Emergency notification of the public

Yellow Bird
Dr. Stephen Robson with his YellowBird emergency radio activator. Photo: Richard Briggs

An obstetrician in Australia has invented a device that would turn on your AM/FM radio during an emergency. After experiencing bushfires in 2003 and the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, he came up with the concept of an electronic device that could be activated by emergency management authorities that would turn on your AM/FM radio. When the radio is activated by a tone broadcast during the radio transmission, you would hear a siren and see flashing lights before the emergency warning message. The device, named “YellowBird”, can also include technology to detect your location so that the emergency services could activate radios in specific locations.

Some Pacific nations have embraced the concept, but the federal government in Australia has not tested it and prefers a new system that sends voice messages to landline phones and a text message to mobile phones. The phones in Australia are targeted by the location of the handset or the billing address of the mobile phone. The federal government is considering using location-based technology in mobile phones in the future to send information based on their current location.

None of these systems are perfect, in that if a single technology is used, a segment of the population will be left out. For the AM/FM radio system, you have to have a radio that contains the electronic chip, which will increase the price of the radio. Some people are not interested in even owning an AM/FM radio anymore, at least in their homes, but they might be convinced to purchase one if the additional price of the technology was reasonable.

With some mobile phone automatic notification systems, at least in the United States, you have to opt-in to be notified. That is, you have to contact the authorities and give them your mobile phone number. The Australian system appears to bypass this opt-in requirement and sends messages to all mobile phones based on the billing address.

Thanks Dick

Large prominence eruption on the Sun


From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Explanation: Sometimes part of the Sun can just explode into space. These explosions might occur as powerful solar flares, coronal mass ejections, or comparatively tame eruptive solar prominences. Pictured above is one of the largest solar prominence eruptions yet observed, one associated with a subsequent coronal mass ejection. The prominence erupted last month and was recorded by several Sun-sensing instruments, including the recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The above time lapse sequence was captured by SDO and occurred over a few hours. In recent months, our Sun has becoming increasingly active, following a few years of an unusually dormant solar minimum.

11th Wildland Fire Safety Summit

The International Association of Wildland Fire is planning the 11th Wildland Fire Safety Summit, to be held April 4-8, 2011 in Missoula, Montana. This year’s theme is “Promoting the Story of Wildland Fire Safety”, and highlights the importance of story and narrative in safety training, operations, research, and organizational learning.

The two-pager flyer for the Summit can be downloaded HERE. The first page of it is below.

Later in the year more information will be posted at the conference web site.

Safety Summit

NFPA seeking members for NFPA 1977 committee, wildland fire equipment

The National Fire Protection Association is accepting applications for their NFPA 1977 committee, Standard on Protective Clothing and Equipment for Wildland Fire Fighting. This is your chance to provide input on equipment you might be stuck with down the road. It is my understanding that you don’t have to be a member of the NFPA to serve on their committees.

Their announcement.

The application.

Thanks Dick.

Trees vs. house

Tree into house

These photos were taken Monday, May 3 in the Bigfork area, which is on Flathead Lake in northwest Montana. Over much of Montana on Monday and Tuesday they had some major winds that damaged trees, signs and trucks. The photos were taken by Rick Trembath of Flathead Forestry and Fire Consulting, a former Chief of the Bigfork Fire Department.

tree into house

More information and photos of the extrication of the trees are below.

Continue reading “Trees vs. house”

Cerro Grande fire, 10 years ago today

On May 10, 2000, a fire that began as a prescribed fire in Bandalier National Monument burned into Los Alamos, New Mexico. In its most extreme state on May 10, the Cerro Grande Prescribed Fire was carried by very high winds, with embers blowing a mile or more across the fire lines to the north, south, and east, entering Los Alamos Canyon towards Los Alamos, New Mexico. The towns of Los Alamos and White Rock were in the fire’s path and more than 18,000 residents were evacuated.

By the end of the day on May 10, the fire had burned 18,000 acres, destroyed 235 homes, and damaged many other structures. The fire also spread towards the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and although fires spotted onto the facility’s lands, all major structures were secured and no releases of radiation occurred.

The Cerro Grande Fire was the largest, most destructive wildfire that New Mexico has ever known. The fire swept across 47,000 forested acres in Bandelier National Monument, the Santa Fe National Forest, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County, and the Santa Clara and San Ildefonso Indian Reservations, causing about $1billion in property damage. Over 280 homes were destroyed or damaged and 40 Laboratory structures burned.

The fire had a major effect on prescribed fire operations nationwide. For more info.