL FIRE and Red Cross Evacuation Centers across Ventura County. If there is one thing California businesses should take away from the new year-round fire season, it’s that you must have a disaster recovery plan in place. At the bare minimum, have a plan for your telecommunications infrastructure and how to connect to the Internet.
To learn more about GeoLinks Disaster Recovery Solutions, call and talk to one of the GeoLinks’ team members today! (888) 225-1571
The unprecedented scale and scope of recent catastrophic wildfires show that larger swaths of California are at risk than previously understood. Smart investments in strategic technologies may serve to limit the loss of life and property damage. One promising — and proven — line of defense is connecting remote cameras and weather sensors across the state to a vast mesh of wireless and fiber-optic cable to relay data. The collected data is combined and analyzed to produce information that supports wildfire prevention, detection, and management.
This system — ALERTWildfire (University of Nevada, Reno, University of California, San Diego, and the University of Oregon) — is actively collaborating and partnering with local firefighters, GeoLinks, and CENIC. During the 2016-2017 fire seasons, such a system provided critical information for over 350 fires, and in 2018, has assisted in more than 150 fires so far.
Statewide expansion of this proven system would offer strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations, and evacuation planning. Rapid investment in this shovel-ready system would soon save lives, property, habitat, and infrastructure across California, and the state would see an almost immediate return on its investment. Additional partners that would benefit from this effort and so might be approached for financial support are the insurance industry, technology accelerators, and local community organizations.
How It Works
ALERTWildfire uses a network of cameras to continuously capture images of high-risk California landscape, while weather sensors on many of the same towers collect data on wind, humidity, fuel moisture, and other factors. The data is passed along via GeoLinks’s fixed wireless microwave technology and then handed off to CENIC’s high-capacity, optical-fiber network that runs throughout California. WIFIRE then analyses the data to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions, and visualizations of wildfire behavior and provides these visuals to firefighters to inform evacuation and containment planning. Data visualization is also supported by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology’s (Calit2) Qualcomm Institute.
For example, early fire detection by ALERTWildfire provides immediate input to burn models that incorporate weather, fuels, and topography. Such a collaboration exists between ALERTWildfire and WIFIRE (San Diego Supercomputer Center) to provide first responders with burn models almost in real time. WIFIRE was launched in October 2013 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and has been advised by representatives from CAL FIRE, US Forest Services, US Bureau of Land Management, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Los Angeles Fire Department. WIFIRE’s “Firemap” software rapidly and accurately predicts and visualizes wildfire rates of spread. In late 2017, over 800,000 public users accessed information with the Firemap tool over 8 million times. Since grant funding ended this year, WIFIRE is operating under an annual subscription model for the fire departments of Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura Counties.
What Is Needed Now
While these efforts have prevented significant loss of life and property during recent California wildfires, this fire monitoring network is geographically limited in its current deployment. Now is the time to expand the use of this proven system across the state while systematically integrating it with local networks. Some possible next steps:
Include language allowing for data, communications, and broadband strategies to support wildfire data applications in future legislation;
Extend towers, cameras, and fixed wireless capacity throughout the state to provide first responders with powerful, contemporary tools;
Where wireless towers exist on state property, work with ALERTWildfire to support the installation of cameras and other equipment to expand coverage;
Explore opportunities to coordinate this system with FirstNet to augment the reach of this national first-responder network.
In light of the devastating effects of wildfires on California, scaling this work to create a vast data relay mesh across the state, in partnership with first responders, utility companies, and the State, would significantly protect Californians and lead the way for other states that are also fighting fires of unprecedented scale.