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Driving innovation for emergency preparedness

Innovation and automation are reshaping emergency preparedness and response strategies for fighting fires in California, according to a senior official at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, better known as Cal Fire.

Speaking in a recent interview with StateScoop, Scott Gregory, Cal Fire’s deputy director of technology, says using AI and advanced technologies is improving how emergency response agencies like Cal Fire streamline processes, enhance decision-making capabilities and save lives more effectively.

Cal Fire, an agency dedicated to fire prevention and protection for the state, underwent a significant modernization plan in response to the growing challenges. Gregory explains how the state established the Office of Wildfire Technology Research and Development—the first in the state.

“It’s a very exciting time for Cal Fire—we’re in a very unique position. Cal Fire is a world-renowned firefighting organization. Folks come to us for answers many times, and we need to be able to provide that. This office is hopefully going to be setting the standard for folks to look towards, for support for answers and insight into research and different methodologies to push technology further,” he says.

Integrating AI and other technologies plays a crucial role in protecting lives and property. “Generative AI has opened the doors very wide to a number of things that we’re beginning to get engaged in, especially around detection and alerting in response. We work very closely with a number of academic organizations within the state around placing remote cameras that use artificial intelligence to detect and look at volumetrics of smoke and alerting from that,” says Gregory.

He also talks about using IoT devices and AI to monitor and support firefighters on the ground. They measure parameters like hydration level, core body temperature and stress levels to understand how each firefighter copes with the environment. This data can help identify if a firefighter is in distress, allowing for timely intervention.

Gregory explains lessons learned and how Cal Fire is securing its technology investments to deliver critical services to constituents. They are currently focusing on a unified view of security, allowing them to monitor activities both in the field and within their offices. They have deployed technology in various locations across the state, adapting to different connectivity levels and challenges.

“There are thousands of endpoints that we manage daily. But we can see that all through one common operational picture. And that’s, again, something we haven’t been able to do. We wouldn’t have been able to do that if we were on this ambitious path of internal modernization.”

Learn more here about how Tanium is helping state agencies like Cal Fire strengthen their security posture.

This video interview was produced by Scoop News Group for StateScoop and underwritten by Tanium.