Summary of the article “Bringing Big Data to Fire Safety”
Summary of the article “Bringing Big Data to Fire Safety” by Stefanie Le
In September 2019, Stefanie Le, research assistant and writer at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, wrote an article on “Bringing Big data to Fire Safety”. Here are our key takeaways.
The author starts from the constatation that “the dangers of structure fires and wildfires in cities across the United States are continuing to spread”, and analyses how two fire departments are creating effective solutions to tackle this rising issue.
First, Stefanie Le looks at the Los Angeles Fire Department, which has been developing since 2016 a programme to make predictions about where wildfires will spread next. The programme, called FireMap, gathers real-time information, as well as information about past fires, from multiple sources. It is meant to allow personnel on the ground to make faster decisions based on information extracted from big data: the user can access different views of the predictive model such as “satellite imagery, topographic view, or street view”.
Second, the author looks at the Louisville Fire Department, which partnered with university students on a project to analyse data with the aim to optimise the Department’s efforts on smoke detector outreach. The research established “high fire risk factors” by looking at risks linked to the building themselves, neighbourhood risk, and demographic risks. The result was a “geospatial fire risk index” which allowed the Fire Departments to better target their efforts.
These two projects really showcase how big data analysis can support effective firefighting and be an asset for Fire Departments as well as citizens. Reading this article, one question comes to mind: will these projects remain local experiments, or is this the future of firefighting, at a national and international scale?
 Stefanie Le, “Bringing Big Data to Fire Safety, September 25, 2019, https://datasmart.ash.harvard.edu/news/article/bringing-big-data-fire-safety.