As new technological advancements develop to mitigate the devastating effect of wildfires, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes continuously investigates prospective resources. This year, Rancho Palos Verdes and its neighbors on the Palos Verdes Peninsula have researched a wildfire camera detection system that provides municipal agencies with timely, accurate alerts of fire ignitions.
After eight months of regionally collaborative investigation, the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council voted to explore engaging Pano AI for wildfire detection services this July.
Pano is a 360-degree, ultra-high-definition camera system. When placed on a high vantage point, Pano scans the landscape to identify, evaluate, and warn of wildfire activity within a 15-mile radius. In the event of a fire, it provides fire-monitoring professionals auto-centered images with enhanced zoom, speeding confirmation, and triangulation of the exact fire location. Pano’s Rapid Detect wildfire detection solution has been successfully deployed in Napa, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma counties.
Discovery and research efforts linked with the state-of-the-art system were supported by Rancho Palos Verdes staff member Jesse Villalpando, a senior administrative analyst responsible for emergency preparedness.
“When witnesses report wildfires via 911, it may take precious time to pinpoint the location and dispatch first responders,” said Villalpando. “Pano automatically detects and verifies wildfire events in real-time. The ability to respond more rapidly may reduce a wildfire’s ultimate threat to our community’s safety.”
When a wildfire is in progress, Pano software helps first responders and municipal staff triage changing conditions with alerts that provide up-to-date time-lapse imagery and quickly disseminate information about the fire’s location and movement.
“Facilitating real-time alerts also enhances safety for emergency personnel, helping them respond with increased efficiency and accuracy,” said Villalpando.
Furthermore, he continued, Pano AI eases staff responsibilities by managing all aspects of system permitting, installation, monitoring, operations, and maintenance.
To potentially fund the installation of the early wildfire detection system, Rancho Palos Verdes requested Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). FEMA’s HMGP funds projects intended to reduce the effects of future natural disasters. In California, these funds are administered by Cal OES. HMGP funding opportunities support communities to mitigate risk to life and property from natural hazards such as wildfire, earthquake, drought, extreme weather, and flooding.
If the HMGP grant is awarded, said Villalpando, it would fund 75 percent of the project, to be supplemented with municipal resources.
In addition to Rancho Palos Verdes, the Palos Verdes Peninsula—a subregion of southwestern Los Angeles County—is home to California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) member agencies, including the cities of Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills, and Rolling Hills Estates, as well as the Palos Verdes Peninsula Transit Authority, which provides bus service to, from, and within the peninsula.
The four cities convene quarterly for a joint Peninsula Public Safety Committee (PPSC) meeting. The committee, composed of two council members from each peninsula city, discusses and collaborates on the region’s emergency preparedness, public safety trends, and other relevant topics.
The committee’s September meeting included a discussion of the wildfire cameras, expected to benefit all the PPSC member agencies, as well as consideration of a cost-sharing formula for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Local Match should the grant be awarded for this project.
“We all have our unique and individual interests and concerns,” said Rancho Palos Verdes City Manager Ara Mihranian during a presentation with Villalpando to the Rolling Hills City Council, “but we also have an overlapping and common interest, especially when it comes to public safety and the emphasis on wildfire prevention.”
The Peninsula-wide system is projected to include one site on an existing tower in Palos Verdes Estates, a standalone station in Rolling Hills, and two existing and two standalone stations in Rancho Palos Verdes.
“The Palos Verdes Peninsula is an elevated fire-threat area,” said Rolling Hills Estates City Manager Greg Grammer. “By collaborating through the Peninsula Public Safety Committee and the California JPIA, the Peninsula Cities can increase preparedness, enhance protection of our residents and property, and reduce exposure to claims on the pool.”
Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 120 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive training and loss control services. For more information, please visit the California JPIA’s website at cjpia.org.