Switch on these wildfire protection tech tools
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), there were 57,000 wildfires in the U.S. last year that burned 10 million acres of land. This is an increase of 14% compared to 2019 data and nearly double the number of acres burned. There is little doubt that wildfires have a devastating impact on communities. Preventing, preparing, and recovering from wildfire requires both immediate and long-term solutions.
State Farm® is using technology to help homeowners better prepare and recover from the devastating impact of wildfires. These new tech tools - a sensor, an app, and your smartphone - places the power of preparation in the palm of consumers’ hands. Currently, 4.5 million U.S. homes are identified as being at high risk of wildfire. This makes the technology and wildfire preparation tools even more critical.
Ting is a plug-in device and smartphone app produced by Whisker Labs, a company specializing in fire safety using advanced technology to monitor electrical systems in the home and on the electrical utility grid.
The device is the size of a plug-in night light and can offer protection from electrical fires. Once plugged into a home electrical outlet, Ting is on the lookout for unique signals that are indicative of an electrical problem that could lead to a home fire. These signals can originate from loose connections, damaged wires or faulty devices and appliances, or from faults on the grid. If Ting detects anything unusual, it sends a notification to the customer’s mobile phone while also notifying the Whisker Labs’ monitoring center.
Electrical fires are responsible for originating 13% of all U.S. home fires, with an annual cost of $1.3 billion (National Fire Protection Association 2019 Survey). That’s an alarming statistic. While Ting can help detect electrical fire hazards in the home, it can also help detect wildfire ignition risks from the grid. The device can detect signals from malfunctions or fluctuations on the grid that indicate the risk of a fault or larger arcing event. A common example is electrical transformers that are typically installed outside the home to reduce the high-voltage supply from the grid into the low-voltage needed for a residence. When transformers work well, we don’t notice them. It’s a different story when they begin to experience issues and fail to operate correctly, or simply fail outright (Ting). These faults can cause safety issues, fire hazards, and damage to devices inside your home or produce sparks that could trigger a wildfire and potentially put other structures at risk.
Last summer, Whisker Labs helped launch a significant distribution program in partnership with State Farm. Eligible State Farm customers in Arizona, California, and Texas received Ting for free by simply enrolling online. In May, Whisker Labs announced 40,000 Ting devices had been distributed. Expansion to more customers in more states is planned in 2021.
IBHS Wildfire Ready App
Living in the era of apps, it is logical that the second new tool in a homeowners’ wildfire mitigation toolbox comes in app form. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is one of the leading sources in the science of catastrophes. Leveraging their latest research, the goal of their new Wildfire Ready Virtual app is to help homeowners prepare their homes for a wildfire. The app uses augmented reality so that once you point your smartphone at your home, you can “see” the weak points. It also walks you through specific do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, including remodeling tips to make your home more fire resistant.
State Farm participated in the development of this app that you can download and try for yourself anytime (download for Apple or Android phones). Motivated to do even more? Check these extra wildfire protection tips in the IBHS Wildfire Ready Guide.
Unfortunately, there will be instances where despite preparation efforts, a wildfire may destroy your home. Recovering from such a devastating event is difficult but technology can help. This is where the third tech tool, your smartphone, takes center stage. A home inventory can show visual proof of what was in your home before it was damaged or destroyed. To this effect, the storytelling capabilities of today’s smartphones are a great ally.
A simple way to do a home inventory is to walk through each room of your home, taking pictures and videos of everything in it. Don’t forget to also step outside and take images of the structure and everything around it.
Let me introduce you to Mary. In this video she tells us the story of losing her home to a wildfire in Santa Barbara. No one better than her and her agent, Irene, to give us a home inventory 101.
So switch on these tech tools and take your wildfire safety to a whole new level.