AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Friday Briefing: Drones Utilized to Plant Trees Across California Wildfire Burn Scars

Emergency and disaster management briefing for December 4, 2020: An average 8% rate hike will take effect on March 1 for California PG&E customers; four wildfires broke out amid Red Flag Warnings across Southern California; drones are being utilized to help plant trees in wildfire burn scars in California; an emergency communications system for the Department of Health was hacked in Florida; CISA warns of cyberattack threats to cold storage businesses involved in COVID-19 storage and transportation; the CDC Advisory Panel recommends healthcare workers — and nursing home residents — be first to receive coronavirus vaccinations; a small plane made an emergency landing on I-35W in Minnesota; START is asking for help from first responders involved in their organization’s COVID-19 response.

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1. A rate hike of an average of 8% by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is on tap for its customers in California. The rate hike was approved Thursday and will help the company pay for equipment upgrades in an effort to reduce the risk of outdated equipment starting a wildfire. According to PG&E, the additional funds will be used to finance grid improvements, bolster tree trimming around equipment, and decreasing the scope of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) imposed during severe fire weather or Red Flag Warnings.

2. The Red Flag Warning issued for a large swath of Southern California remains in effect for many areas until Saturday. Santa Ana winds have sparked at least four wildfires, one of which is threatening homes in San Diego. Area fire officials are asking residents to be sure they have an emergency fire evacuation plan in place and to monitor area alerts for updated information regarding wildfires.

3. Wildfires devastate vast amounts of forests, and replanting saplings and seeds by hand takes months or years. To assist with the process, drones are being utilized to plant seed vessels across burn scars of recent wildfires in California, including the August Complex Fire and Oregon’s Holiday Farm Fire. The drones fly pre-programmed routes together in swarms of five and are able to cover up to 50 acres a day, while a tree planter can cover only about two acres a day.

4. The emergency communication system was hacked at the Florida Department of Health in early November. Members of the State Emergency Response Team were the recipients of the unauthorized message. Officials revealed that the hacker was able to send an unauthorized message to the group, Emergency Support Function 8. This organization is led by the Department of Health and coordinates public health and medicine response in emergencies.

5. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a warning Thursday regarding cyberattacks aimed at the COVID-19 cold team. The cold team refers to those businesses operating the supply chain that ensures the proper storage and delivery temperature of the new vaccine. According to the warning, the attacks are first perpetrated by sending phishing or spearphishing emails to harvest account credentials of executives and global organizations involved in the transportation and storage industries involved for the vaccine.

6. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering authorizing the emergency use of two vaccines later this month. The vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna, require two doses to be effective, and there are reportedly only to be about 20 million doses of each vaccine by the end of the year. Prioritizing those who should receive the vaccine is crucial, with majority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices believing that healthcare workers — along with nursing home residents — should be the first to receive the vaccination.

7. Just after takeoff, a small, single engine plane lost power and made an emergency landing on a Minnesota highway Wednesday night. Two people were onboard the Bellanca Viking aircraft when it landed ahead of two vehicles on I-35W in the Twin Cities, before hitting an SUV. No one was injured in the plane, and the driver of the SUV was unharmed. However, both the SUV and the aircraft were severely damaged.

8. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) is asking for help from first responders who were involved with their organization’s response to COVID-19. The group is seeking to measure the impact of the virus, then identify and share best practices for current now, while seeking ways to improve responses to future pandemics among first responder organizations. The short questionnaire is open to anyone who fits the criteria, and more information can be found on the START website.

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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