New public safety network to communicate fire information in San Diego County activated

Network connects 60 backcountry fire stations

LA JOLLA, Calif. - San Diego County officials Wednesday unveiled a new way to communicate information that could save San Diegans in the event of a wildfire.

Officials activated the Area Situational Awareness for Public Safety Network, or ASAPnet, which will reach dozens of fire stations in the most rural areas of the county, 10News learned.

"It has given us the ability to get people out the door more quickly and it's also shortened the time of communication of key information," said Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter, who is also chief of the San Diego County Fire Authority.

The system is a new collaborative project between UC San Diego's High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN), Cal Fire, the county, San Diego Gas & Electric, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, the San Diego County Fire Authority, Calit2, San Diego State University and other agencies.

The system offers high-speed wireless communications and emergency response capabilities to backcountry fire stations -- 60 fire stations in areas that are not well-served by other data network technologies.

Newly activated nodes, which are primarily situated on local mountaintops, will help connect hard-to-reach areas in the county that previously lacked broadband connections.

"It's going to help all over the county, but in the backcountry it's going to bring some of those remote stations into the 21st century," added Porter.

The county and SDG&E recently helped buy additional cameras and weather stations to be added to this sensor network. The cameras were installed in strategic mountaintop locations throughout the county.

"This whole system is a game changer from what we see," SDG&E President and COO Michael Niggli. "It actually has the opportunity to work on prevention of fires, and when fires happen, quick suppression of those fires and great collaboration."

The real-time camera shots overlook vast areas and will enable firefighters to confirm the locations and status of active wildfires, officials said.

"At the heart of this, we're going to make San Diego a safer place," said San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who represents District 4.

Roberts, who initiated the meeting of all the agencies two years ago, said this technology puts the county on the map.

"We were able to become the model for what they want to see developed nationwide and to develop a system that can be exported to all these other areas," Roberts said.

Roberts also said the new broadband network will be used in all kinds of emergencies in the county, not just wildfires.

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