Klamath County, Oregon develops system for tracking firefighters and mapping structure information

Half of our Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety is for firefighters and their supervisors to know the real time location of firefighting resources working on an incident. The other half is to know the real time location of the fire. These two pieces of information would greatly enhance the situation awareness and safety of the personnel. Not knowing this information has led to dozens of firefighter fatalities.

Keno, Oregon has spearheaded the development of a system that takes care of the the first half of the Holy Grail — showing the location of firefighters on a map. This is one of several systems nationwide that is being used by local organizations in the United States. Theirs goes far beyond that, however, and can display detailed information about structures.

Gene Rogers helped put the system together which has grown to include Klamath County. He sent us this description.


Klamath County Situation Analyst (KCSA) and Situation Analyst Field Tool (SAFT)

Decades of collaboration and experience with incident management challenges formed the premise of the goals and objectives developed by a rural fire chief, a retired federal fire manager turned consultant, and a state district forester. Brainstorming sessions often focused on a theme of what would make emergency management more efficient. The need for current information on emerging incidents that could be easily shared across the spectrum of cooperators was a goal. Their vision was to collect incident information at initial response that could be easily passed on as the incident evolved to extended response and ultimately to an IMT (Incident Management Team). Another goal was to minimize repetition, redundancy and confusion throughout any incident.  Applicability to any incident; structure fire, wildland fire, rescue, flood, earthquake, weather event, was a fundamental objective. Traditional paper maps and hand written notes contain information not readily shared with incoming responders. KCSA and SAFT are applications to enhance the sharing of information and greatly increase public and responder safety. These applications offer real-time, shareable, interoperable information on a common operating platform.

Following the completion of the Keno, Oregon Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) in 2003 attention was turned to gathering structure and parcel fuels data for Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) properties. In 2006 grant funds were used to recruit and train summer interns to collect the data on 10,000 Klamath County WUI residential properties.

Klamath County, Oregon map
Klamath County, Oregon, outlined in red.

Current technology allowed for data collection on handheld data recorders, GPS units, and digital cameras. The data was assembled using commercial software from RedZone Software. Individual reports on each WUI structure and parcel included construction attributes (roof, siding, etc.), wildland fuel conditions, a photo of the structure and a composite risk score. The collected data was distributed to responding districts and agencies on compact discs and hard copy maps. The data and resultant hazard ratings were used in the 2007 Klamath County CWPP. The information was valuable but the project managers also wanted technology that allowed rapid sharing of data across the emerging technology of smart phones, tablet computers, and laptops.

By 2013 the project steering committee had selected Intterra, a company specializing in geospatial information technologies, to integrate the Klamath County structure survey data, collection process, and other information into a modified version of their Situation Analyst named KCSA. Additional capabilities requested included Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL), real-time incident mapping on touch screen devices, structure pre-plan data collection, and a property owner feedback process. The Yarnell Hill Fire of June 2013 emphasized the need for managers to know the location of incident resources. KCSA and SAFT incorporate the capability to track resources by cell phone GPS or commercial GPS tracking devices on vehicles and personnel. The 2016 Klamath County CWPP update discusses the uses of KCSA and SAFT.

Firefighting resources mapped
Firefighting resources show up on the display.

KCSA is an application for connected devices that offers the full array of system capabilities. SAFT is an application that can be downloaded to mobile devices (from the App Store or Google Play). SAFT can be used whether or not the device is connected to the internet. Mapping, collected data, and pictures can be shared to users of KCSA when the device is connected. Example: field data can be collected in terrain without connectivity, then uploaded to the KCSA system when connectivity is achieved. Use of either application requires a Login ID and Password. Permissions to various capabilities are assigned when the user profile is established. This can be done pre-incident locally or at an incident when checking in arriving resources.

Permissions to use features in the applications relate to specific users and their level of qualification on incidents. For example: a Field Observer (FOBS) cannot edit the map prepared by someone with Operations permissions (OSC1/OSC2, OPBD, DIVS). Other capabilities relate to specific tasks. The Pre Plans (PP) module allows structure fire departments to map buildings with key information critical to their fire and rescue work. The available workspaces are tailored to the needs of that functional area, e.g., Plans or Public Information Officer.

The Risk module compiles the wildfire risk survey data for structures and parcels in the surveyed data. An onsite survey for a new structure and parcel can be completed in minutes. This is particularly useful for structure protection and evacuation planning in areas where surveys have not already been completed.  evacuation zone identification

Evac area summary
Summary of the circled area.

Once surveyed, the user can circle the structures of concern and produce a map and address list to pass to Law Enforcement for evacuation. This takes seconds when the structures have been previously surveyed. Home symbol and color correspond to assigned risk score and rating adjective.  Homeowners can view their risk score at www.kcrsg.org.

Use of the applications is spreading in the emergency management organizations of Oregon.  The Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is supporting the use of the applications by OSFM Incident Management Teams. KCSA was used on wildfires in the southeast states in 2016. Klamath County fire districts, Oregon Department of Forestry, and federal wildland fire agencies are currently using the software.  Use of the applications is spreading into several other counties in Oregon. Grant monies funded the development of the applications.  Future expenses will be nominal and shared proportionally by users for the cost of the hosting server.  The software is free of charge.

This is a brief discussion of the development and capabilities of the KCSA and SAFT applications. Those interested in further information about Situation Analyst should contact Intterra at info@intterragroup.com.  Questions about the use of KCSA and SAFT can be sent to firechief@kenofire.com.

Wildfire preparedness for a changing climate

States were evaluated for how ready they will be to manage and mitigate wildfires in coming decades.

Above: Wildfire preparedness, according to StatesAtRisk.org

Two organizations have collaborated to develop what they call America’s Preparedness Report Card (StatesAtRisk.org), laying out their scores for how America’s 50 states are preparing for a changing climate. They came up with ratings in five categories:

  • Extreme Heat
  • Drought
  • Wildfires
  • Inland Flooding
  • Coastal Flooding

According to their web site, ClimateCentral.org, one of the two organizations, is “An independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about our changing climate and its impact on the public.” The other, ICF International, is a private company that appears to offer a very broad range of consulting services.

We were most interested in their analysis of wildfire issues. The states colored gray on the map above are labeled “n/a”, which means wildfire was not identified as a threat. The methodology used was to determine the average number of days each year when the Keetch-Byram Drought Index exceeded 600. This was weighted by the county-level population living in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). They did not take into account fire history, the number of homes destroyed by fire, or vegetation.

We noticed, for example, that wildfire was not identified as a threat in Colorado in spite of the fact that in 2012, the Waldo Canyon Fire burned more than 18,000 acres, destroyed 347 homes in Colorado Springs and killed two people. Almost exactly a year later, the Black Forest Fire ignited east of the city and burned more than 15,000 acres, 486 homes and killed two people.

Their map is different from the ones below created by the U.S. Forest Service (showing the frequency of wildfires greater than 299 acres from 1994 to 2013) and FEMA’s map of wildfire hazard potential.

map wildfires by county

2014 Wildfire Hazard Potential

In looking at two other states, Alabama was given an “F” in wildfire preparedness while California earned an “A”.

The list of factors that were considered in determining the grades included:

  • Current wildfire vulnerability assessments and hazard mitigation and emergency response plans;
  • Guidelines or requirements for resilient activities (e.g., construction);
  • Wildfire adaptation policy or guidelines;
  • Communication with residents about mitigating for wildfire.

Below are graphical wildfire preparedness summaries from StatesAtRisk.org for Alabama and California:

Continue reading “Wildfire preparedness for a changing climate”

Nominations being accepted for Wildfire Mitigation Awards

wildfire mitigation awardDo you know of someone or an organization that has achieved success or set a good example for wildfire mitigation?

The October 30th deadline for nominations for a 2017 Wildfire Mitigation Award is approaching. If you know an individual or organization that is doing great work in wildfire preparedness and mitigation, please try to help them get the recognition they deserve by nominating them for an award.

Established in 2014 in response to an overwhelming number of great wildfire mitigation efforts across the nation, the Wildfire Mitigation Awards are the highest national honor one can receive for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation.

The awards are jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fire Protection Association, and the U.S. Forest Service. They are designed to recognize outstanding service in wildfire preparedness and safety across a broad spectrum of activities and among a variety of individuals and organizations. By honoring their achievements, the award sponsors also seek to increase public recognition and awareness of the value of wildfire mitigation efforts.

Nominations can be can be completed and submitted online. Additional information about the Wildfire Mitigation Awards is available online, as are the criteria and guidelines.

For additional information, contact Meghan Rhodes, Wildland Fire Programs Coordinator with the IAFC, at (703) 896 – 4839, MRhodes (at) iafc.org.

10-year old praised for making bushfire preparedness video

When 10-year Toby Douglas’ house was threatened by a bushfire in New South Wales in 2013 he made this stop-action video to help make residents aware of an app distributed by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and of the importance of having a bushfire survival plan. Last month the video was uploaded to YouTube, garnering much attention and praise for the young filmmaker.

Be prepared for fires and other emergencies

Firesmart wildfire

Our friends at Prepared BC in British Columbia put together this graphic about about preparing your home to resist a wildfire.

And, when disaster hits, there may not be time to collect emergency supplies. Ensure you have grab-and-go kits for your home, office and vehicle. They should all contain water and supplies for a minimum of 72 hours.

Earthquake Tsunami Kit