Prometheus – Wildland Fire Incident Management

Since the first fire brigades under Emperor Nero took the idea of organized firefighting and formed the Vigiles in AD 60 firefighting has cost lives. While over 2000 years have passed since Nero’s time, and the business of firefighting has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, we still lose brave men and women every year.  Now however, the team at ARGOS FireTech has created a system that combines the reliability of satellite communications with the power of the latest real-time geographic information system (GIS) and spatial analysis.  This high-tech combination of resources allows Incident Commanders to visualize the behavior of wildland fires as never before, providing firefighters with up-to-the-minute, accurate information that will save lives.  It’s a tool we thought powerful enough to name after the Greek God who gave mortals fire Prometheus.

Emergency management agencies have been using GIS for a few years now, but by integrating some of the latest GIS tools available with our unique combination of proprietary GPS equipment and software, Prometheus’ Shield brings data management, mapping, and analysis, along with a suite of tools in the ArcGIS system, together to create the first web-based, cloud-deployed wildland fire management service available anywhere. On-site Prometheus’ Shield GIS technicians provide Incident Command staff with a sophisticated real-time fire suppression planning and management tool and also provide deployed personnel with a guaranteed link to incident command.  GIS technology is both intuitive and cognitive, combining powerful data visualization tools and modern cartography with strong analytic, geoprocessing, and modeling software. Used primarily during an Extended Attack operation, Prometheus’ Shield is operated by trained firefighters, working closely with – and under the direction of – the Incident Command staff.  It provides a guaranteed link between firefighters and incident command, and unlike conventional UHF and GSM communications, it works regardless of their location, the terrain, or the weather.

FireWatch GIS Mapdash3Real-Time GIS

Until recently,  this type of on-the-fly data management and geoprocessing would not be possible.  Connecting and receiving the real-time data from a wide variety of sources has always been one of several challenges of providing real-time GIS information. What we really needed was a way to define a workflow and then apply it to a continuous inbound stream of this real-time data. Well, we’ve incorporated several new resources that have been added to the ArcGIS platform, enabling Prometheus’ Shield to support real-time GIS and do just that.

The first new system is the new GeoEvent Processor. This new software allows Prometheus Shield technicians to receive real-time data from a wide variety of sources. It also allows the system to perform continuous processing and analysis of the real-time data as it’s received. Secondly, we’ve developed incorporated multiple configurations of the Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS. It’s a highly interactive application that’s optimized for multiscreen watch-center environments, combined into a single resource. Lastly, we’ve incorporated Collector for ArcGIS, a mobile application that enables Prometheus Shield technicians to collect information and instantly upload the new data to the Operations Dashboard. Fire behavior data is enhanced further by assigning field supervisory staff ArcGIS Collector accounts.

Using Spatial Analysis to Protect Firefighters

The power of real-time geoprocessing allows Prometheus’ Shield to know when a firefighter is in danger, and send an alert to incident command. Geofences that are coded to the fire perimeter are used to define danger zones. Prometheus’ Shield continually monitors the incoming position reports and through a pre-defined spatial analysis process determines if they any of those positions fall within a restricted area. If a report does fall into one of three pre-defined boundary areas, a visual alert flashes on the display and the map extent zooms to the reporting feature on the map.dash7

The 3 major challenges in providing real-time data analysis – receiving data from multiple sources – defining and executing different geoprocessing workflows – and sending the updated information to multiple sources – are resolved using resources in the ArcGIS system.   With GeoEvent viewer, we can now receive the real-time streaming data from a wide variety of sources. We also have in-vehicle GPS devices and transponders that could submit information in a real-time fashion, as well.

Configurable Dashboard Applications dash6

Prometheus’ Shield provides operators with multiple Operations Dashboards available for viewing real-time data streams as they occur. The program includes a companion application called the Collector for ArcGIS, which enables field crews to collect new information about emergency response situations and we can also attract the locations of the collectors as they’re collecting new information. An Operations Dashboard provides efficient drag-and-drop editing for map features, allowing staff to create a dynamic incident action plan. The true value of Prometheus Shield is its ability to combine and display the real-time position reports on firefighters, equipment and fire behavior data onto a real-time image of the incident area. Prometheus’ Shield’s ability to receive and process data from a nearly unlimited number of resources makes the Wildland Fire Operations Dashboard an unparalleled resource for planning and modifying fire management plans. Prometheus’ Shield can connect to all types of GPS systems, and we also can receive standard formats from GPS devices like NMEA and GPX.

Incident Aerial Mapping and 3D-Image Processingcapture-2

Over the past few years drones have become an increasingly common way to capture high-resolution imagery of local areas. Drone images are generally tagged with geographic information that describes where each image was taken, making them ready for use in ArcGIS. To provide a up-to-the-minute fire perimeter and allow incident command to make real-time scene assessments, Prometheus’ Shield provides continual aerial Lidar mapping during an incident. These coordinated UAV flights, provided by licensed pilots and approved by the FAA and Forest Service, download new data every 2-4 hours. Image processing is done on site, utilizing another ArcGIS tool, the Drone2Map extension. Drone2Map for ArcGIS not only allows Prometheus’ Shield to view raw drone images on a map, but we can also create 2D and 3D GIS products from the images within minutes of receiving the data.

Iridium Satellite GPS Tracking

A critical component of Prometheus Shield is the firefighter tracking system. Each firefighter will be issued a rugged (MIL-STD 810F) GPS tracking unit which offers both continuous GPS position reporting and two-way messaging. What makes this device unique, however, is its dual-mode communications capabilities. Under normal conditions, the unit communicates with Prometheus’ Shield using available cellular networks. But if the GSM signal falls below a certain threshold, the unit automatically communicates through the Iridium satellite network, ensuring a constant communications link between the firefighter and Incident Command. Prometheus’ Shield GPS unit can also send and receive information in the form of email messages through the Incident Command Support Center, or direct to other email addresses.  Individual or group text messages can be sent directly to each unit, utilizing the same dual-mode communications protocols. This feature ensures that critical fire information can be relayed to the field without using typically unreliable UHF or mobile phone communications.

The SharePoint Incident Website

Additional access to fire information is provided through a licensed Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise account.  Each responding fire department or agency will be provided with a secure login account that will provide access to a SharePoint project website created for each monitored incident.  The websites will be used for organizing and managing incident data that may not part of the GIS program, such as equipment and supply logistics, time-keeping records, incident support documentation, etc.  They also will provide a secure,  Microsoft Office-equipped resource sharing portal for incident information and post-incident analysis.   Incident information updates will be extracted from the ICS form data.  Fire photos, briefing maps, and a discussion board are provided for each website.  In order to provide an acceptable incident reporting format for FEMA’s National Information Management System (NIMS), all Incident Command System forms (ICS 201- ICS225) are available in the Prometheus’ Shield program as electronic, fillable PDF documents.  All ICS data is stored in the Prometheus’ Shield Access database web application. Through a secure Prometheus’ Shield account, these PDF forms are available via the Internet.

National Information Management System

In order to provide a compatible incident reporting for the federal government, all Incident Command System forms are available in the Prometheus’ Shield program as electronic, fillable PDF documents in Prometheus’ Shield. With licensed password access to Prometheus’ Shield, these PDF forms are available via the Internet.  Any revisions to the documents/reports are stored/archived in chronological order with time date stamp in Prometheus’ Shield in a SharePoint List. When a form is saved/submitted into the Prometheus’ Shield site or Incident subsite, it is programmed to also send an email notification to the operator so that the operator is prompted to continue supporting the NIMS and ICS protocols. All ICS and incident information is stored in a secure database for future analysis.

RFID Accountability Tag and E-Check-in

As a method for expediting the Check-in process at the ICP and staging areas, and for use as an official personal identification, an electronically read photo RFID card will be issued to a responder.  A portable ID station allows cards to be issued instantly in the field by Prometheus shield operators.  As with the current accountability tag, this ID can be tied to all responder activities, training, experience, and equipment authorizations.  For Check-in and Check-Out, the card is swiped through a standard reader that registers the responder at the incident. Prometheus’ Shield system also links the RFID to the GPS tracker issued to the responder.

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One thought on “Prometheus – Wildland Fire Incident Management

Rick TaftPosted on  12:22 am - Sep 15, 2016

I knew something like this would be coming and with the technology we have now it’s about time. Thank you. And I hope I can ask questions probably some will be kind of stupid. Great job. Rick Taft.

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