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Putting out real fires with a data center on wheels

WhitneyGarcia

IT work is much more stressful than most people outside the industry understand. It is easy to find yourself juggling so many projects in so many different places that your job starts to seem like nothing but crisis management. The constant stream of service requests pouring into your inbox can leave you feeling like all you do is put out fires.

It’s a common-enough expression, but have you ever imagined what it would be like if your job was actually putting out fires? That's exactly what FireWhat, Inc. does, and it involves more high tech than you might think.

FireWhat, Incorporated was founded by veteran firefighters to deliver disaster-response management services that integrate every available source of data to give emergency responders life-saving information in real time. FireWhat bigstock-Brave-Firefighters-In-Silhouet-5309481.jpgsupports first responders in a variety of situations, but their specialty is wildfires, and these are a growing threat.

Up in flames

In 2015 alone, over 68 thousand wildfires burned more than 10.1 million acres across the United States, affecting every state.[1] Those fires destroyed a total of 4,636 structures, more than half of them private homes.[2] Wildfire management cost the US Forest Service more than $1.7 billion in 2015, fully half the agency’s total annual budget, and they project that the problem will only grow worse in years to come.[3]

Try to imagine yourself on the fire line, coordinating emergency response teams over thousands of acres. How would you protect their lives while gaining control of the blaze?

First of all, you would need to know exactly where the fire was, but wildfires move constantly and can change suddenly with a shift in the breeze. You can’t see very well because your view is constantly impeded by natural features like trees and hills, to say nothing of all the smoke in the air. How would you track the fire? Eyes on the ground can give you a lot of good information, but only if they can communicate with you. Even if they can, you still need to collate all of that observational information and integrate it with detailed topographical maps and up-to-the-moment data on wind and weather conditions. To make the best decisions, you need to integrate every available source of information while maintaining contact with hundreds of personnel distributed over miles of varied terrain.bigstock--133956275.jpg

Big Data in the wilderness

People’s lives are on the line and every second counts, but how can you possibly crunch all of that data in a hostile environment like a wildfire? The technological demands of real-time data processing and integrated communications in an emergency situation are mind boggling, but so is the ingenious, data-center-on-wheels solution FireWhat developed with HPE.

The experienced first responders at FireWhat knew that they needed an all-in-one solution that they could build into their mobile command center and drive up to the fire line wherever it was. They built a system around HPE Hyper Converged solutions powered by Intel®, giving them all of the infrastructure resources they need with minimal footprint and power consumption (a critical consideration when running off a generator in the wilderness). While the solution delivers the performance and speed to integrate real-time GPS data with sophisticated mapping and weather data, it is also managed simply through HPE OneView, allowing the whole system to be spun up or changed in just moments. Their new command center has been so successful, in fact, that FireWhat is now working to make the solution they developed with HPE available to other first responders and emergency response teams as a branded product.

To see the complete story and learn more about the critical role of technology in coordinating disaster response, read the exciting case study about working in one of the most hostile environments on the planet.

Whitney

[1] http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/intelligence/2015_Statssumm/fires_acres15.pdf
[2] http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/intelligence/2015_Statssumm/intro_summary15.pdf
[3] http://fortune.com/2015/09/15/cost-california-wildfires/

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WhitneyGarcia

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