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  • Advanced Warning of Precise Fire Danger Locations Saves Lives and Money for Utilities

    Vegetation management has been based historically on multi-year cyclical inspections, supplemented by high resolution imagery, lidar, drought indices and other analyses to produce encroachment-based mitigation. Prioritization of vegetation management is often dependent on revenue or number of customers on a circuit, while identifying precise areas of increased ignition danger takes a secondary role or is ignored entirely. As the number of people affected by wildland fire continues to grow, a more predictive model to identify exact locations of increased fire danger is necessary. By using predictive modeling to prioritize precisely where to trim first, vegetation management becomes more lifesaving and cost effective. Resources are allocated based on empirical, testable, and repeatable data analyses, reducing the reliance on random inspections and coincidental observations in the field. The ability to identify specific trouble areas of vegetation is imperative, especially when there are thousands of miles of easements or rights-of-way to monitor. There is another side to this coin, however, that is often overlooked. Vegetation Management and System Integrity are separate levels of effort, but they are closely related in terms of overall safety of the system. If a specific area of increased fire danger is identified, vegetation inspections and trimmings are good, but that is only the beginning of reducing risk. The poles, structures, and all their assets in that trouble area should at minimum be referenced to see when they were last inspected, repaired, or replaced. If there is no record of inspection, if the time since last inspection is more than a year or two, or if the records are incomplete, these assets should be prioritized for mid-cycle inspections. Raster Report’s data analysis provides advanced warning of increased fire danger conditions for vegetation all over the world, at multiple times within a season. Our analysis best serves discrete spatial scales with defined boundaries such as rural municipalities, observatories, airports, easements or rights-of-way containing utilities, and many other locations near the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). Below are some questions that often come up when considering Raster Report’s analysis. We are happyto address anything not covered here as well. Q. How are these results delivered to vegetation management crews? A. Raster Report can provide a simple map of the most recent trouble locations in a pdf or other preferred electronic format. Q. Can the results be input to a GIS, VMS, WMS, etc.? A. Raster Report’s results can be displayed via a GIS Portal, Dashboard, or incorporated into a management system. This will require more in-depth consultation to identify the requirements necessary for this delivery. Q. Can we just get a stand-alone analysis without costly integrations? A. Raster Report can provide stand-alone results on Day 1 to get crews out to priority locations without wasting time. Considerations for integrated deliveries can be worked on down the road, while Raster Report still delivers results. Q. Are different cost tiers available? A. For many places, fire season is year-round. For utilities, every inch of conductor is a potential ignition source. Raster Report can provide analysis on a less frequent basis, but continuous rolling analysis is strongly recommended for updated identification of increased fire danger areas. Q. When do we see the results? A. Now Q. Many organizations allocate funding years in advance. How can prioritized mid-cycle inspections based on Raster Report’s analysis be justified? A. There have been far too many fatal incidents in recent years in which human caused fires to have occurred due to lack of proper vegetation management and asset maintenance. The cost of mitigation will always be far less than the cost of damage control. If an imminent danger is identified, mitigative action must be prioritized. These actions can start with verifying recency and completeness of inspection records and continue with smaller scale mid-cycle aerial or field inspections of the precise danger locations identified by Raster Report. If you would like to learn more about how Raster Report can help your organization with improved safety, better system integrity, and lowered operations and maintenance costs, please reach out to us at info@rasterreport.com

  • Satellite Data Analysis Maximizes Mid-Cycle Inspection Efficiency

    Utility asset and vegetation inspection workflows are often conducted on a multi-year cyclical basis using several methods to assess the conditions of assets and vegetation within a service territory. One method is to walk the entire system every few years, which gains the most granular level of spatial detail, but the data is subject to degradation since the temporal frequency is low. That is to say, the asset health and vegetation presence at the starting point is likely to change significantly from the time it is first inspected to the next walking inspection several years later. Drive-by inspections are done on a more frequent basis where vehicle access is possible. This increases temporal inspection frequency, but the level of detail is not as precise since the assets and vegetation are looked at from farther away. Aerial fly-bys can cover the entire system more often, but again spatial resolution is lost for the same reason as drive-by inspections. To compensate for this loss, lidar inspections and high-resolution imagery provide more granular spatial accuracy, but their temporal frequency is still reduced due to the high costs of these types of data gathering. This begs the question: Is there a way to maximize the efficiency of all these types of inspections with continuous monitoring of an entire service territory or wildland-urban interface (WUI)? At Raster Report, we believe there is through our satellite-based analysis. Our satellite data does not focus on high resolution images of poles and structures, or of vegetation encroachment into a right-of-way. Instead, we conduct a weekly to monthly rolling analysis of vegetation conditions in an entire utility service territory, which identifies specific areas that are more susceptible to combustion. With pole data for a transmission or rural distribution system, we can show the exact poles/structures that fall within the higher fire danger areas in an easy-to-read map. From there, utilities can dispatch ground crews to those structures and rights-of-way to inspect the conditions of the assets and vegetation in the vicinity. If dispatching crews for mid-cycle site inspections is not feasible, the option to use high spatial resolution data is still there, except the data can be focused on specific areas instead of the entire system, lowering data acquisition costs. Our process makes mid-cycle inspections more efficient since they are driven by temporally frequent data that identifies specific assets within increased fire danger areas. There is no need to implement or integrate costly inspection management, asset management or vegetation management systems that requires considerable training and organizational change management, just a map that shows where increased fire danger areas are located. On the same principle, our analysis can assist fire managers with monitoring of fire breaks around municipalities as well WUI areas. By identifying specific places of increased combustion probability, crews can be sent to thin out vegetation, reducing the potential rate of spread and severity of a fire if it occurs within or near the WUI. Again, a simple map is provided on a regular basis that shows managers and crews where increased combustion probability is identified. There is no additional training necessary or adoption of software, hardware, or any integrations with additional systems. This makes inspection processes more efficient on Day 1, and not months down the road after debugging systems and teaching team members how to use those systems. More efficient inspection processes provide two obvious advantages for utilities and managers of the wildland-urban interface: Vegetation identified in high fire dangers can be trimmed, reducing the chances of ignition in that area as well as providing a potential fire break if a fire that originates elsewhere spreads to that area. Assets that may have known failure conditions or unknown conditions can be repaired or replaced, strongly reducing the chances of utility caused fires. To find out how Raster Report can help you and your inspection processes, please contact us for a free demo. #wildland-urbaninterface #assetdeterioration #seasonalvariability #mid-cycleinspections #workflowefficiency

  • The Fire Triangle - Wildland fire and its interaction with utilities

    This is a concept well known to many folks, but it’s important to understand the fundamentals of the components of wildland fire and its interaction with the wildland-urban interface (WUI), including utility rights-of-way and natural areas surrounding rural municipalities. For combustion to happen three contributors are necessary – fuel, heat and oxygen. The oxygen part is ever present on modern day Earth, so that leg of the triangle is self-explanatory. The fuel leg consists of anything that can burn including vegetation and, unfortunately, homes and other buildings as well as utility structures (particularly wood structures). Oxygen and fuel are constantly present, but combustion cannot occur without a heat source. In a fire caused by nature, the heat source is typically a lightning strike, but only 10 to 20% of wildland fires are caused by nature. Humans account for the other 80-90% of wildland fire ignitions, and those causes are endless. For a more detailed discussion on protecting rights-of-way and wildland-urban interfaces, please reach out to us at info@rasterreport.com.

  • Lidar, High Resolution Photos and Multispectral Imagery for Utilities

    There are many remote sensing approaches to vegetation management, including high-resolution photographs and lidar data. Let’s look at some attributes and advantages of each of these methods and explore how to put them to best use! High Spatial Resolution Photography This is probably the most well-known form of remote sensing for many folks. A satellite, aircraft or drone flies a utility line and takes very high-resolution imagery of assets and vegetation. The level of spatial detail is impressive, and the beauty of the photograph is almost artistic. These images are useful in vegetation management because they can identify tree encroachment into a right-of-way and tree height can be calculated with a scalable reference. The level of detail, combined with knowledge of local vegetation species, can also be used to execute supervised classifications for land cover analysis. Lidar – Light Detection and Ranging We’ve all heard of Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging), and lidar has also become a commonly heard term these days. Lidar and radar are both active sensors, meaning they generate a signal that bounces off a target, returns to the scanner, and produces an image. Lidar uses laser pulses in the ultraviolet, visible and near infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to generate point clouds of its targets, which creates high-resolution 3D images. This application is beneficial for utilities because it can create granular detailed representations of assets in the field like poles, structures and substations, and it can show tree height and canopy density of vegetation that may be encroaching into a utility right of way. If ground penetrating radar is used, underground utilities can also be detected. How Can These Methods be Applied Most Efficiently? Both lidar and High-Resolution Imagery provide near-granular level optical detail of vegetation encroachment in utility rights-of-way. While it is important to identify a specific tree growing in a right-of-way, that does not address vegetation management comprehensively. Utilities can have hundreds to thousands of miles of transmission and rural distribution lines, and lidar and high-resolution imagery costs add up quickly, depending on the size of the target area and frequency of data acquisition. What if there are 10 trees identified as encroachers in a right-of-way? Or 100 trees? Or 1,000 trees in rights of way, spread out over hundreds of miles? How do you prioritize their trimming or removal? What if the service territory land cover is mostly grassland, which ignites much more easily than trees? Raster Report uses satellite data for analysis on large spatial scales to identify areas of increased combustion probability, aka high fire danger areas. To supplement that, we identify specific assets within these fire danger areas to prioritize inspections based on real data, and not ad-hoc inspections. This deliverable then gives utilities the options to make use of lidar or high spatial resolution imagery, or to deploy ground crews to inspect the identified areas of fire danger. By making vegetation management and asset inspection processes more streamlined, utilities are then able to reduce O&M costs, which keeps customers safer and happier! To see how the Raster Report team can help you, please reach out to us anytime! #remotesensing #wildfiremitigation #utilities #forests #satellites #vegetationmanagement #assetmanagement #ai #artificialintelligence #drones

  • Buffelgrass – An Invasive Species in the Southwest United States

    About a century ago, buffelgrass was introduced to the Desert Southwest, United States, as forage for cattle and later as a means for erosion control. Originally found in the African Savanna and parts of Asia, native buffelgrass grows between sparsely populated trees on relatively flat lands, where the local vegetation has developed with regularly occurring fires. These fire adapted species are accustomed to relatively frequent and intense fires, with temperatures exceeding 1,500° F. The flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert, and surrounding areas, however, are not as accustomed such fires and the effects on these unique species can be devastating. Buffelgrass also acts as a connecting fuel that threatens the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), the confluence of human activity and nature. These fire effects can range from damaged electric transmission and distribution lines to lives and livelihoods lost. It is unlikely that buffelgrass is going away, and measures must be taken to monitor its growth and interaction with other vegetation at local and regional levels. For more information on how we can provide another line of defense for your assets, please reach out to us at info@rasterreport.com. #bufflegrass #WUI #wildlandfire

  • Human Behavior, Wildland Fire, and Proactive Measures

    Source This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Rodeo-Chediski fire, the largest fire in Arizona recorded history until it was surpassed by the Wallow fire in 2011. Rodeo-Chediski began as two separate wildland fires that merged, eventually burning 468,638 acres, destroying over four hundred structures, and forcing the evacuations of multiple towns in northeastern Arizona. The scariest part of this fire, which is also a major variable in wildland fire mitigation, was that both fires were lit intentionally by humans. Rodeo was started by a wildland firefighter and Chediski was started by a stranded off-road vehicle driver, which raises the question – How are we supposed to mitigate the severity of fires when human behavior is so unstable? There are no simple answers for this, but one mitigative effort that can be done is to identify and monitor areas of increased ignition probability on a regular and frequent basis, especially near the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), the confluence of human activity and nature. The Raster Report team specializes in this type of analysis near electric utility rights-of-way (ROW), providing two mitigative measures a utility can take: Provide maps of precise areas of increased ignition probability near rights-of-way. Identify specific electric transmission or distribution assets within the increased ignition probability areas. Our analysis gives utilities an opportunity to prioritize inspections and repairs/replacements days to weeks before traditional methods identify areas of high fire danger. By repairing or replacing assets in danger of failure, the possibility of a utility being the cause of a wildland fire is reduced significantly, saving lives, resources and property. By trimming vegetation in and near utility rights-of-way, the severity of a wildland fire can be mitigated by eliminating fuels for fires to consume, potentially creating a pre-emptive fire break if a fire ignites in that area, or if a fire ignites elsewhere and spreads towards the utility ROW. If you would like to know how Raster Report can help mitigate wildland fire through prioritized ROW inspections that supplement existing inspection cycles, please reach out to us and we will demonstrate our service for you. #advancedwarning #electricutilities #wildlandfiremitigation

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