University of California San Diego is launching a new public safety program that utilizes over 1000 camera sensors across the Golden State.

UCSD said ALERTCalifornia, which was rolled out Wednesday, will provide tools to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters like wildfires, landslides and floods.

Officials explained that this program manages “pan-tilt-zoom wildfire monitoring cameras” and sensor arrays that will collect data and real-time information to help advise public safety.

Scientists will analyze the data to gain a better understanding of the long-term impacts natural disasters have on air quality, water quality, soil quality and human health in California, UCSD said.

“The program will spawn invaluable research and mitigation plans that will increase the state’s resiliency towards the new extreme fire risk,” said Neal Driscoll, director of ALERTCalifornia and geoscientist at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “Data acquired in the highest fire-threat regions will significantly empower firefighters, first responders, legislators, city planners and scientists for years to come.”

To enhance safety, officials at AlertCalifornia say they will work closely with partners and collaborators like the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to get necessary feedback.

ALERTCalifornia tripod camera installation Santa Monica, CA
Crews install a temporary camera tripod platform near Santa Monica, CA. These small, temporary platforms that are easily erected and can be removed seasonally, officials said. (Credit: ALERTCalifornia | UC San Diego | Andrew Jorgensen)

“The benefits of UC San Diego’s ALERTCalifornia program are many,” said CAL FIRE San Diego County Unit Chief Tony Mecham. “They fit well in the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy by enhancing community wildfire resiliency, forest health monitoring, public outreach, as well as providing crucial early situational awareness for aggressive fire response.” 

ALERTCalifornia says it also created camera command and control centers and trained first responders at the local, regional, state and federal government levels to efficiently use the cameras. 

UCSD explained that this tool goes beyond just wildfire monitoring. Officials say the live feeds were recently used to monitor the record-breaking Sierra Nevada snowpack, statewide flooding, landslide hazards and road conditions associated with the atmospheric rivers that hammered the state starting in December 2022.

This camera technology can be viewed by all Californians 24/7 by visiting the program’s live cam webpage. You can select an area near you by simply zooming in on the state map a choosing which cam you’d like to view.

As of May 2023, UCSD confirmed ALERTCalifornia’s drone and aircraft teams have collected 30,000 square miles of high-density LiDAR (light detection and ranging) and multispectral data of all of California’s “elevated risk” and “extreme risk” fire threat regions.