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Lessons Learned in San Diego – Panel at California’s First Ever Wildfire Technology Innovation Summit
Jessica Block, Assistant Director of WIFIRE Lab, Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego
1. Skyler Ditchfield, CEO, GeoLinks
2. Tony Mecham, San Diego Unit Chief, CAL FIRE
3. Brian D’Agostino, Director of Fire Science & Climate Adaptation, SDG&E
4. Graham Kent, Director, Nevada Seismological Lab, University of Nevada-Reno
CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–GeoLinks, a California-based telecommunications provider and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, has successfully installed and provided high speed, low latency, symmetrical data connections to 88 high-definition, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras throughout Southern and Northern California to provide critical situational awareness during wildfire events. In collaboration with ALERTWildfire, University of California San Diego, University of Nevada, Reno, CENIC, Southern California Edison (SCE), and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the multi-hazard camera technology provides data related to fire ignition points critical in informing situational awareness and wildfire response.
This state-of-the-art camera network, developed and managed by UC San Diego and the University of Nevada, Reno, connects firefighting agencies with real-time imagery and environmental data enabling first responders to allocate and scale resources appropriately. Situated on GeoLinks’ vertical solar and wind-powered assets, the collected data is transmitted via GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network then handed off via a strategic partnership to CENIC’s private research and educational network to reach the universities, fire officials, utilities, and other users. This vital information allows involved parties to confirm ignition locations, verify 911 reports, image fire behavior, and ultimately deploy informed response and public warning.
“To give a little more context on GeoLinks involvement, we really dove head first in state disaster recovery efforts when hundreds of our clients, neighboring anchor institutions, and team members became displaced during the 2017 wildfires,” said GeoLinks Co-Founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “When vital communications towers were destroyed by the fast-moving wildfire, our team worked around the clock to restore critical connectivity throughout affected counties. The same responsiveness transpired during 2018’s wildfire season; this included providing the same-day installation of a high capacity circuit for key Red Cross shelters free of charge. I realized what a difference we could make in this space with our unique capabilities of building rural and urban networks in off-the-grid locations where these are needed. Our dedication, passion, agility, and unique capabilities in supporting disaster recovery, initiated our involvement with our university collaborators.”
State, private, public and first-responder support for the expansion of this camera system is persistent and irrefutable. “The safety of my firefighters and the communities they protect is my priority, so having more information about a fire before we encounter it is an added safety measure that benefits our first responders,” said former San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy. “Having access to a live view of our highest fire risk areas will greatly improve situational awareness and our coordination with CAL FIRE. In turn, that allows for quicker response times, better response strategies and faster evacuation orders to ensure our communities are better prepared in the face of a wildfire. During the ignition of the Church Fire, I could watch the smoke on my iPhone, the color, the direction, and immediately knew the resources that I needed to deploy and the time they would be engaged. Furthermore, the crews could watch how the fire progressed on their iPads as they approached the fire, real-time situational awareness — these fire cameras are a game changer.”
The 88 new cameras are located throughout high fire-risk areas throughout California. SCE and PG&E, along with public agencies and the general public, have access to the camera feeds around-the-clock through the www.alertwildfire.org website to monitor wildfire activity. Up to 160 cameras are expected to be installed by GeoLinks throughout SCE’s service area by 2020, which will allow approximately 90 percent coverage in high fire-risk areas. Similar efforts are underway at PG&E to cover their service area.
“I see this project as more of a mission than just a new line of business. None of this would be possible without the amazing work of Dr. Neal Driscoll of UC San Diego and Dr. Graham Kent of UNR who have been the pioneers of this work,” continued Ditchfield. “Our collaboration is now to super charge their founding efforts. Also, big kudos to the utilities for getting this underway; it truly shows their dedication to making a difference in future fire mitigation. The effects of this work will be nothing short of lifesaving.”
For media inquiries contact Lexie Smith, GeoLinks’ VP of Business Development, at [email protected].
GeoLinks, a Southern California based telecommunications provider and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, is recognized on both a state and national level for its unparalleled capabilities in supporting disaster recovery. Named “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, GeoLinks’ innovative proprietary network, ClearFiber™, utilizes a combination of terrestrial fiber optic backhaul, carrier-grade full-duplex fixed wireless equipment, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensed spectrum, to deliver ultra-reliable high-speed broadband Internet access to businesses and anchor institutions throughout California. With the unique ability to build solar and wind-powered redundant telecommunications facilities “off the grid,” GeoLinks is able to deploy broadband to remote and unserved communities in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost of fiber. Consequently, the company is recognized as a leader in closing the digital divide and proudly sits on an array of national boards, coalitions, and working groups, including: the Schools, Healthcare & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition; the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA); the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast (BCPC); and the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee. Recently the Company received the Christina Haska Distinguished Service Award from CENIC for GeoLinks’ pro-bono services providing critical data circuits to institutions during California’s recent natural disasters.
About CENIC • www.cenic.org
CENIC connects California to the world — advancing education and research statewide by providing the world-class network essential for innovation, collaboration, and economic growth. This nonprofit organization operates the California Research and Education Network (CalREN), a high-capacity network designed to meet the unique requirements of over 20 million users, including the vast majority of K-20 students together with educators, researchers, and others at vital public-serving institutions. CENIC’s Charter Associates are part of the world’s largest education system; they include the California K-12 system, California Community Colleges, the California State University system, California’s Public Libraries, the University of California system, Stanford, Caltech, USC, and the Naval Postgraduate School. CENIC also provides connectivity to leading-edge institutions and industry research organizations around the world, serving the public as a catalyst for a vibrant California. For more information, visit www.cenic.org.
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.”
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.
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.
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