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First Responders Fight Large Wildfires with Technology

First Responders Fight Large Wildfires with Technology

It may surprise you, but technology is in great demand when trying to contain wildfires. It is as vital as water and fire retardants, themselves. 

When partnering with USDA Forest Service, Cal Fire or other state/local agencies, it is critical that suppliers help these agencies achieve their key objective: to extinguish the fires raging in Northern and Southern California as quickly and safely as possible.

Today’s post will focus on the first response process before technology, the tech hardware used when battling wildfires, and the benefits provided to firefighting teams .

Challenges before Technology

Prior to the implementation of computer technology, all firefighting had to be completed on the ground, in the air and through a paper process. Telephone calls, radio dispatching and use of multiple helicopters were expensive, cumbersome and somewhat error prone because they could only report what they could see at one point in time.

Strategic decisions about the direction, wind velocity and scope of the fire were not completed on a real-time basis allowing for delays and misjudgments by the most experienced responders. 

Current Process for Tracking Fires

Once a wildland fire is determined to be at a certain level, a dispatcher will place the call to their suppliers and partners to spring into action. It is imperative to have an active command center in place within 24 hours, after the threshold of the wildfire is determined.  Each command center is the heart and soul of the operation, where tactical planning and decision-making happens.

Technology Solutions for Fighting Fires

Custom configuration, packaging, and shipment of technology occurs almost immediately.  It is essential to have the command center receive the equipment they need within 24 hours of placing the order, regardless of where the center is located, of which many are in very remote locations.

Technology rental companies routinely provide command centers and incident management teams with some of these technology solutions:

  • Laptop or iPad rentals with hard cases are custom-imaged with GPS software with extensive map overlays and a GIS app for fire analysis and prediction. The data captured on the laptops and iPads are sent back to the command center for analysis.
  • A server rental is used for backup and is the communication hub for all technology. Although, command centers use cloud-based services for backup and continuous access to their data, a computer server is still needed to ensure access to command center technology, in case the Internet is not available.
  • Large monitor rentals are used for daily briefings to see where the fire has been and where it is speculated to go. These units may also be used for public meetings in populated areas where residents need to know the status of the fire.
  • The onsite support team may use plotters, printers and/or copiers for daily briefing documents.

In addition, satellites, drones and two-way radios are used in the event the traditional communication systems go down and Wi-Fi and telephones are not available.

Benefits of Technology

The apps installed on laptops or iPads allow incident teams to decipher danger for the firefighters and identify opportunities for containment. The command center uses this information to develop a strategic plan of attack.

Once data is transferred from the field to the command center, fire analysts review the inputs and make recommendations to the firefighters almost immediately.

Using technology, the command center can keep track of each and every firefighter in the field, which was not possible prior to the implementation of technology.  

Hartford Technology Rental Works with Firefighting Teams

For several years, Hartford Technology Rental has been a value-added partner with firefighting agencies and acts as an extension of their Information Technology team in providing the equipment they need when and where it is needed. As a GSA approved Rental Company, we welcome any opportunity to work with your agency now and in the future.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the firefighters in the field, homeowners and families that have been affected by this wildfire. We hope these wildfires will be contained very soon.