Dec 03 2020

Santa Clara County Beefs Up Fire Monitoring Tech

In California, mobile command center technology will enhance communications and safety for firefighters following record-breaking wildfires.

As the 2020 wildfire season continued into late November, a chunk of the American West lay in devastation. As an article in The Conversation notes:

More than 4 million acres of California went up in flames in 2020 — about 4% of the state’s land area and more than double its previous wildfire record. Five of the state’s six largest fires on record were burning this year.

Outside of California, other states also saw severe damage due to wildfire. The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management reports that the 2020 wildfire season burned just under 955,000 acres in the state as of mid-November, compared with 520,000 acres over the previous two years combined, according to Cronkite News.

So, it’s not surprising that fire departments are making investments to get ahead of next year’s fire season and do a better job of spotting fires so they can respond swiftly — before they turn into massive infernos that engulf huge swaths of a state.

In Santa Clara County in California, the county’s fire department has acquired new mobile command technologies to help it better respond to wildfires. “This is the worst fire season ever … and the use of technology is one way the fire service has adapted to better combat these wildfires today,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Tony Bowden tells local station KPIX.

Mobile Command Technologies Aim to Improve Fire Response

The new mobile command center technologies are designed to provide the county with greater flexibility in responding to fires.

“From a county standpoint, this new technology is critical for us to quickly detect and locate wildfires and deploy appropriate resources,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg tells KPIX. “We will be better able to make evacuation zones easy to understand and communicate with residents.”

The county purchased two Mobile Operations Satellite Emergency Systems (MOSES) units and a new mobile communications and incident support vehicle. According to KPIX, the MOSES units serve as communications hubs for firefighters “in areas with no service to connect to broadband and communicate with first responders, evacuees or local communities during or after major disasters.”

“One thing we have seen about wildfires is that they are advancing so fast that we are unable to provide evacuation warnings and orders for citizens … and we are also unable to back build a typical cellular infrastructure when the fire department starts to move in,” Justin Stockman, a Santa Clara County Fire Department captain, tells KPIX. “That has a direct negative impact on citizens and our ability to carry operations, so MOSES solves those problems.”

In addition to the MOSES equipment, the communications and incident support vehicle will allow the county to set up a command center to help coordinate responses to large wildfires. According to KPIX, it provides its own power, internet and weather monitoring.

Firefighters and other first responders can use the mobile command center to meet at a central location near the fire and then track all of the resources assigned to fires, Stockman tells KPIX. This way, the fire department can improve both safety and efficiency, he says.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how Internet of Things technology helps fire departments battle blazes.

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