In this episode we focus on using data to help predict where home fires may occur and technology to help detect them in vacant properties. This episode also ties into an earlier one Data and Smoke Alarms in New Orleans that you might be interested in. Using data to predict fires e start by talking with Jon Jay, a doctoral student at the Harvard School of Public Health, and author of the article “Can Algorithms Predict House Fires.” In this article, and on this podcast, Jay talks about how it is possible to use data to predict where house fires are more likely to occur in a city so that the fire department can better focus its prevention and home safety visits, and the results are astounding. By randomly visiting neighborhoods, it was determined that a fire department would probably visit 20% of the homes likely to have a fire. However, by using a data-driven approach, this percentage jumped to 71% resulting in a much more effective and efficient use of staffing. The data that was used is from publicly available sources, and by bringing together a variety of data sources it is possible to refine the model significantly and really hone in on the geographic areas of the city as well as the different property types. Using technology to detect fires We then have a conversation with Nathan Armentrout from Eidolon who invented CASPER – Continuous Autonomous Solar Powered Event Reporter. This is a device that is installed in vacant homes and listens for the sound of a smoke alarm in the building then sends out an alert by cellular signal to the cloud. This device came about as a result of a hackathon sponsored by Louisville, Kentucky, where there was a problem of fires in vacant homes. These fires were creating significant risks to the other homes around them because they were not being detected until they were well developed instead of in their early stages. The city put the problem forward to the Level 1 hackerspace, and competition was put together to find a solution. Armentrout developed CASPER which has been successfully pilot tested in Louisville and he is now rolling out in beta to other cities.
Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshall (OSFM)
Joe Walters is the Executive Officer for the State Fire Marshal, with the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal (OSFM). As the first “Executive Officer ” Joe has been integral in moving the OSFM into the 21st century, from technology advancements, fleet refreshments, equipment needs to health and wellness awareness. Since 2016, he has also led a part in the agencies community risk reduction programs. He has been proactive in fire prevention programs throughout the State and has assisted with the dissemination of important fire & life saving information via social media and other platforms. He currently sits on the Mid Atlantic Life Safety Conference Committee as the operations command, trying to enhance the program. By trade he is a fire investigator and worked in the field for several years prior to the appointment of Executive Officer. He worked several high profile cases and made many arson and explosive related arrests. He has had the opportunity to sit in forums such as the Truman Symposiums and the FEMA AFG content development group. On his off time, he is a 20-year veteran of the volunteer fire service where he currently serves in the role of Captain. He has held many roles including Assistant Treasurer and Vice President. He is also an instructor for the National Safe Boating Council and specialize in the maritime rescue discipline. He and his wife own a small custom t-shirt business, which was started just before the birth of their child, in 2015. When not working, he loves sitting on the Chesapeake Bay on his boat or tearing up the mud four wheeling in the woods.