First responders, government officials chart wildfire response through 2014

First responders, government officials chart wildfire response through 2014

20 February 2014

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USA — A team of more than 25 experts from local and government agencies exchanged ideas on how to manage wildfires 10 years into the future during the Academy’s Center of Innovation conference here Feb. 13-14.

Experts from the Red Cross, Intel Corp., IBM, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, local firefighters and government officials took part this two day “future-casting” session to determine possible outcomes from technology and improvements needed for fire mitigation by 2024.

“I want you to be as detailed and granular as possible,” Intel Corporation futurist Brian Johnson told participants. “Looking 10 years down the road, I want you to pick a person such as a first responder or everyday citizen and model their experience, what they want, what they want to avoid and what enabled their experience in 2024.”

Participants split into groups and examined data points concerning social, technical and ecosystem trends, and created a detailed template explaining their strategies for enhanced fire response.

“The work you do today will give us a specific template and specific ideas to push ourselves to look out for the future,” Johnson said. “You’ll need to look to other people and yourselves to give us something we can take action on.”

Jonathan Milam, the Academy’s assistant fire chief for fire prevention, said his group focused on implementing an education program that would reach residents, businesses, the insurance industry and government body on wildfire risk.

“We’d reach every day working class individuals through existing communication systems and educate them on wild land management of their property,” he said. “The more information we provide them, the more we’ll get their attention.”

Milam said his group thinks by 2024 the cost of technology will be reduced and it will be standard practice for residents to have a “smart home.”

“This will allow us to be more adequate in providing real time data to escape routes, access to modeling potential fires in the area and will help citizens determine if they’re at risk,” he said.

Milam’s group thinks by 2024 government agencies will be able to push more data to residents, allowing them to pull the data at their leisure.

“Residents will have access to real time fire data on a day- by- day basis,” he said. “We’ll have a fire fuel model that’s highly accurate and will allow residents to gauge their safety.”

Face-to-face communication will remain vital, Milam said.

“Organizing town hall meetings and social gatherings such as at churches, schools and Lions Club meetings will also be an effective way to relay information,” he said.

Col. Carol Reece, regional emergency preparation officer for Air Force North, one of eight Numbered Air Forces assigned to Air Combat Command at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., said her group considered increased temperatures in 2024 due to global warming.

“Maybe our average temperature right now is in the 90’s but we’re looking at the average temperature in the summer being around 105 degrees ten years from now,” she said. “In terms of the ecosystem, with our earth getting warmer, we predict more droughts, limited water supply and a lot of insect infestation. As the population increases, so do those demands, especially on water which is a huge resource for fire suppression.”

Reece said her group also discussed ways to prevent a house fire from advancing to a woodland area.

“By 2024 we think technology will be much of a hands-free world,” she said. “Notifications will be sent out immediately, with the goal being to prevent a fire from spreading. The technology we hope to have at that point will allow people to know evacuation routes instantly and they won’t have to go to their television because they’ll have real time technology.”

We’d also like to see more accountability within the community when it comes to fire mitigation, Reece said.

“We think it should be a community effort where people are notified about a fire wherever they’re at,” she said. “Once the fire occurs, different agencies and organizations know what they need to do to help put it out and prevent it from spreading.”

By continuing to rely heavily on technology, it should be made more affordable in the future, Reece said.

“You can’t get there unless you’re encouraging the research and development for that,” she said. “We can just assume it will be cheaper.”

Johnson, who led the seminar, said he plans to turn participants’ templates into a broader report for further analysis with the larger public.

“I’m amazed at how many people attended the conference,” he said. “It shows their passion for this.”

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