DHS tests next generation Wildland Urban Interface alerting technology

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Evacuation at the Fort McMurray Fire in Alberta, Canada May, 2016
Evacuation at the Fort McMurray Fire in Alberta, Canada May, 2016.

The Department of Homeland Security hosted a proof-of-concept demonstration of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) integration model Monday, August 15, in Fairfax, VA.  The model integrates next generation technologies with the Federal Emergency Management Agency Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS), enabling alerting authorities to disseminate Wireless Emergency Alerts with new capabilities such as displaying hazard and evacuation alert information on the “infotainment” screens in vehicles.

The DHS is working with partners to develop a new method for putting life safety alerts, such as evacuation alerts, into navigation applications during emergencies. Doing so will not only provide alerts to an increasingly mobile public, but also help the public make informed navigation decisions in all-hazard situations.

“Effective communication of emergency fire information and evacuation routes to people in an endangered area is a necessity for first responders striving to manage emergency operations and guide safe public response actions,” said Norman Speicher, Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate program manager. “Connecting emergency management tools to situations in the WUI will help emergency management officials achieve better routes and procedures by utilizing cutting-edge technologies that help define, share, and manage the status, and communicate evacuation routes and safety zones in real-time.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “DHS tests next generation Wildland Urban Interface alerting technology”

  1. I like that safe evacuation routes will be provided to mobile navigation apps. If a road is blocked a driver would be routed around it.

  2. I live in Tuolumne County, CA. This is a rural area that sees as many at 8,000 visitors on any summer day that are vacationing for Yosemite National Park. They are not even aware they are in Tuolumne County. IPAWS seems to be the logical choice, provided it has some means of alternate comms if the cellular network goes down.

    Emergency comms are reliant on survive and continue delivering critical info. They must be inexpensive and effective. We have landlines, cellular, internet services go down frequently for a variety of reasons, none of which is acceptable during an emergency.

    Our biggest issue is wildfires. However, we have had a flood in 2018. Comms are flaky during these events. In fact, we have had comms failures when a wildfire 20 miles away took out our backhaul for all of the above.

    1. Hi Bob,

      IPAWS is the only way official info can be sent, unless people want to use some sort of expensive private notification network. But you are right… it will not work if the local cell tower goes down. However, NOAA Weather Radio will still work with IPAWS messages since the NWR tower would likely be miles away from the fire. I do not know why counties do not push for NWR when it has obviously worked well for tornado and other warnings. Here is an example…
      “All Hazards NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) is a low-cost home alerting tool that can be remotely activated by the National Weather Service(NWS) to broadcast life-saving warnings issued by first responders (county emergency management). NWRs include battery backups. Radios furnished by the city of Santa Rosa are pre-programmed to the local NWR frequency. The radio turns on automatically and sounds the alert and “speaks” the evacuation message.”


  3. Even this dissemination technology is of no use when no one knows where the hazard is or when the hazard is everywhere… such as in the case in the early stages of an urban firestorm like the 2018 Camp Fire and others.


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