USFA and DHS introduce advanced wildfire sensors in Hawaii

March 11, 2024

Deployment of innovative wildfire sensors in Hawaii

The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), in collaboration with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and Hawaii’s Governor Josh Green, has announced the deployment of cutting-edge wildfire and wind sensors across the Hawaiian Islands.

This move comes as a part of the ongoing efforts to strengthen Hawaii’s resilience against wildfires following the significant blazes on Maui in August 2023.

The initiative involves setting up 80 wildfire sensors and 16 wind sensors to aid in early fire detection and bolster emergency response capabilities.

Federal response to increasing wildfire threats

Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, expressed the federal government’s commitment to Hawaii’s safety and preparedness against wildfires: “In the aftermath of the devastating wildfires that struck Maui last summer, the Biden-Harris Administration and the Department of Homeland Security vowed to help Hawaii recover and to help safeguard it against another tragic destruction of fire.

We are deploying dozens of state-of-the-art fire and wind sensors across the Hawaiian Islands to enable local officials and firefighters to quickly target an initial blaze and initiate evacuation procedures.”

Technological advancement in wildfire management

Administrator Criswell highlighted the increasing wildfire risks nationwide and the significance of this collaborative effort: “Wildfire risk continues to increase across the nation as we live through unprecedented heat waves and drought spurred by climate change.

“This collaboration to deploy new wildfire and wind sensors is a huge step forward in preventing and mitigating future wildfires in Hawaii.

“This technology will help our firefighters respond faster, save lives, and keep residents safe from future fire events.”

State and local authorities welcome the initiative

Governor Green welcomed the deployment, acknowledging the speed and devastation of wildfires: “We welcome this early alert system and are grateful to our federal partners for providing these sensors to help keep our residents safe.

“No community, in our islands or elsewhere, should ever have to experience so much suffering and loss. This technology will help to save lives.”

Focus on collaborative research and development

U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell underscored the complexity of today’s wildfire challenges and the necessity for continuous research and collaboration: “Protecting our nation’s homelands against fire and hazardous threats requires continued collaborative research and development in firefighting.

“The deployment of these sensors marks a major step forward in wildfire prevention and mitigation.”

Innovative technology for early fire detection

Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov, Undersecretary for Science and Technology, discussed the technological advancements of the sensors: “The sensors deployed today are more effective than traditional methods as they detect fires at their inception.

“Our commitment to utilizing the latest advancements in technology ensures communities have the necessary resources to respond in real time to wildfires.”

Beta wildfire sensors to revolutionize fire detection

Hawaii is the first recipient of the new Beta wildfire sensors developed by DHS S&T and USFA in partnership with N5 Sensors Inc.

These sensors are designed to detect changes in conditions indicative of an impending wildfire, offering 24-hour monitoring and alerting capabilities.

The compact sensors can be installed on utility poles or traffic lights and function in all weather conditions.

Ongoing research and development by DHS

DHS S&T, alongside FEMA and USFA, initiated the wildfire sensor project following a five-year research period focused on flood sensors.

After deploying 200 Alpha phase pilot sensors across the U.S. and Canada, the Beta version showcases improvements in power efficiency, wind sensor accuracy, and operation in areas with limited cellular coverage.

The department plans to deploy 200 Beta sensors in high-risk areas across the U.S. in early 2024 for further testing and evaluation.

FSJA Comment

The deployment of advanced wildfire and wind sensors in Hawaii by the DHS and USFA marks a significant development in the realm of disaster management and preparedness.

By leveraging technological innovations, this project sets a precedent for other high-risk areas across the United States, highlighting the importance of collaboration between federal, state, and local governments in addressing complex environmental challenges.

The integration of such technology in disaster management strategies represents a thoughtful approach to mitigating the impacts of climate change-induced natural disasters.

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