May 30, 2005
Fire Exercise Allows HPWREN to Work with CDF and San Diego Sheriff's Department for Airdrop-Based Network Relay Installation Demonstration
With the summer fire season fast approaching, multiple agencies recently teamed for a Wildland Readiness Exercise at Lake Hodges. Among the activities were helicopter water drops, hose lay, shelter deployment, dozer operations, and incident support. The air drops involved helicopters of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the San Diego Sheriff's Department, and the US Navy in a joint operation. The primary objective of the HPWREN participation was to practice a helicopter-based deployment of an ad-hoc data communications relay site.
This activity was part of the ongoing collaboration between HPWREN and the CDF. A significant planning meeting with the exercise leadership took place at the CDF air base in Ramona a week prior to the event.
Prior to the exercise, the first implementation step included equipment installation at the Mt. Woodson HPWREN backbone site, to support communications with the Lake Hodges location. On May 23rd, the team consisting of HPWREN staff, SDSU Field Station Programs collaborators and a volunteer prepared the equipment to be airlifted by a San Diego Sheriff's Department helicopter to the relay site.
Installing the equipment was preceded by an aerial survey of the deployment site, to determine the exact location, followed by dropping off team members on the hilltop. The landing site was a narrow trail near the lake.
With some members of the HPWREN team already on the hilltop, others participated in the preparation for the airlift itself. When the equipment arrived at the deployment site, CDF staff guided the helicopter's approach, as well as a tag line for the cargo.
The fully installed ad-hoc relay site included the radio equipment, a 10Hz 3D sonic anemometer, and a 360 degree three megapixel digital network camera. The relay provided the connection between the Mt. Woodson HPWREN site and the CDF Emergency Operations Support Mobile Communications Center at the exercise location, and was demonstrated to various agency staff.
In addition, the SDSU FSP staff demonstrated a real-time fire sensor which triggers on fire incidents, and is able to distribute event and azimuth information based on ten degree sectors. More information about this activity can be found in SDSU's fire sensor summary and at the Field Station Programs web site.
With a successful deployment on May 23, the equipment was left in place overnight, with an extraction plan for May 24.
A Sheriff's helicopter was also used on May 24 to extract the equipment, and CDF staff was again at the relay site for support. The helicopter was flown by different pilots for the installation and removal of the equipment.
"Your team has done a fantastic job developing the package into a nearly self-contained and readily deployable by air system," said Steve Shoemaker, CDF Fire Captain, Gillespie Helitack Base. "With many of the suggested changes and additions, the system continues to become more user friendly. I also appreciate the inter-agency approach to the mission: HPWREN/SDSO/CDF."
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