GeoLinks Collaborates to Deploy Cameras to Track California Wildfires
Monday, March 18, 2019 | Comments

GeoLinks, a California-based telecommunications provider and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, installed and provided high-speed, low-latency, symmetrical data connections to 88 high-definition, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras throughout Southern and Northern California to provide critical situational awareness during wildfire events. In collaboration with ALERTWildfire; University of California San Diego; University of Nevada, Reno; CENIC; Southern California Edison (SCE); and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), the multihazard camera technology provides data related to fire ignition points critical in informing situational awareness and wildfire response.

The camera network, developed and managed by UC San Diego and the University of Nevada, Reno, connects firefighting agencies with real-time imagery and environmental data enabling first responders to appropriately allocate and scale resources. Situated on GeoLinks’ vertical solar and wind-powered assets, the collected data is transmitted via GeoLinks’ ClearFiber network then handed off via a strategic partnership to CENIC’s private research and educational network to reach the universities, fire officials, utilities and other users. This vital information allows involved parties to confirm ignition locations, verify 9-1-1 reports, image fire behavior, and ultimately deploy informed response and public warning.

“To give a little more context on GeoLinks involvement, we really dove head first in state disaster recovery efforts when hundreds of our clients, neighboring anchor institutions, and team members became displaced during the 2017 wildfires,” said GeoLinks Co-Founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “When vital communications towers were destroyed by the fast-moving wildfire, our team worked around the clock to restore critical connectivity throughout affected counties. The same responsiveness transpired during 2018’s wildfire season; this included providing the same-day installation of a high-capacity circuit for key Red Cross shelters free of charge. I realized what a difference we could make in this space with our unique capabilities of building rural and urban networks in off-the-grid locations where these are needed. Our dedication, passion, agility and unique capabilities in supporting disaster recovery, initiated our involvement with our university collaborators.”

State, private, public and first-responder support for the expansion of this camera system is persistent and irrefutable, a statement said. “The safety of my firefighters and the communities they protect is my priority, so having more information about a fire before we encounter it is an added safety measure that benefits our first responders,” said former San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy. “Having access to a live view of our highest fire risk areas will greatly improve situational awareness and our coordination with CAL FIRE. In turn, that allows for quicker response times, better response strategies and faster evacuation orders to ensure our communities are better prepared in the face of a wildfire. During the ignition of the Church Fire, I could watch the smoke on my iPhone, the color, the direction, and immediately knew the resources that I needed to deploy and the time they would be engaged. Furthermore, the crews could watch how the fire progressed on their iPads as they approached the fire, real-time situational awareness — these fire cameras are a game changer.”

The 88 new cameras are located throughout high fire-risk areas throughout California. SCE and PG&E, along with public agencies and the public, have access to the camera feeds around-the-clock through the www.alertwildfire.org website to monitor wildfire activity. GeoLinks expects to install up to 160 cameras by throughout SCE’s service area by 2020, which will allow about 90 percent coverage in high fire-risk areas. Similar efforts are underway at PG&E to cover their service area.

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