Fighting fire with cameras

Thousands of deliberate fires are recorded by fire and rescue services every year. Arsonists set fire not just to forests, but also to landfills, bins and parked cars, causing critical damage to the environment and putting the safety of citizens at risk.

During 2007-2011 alone, an estimated 282,600 intentional fires per year were reported to U.S. fire departments, with associated annual losses of 420 civilian deaths, 1,360 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage.

In 2016, the German police registered 19,213 cases of arson and people causing a fire hazard.

These statistics call for truly effective strategies and countermeasures in order to face such a tough threat. Cameras can play a role in this.

Detecting wildfires

Smart cities increasingly use intelligent network video surveillance systems and other IoT technologies to power state-of-the-art solutions for a range of scenarios as already discussed in a previous post. Our partner Libelium has developed a new solution enabling cities to build future smart city applications and services with environmental sensors. Connected cameras and sensors can not only help detect fires more quickly; as pyromaniacs tend to stay near the fire scene to assist the burning, cameras also become a useful forensic tool for crime investigation.

When it comes to forest fires and wildfires, the task is a lot harder, but accurate detection is crucial in giving rescue forces the chance to respond rapidly. Intelligent sensors installed in different areas of the forest can deliver useful information when a fire is started, while network cameras provide a detailed overview of the scene, helping emergency services to better assess the exact position and ferocity of the fire.

Focus on landfill fires and smart waste bins

When waste disposed in a landfill is burned, it spreads toxic fumes that can cause serious harm to the city environment and to people living in the surrounding areas. Even in remote areas of a city that cannot rely on available power sources, local governments can deploy network video cameras that run on internal batteries to record and broadcast images over the 4G network in order to help police forces identify transgressors.

Waste collection, pick-up and separation processes in smart cities can also be improved through the use of wireless sensors installed on bins. These are not only capable of measuring and forecasting the fill level of containers to help organize a more efficient service, they also send alarms in cases of tampering or vandalism of any kind, including fires. With network cameras monitoring the scene, pyromaniacs might want to think twice before setting fire to a waste container.

In a fire, of course temperature is the big variable. Temperature alarm cameras can ensure excellent remote monitoring of fire hazard areas such as power-generating facilities or industrial processes involving self-igniting materials, and trigger alarms if the temperature goes beyond the set limit or when it simply increases too quickly.

Whether it is pyromania or vandalism: thanks to intelligent solutions provided by network cameras and intelligent sensors working in tandem, fire is a challenge that smart cities can now manage better.