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The grand challenge of restoring and improving urban infrastructure greatly impacts the world. In this broad topic, wildfires are a major component that affects populated areas and causes millions of dollars worth of damage. This report consists of the description of the destructive nature of wildfires and will detail statistics that show the increasing size and cost of fires in the U.S. Examples of devastating fires from recent times will be detailed, such as the Cedar and Tubbs fire.
The role of climate change and human actions in the increasing size and number of fires will be addressed. I will talk about how embers are the primary cause for the reason houses catch on fire.
The materials and structure of different homes will be shown. The three exposure conditions(radiation, direct flame contact, and embers) of how a house can be light on fire will elaborate. I will add the disaster sequences of multiple states to show how citizens are warned of an impending fire.
The health detriments from fires, like cardiovascular diseases will be explained. All the information above will encompass the first part in which the background of this grand challenge will be explained and why it needs to be addressed.
The next part of the paper will describe the solutions and engineering components that are being worked on in order to prevent or minimize the destruction and casualties of fires. Some solutions that I am thinking of talking about is the use of satellites and drones which are used to identify wildfires in their early stages so it can be controlled before it spreads.
Some solutions are made before the fire and are led by fire-protection engineers. The purpose of this paper is to show my perspective and the solutions that I believe will help to control and minimize this wildfire problem.
Wildfires around the world have caused an unimaginable amount of damage to property and human life. It is estimated that California has taken an economic loss of over 400 billion dollars from just the 2018 wildfires . This doesn’t take into account the other states or countries all over the world. With the loss of vegetation, there is also a serious threat of mudslides and flash floods .
Fires can also have long-lasting effects on the health of people near the fires. Wildfires emit enormous amounts of smog that can destroy the air quality and cloud the sky. They can cause cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and chronic asthma. This is a major issue in politics and motivates the engineers of today to search for solutions to help ease or eliminate the severity of wildfires [1,4,5].
Many colleges have a sector strictly dedicated to fire protection. Fire protection has various components from building fire alarms, designing buildings, and research on how fires are created and grow. Through this field, the grand challenge of advancing infrastructure is addressed. Fire protection engineers research the architecture and designs of houses and how certain materials or structures can help prevent or ease the damage caused by fires. This industry is growing as more large-scale fires are appearing. The increasing amount of wildfires also leads researchers and others to question the policies set in place by the government in infrastructure and the environment .
There are 3 ways that a building can catch on fire. These include radiation, direct flame contact, and embers. Radiation is the emission of energy from rays or waves through a fire. Direct flame contact is when the fire is directly touching the structure and results in the structure catching on fire. The most prominent cause of home ignition from wildfires is embers. These embers are dispersed by the wind and there are countless generated and will attach to the home and cause fires.
There are some solutions that have been found to reduce the damage of forest fires; however, there are some flaws to each. One of these solutions is an eco-friendly building material that can withstand the heat of fires and would not catch on fire. This would help decrease the damage of fires while also stopping the rapid spread of the flames. It is lighter, energy-efficient, soundproof, and is fire-resistant. This would seem like the perfect solution; however, it is not able to withstand earthquakes that run rampant in California where the majority of wildfires are . There are many unanswered questions and problems with fires; however, this gives engineers a greater motivation to solve these problems.
These technologies that will be detailed solve the grand challenge of restoring and improving urban infrastructure. To be more specific they address the topic of fire safety and protection within the infrastructure.
An example is VISD(Video Image Smoke Detection) technology which is able to identify smoke and flames through cameras which then are analyzed by computers. They execute highly complex algorithms to process video information to find small changes within the image. This system typically consists of 8 cameras that scan the area. 
If detected the alarm system is alerted. The pros of this technology is that it has a large scanning range which allows it to be used on outdoor spaces and large indoor facilities. The computer can also detect the severity of the fire through the brightness, contrast, and color of the smoke . This also eliminates false alarms which saves money and time. Another pro is that VSID’s only require a minimum amount of light and can also identify the fire at the source. This technology is continuously being improved as this is a significant problem. These improvements help to reduce maintenance, testing, and installation costs . The cons of this technology are that some of these systems are not able to work in the dark. This requires some sort of light that must be turned on at all times for the system to function. Another con is that due to the early stages of this invention there are limitations in the video processing technology. Due to this, there must be multiple cameras. This system is also extremely expensive and would not be practical for a regular homeowner. This system would be used to help engineers protect infrastructure from the dreadful effects of fires.
Another example is an Integrated Voice Evacuation and Messaging System. This system alerts occupants when a fire breaks out and gives instructions to them on what to do. These pre-recorded messages are customized to where the people are. Instead of the blazing fire alarms, this system plays fire evacuation plans and other information that will help the people react accordingly and safely.
The pros for this system is that it is compact and is able to give clear and concise instructions to people at times of crisis. Can be specific toward the person’s location and proximity to the fire. This system can respond in a fraction of a second and alert the building immediately which can result in the saving of lives. This system is easily integrated into any type of building. It can fit a range from small buildings to large campuses with numerous buildings. However, there are some cons for this system that can be identified. A con could be that during a time of emergency, this would not be useful as most people would be panicking and would not listen to the messages that are being announced. Another thing is that the messages may not be specific enough to the situation that is happening. The directions and plans may not match with what is happening and could be wrong. These systems could be used to improve and protect infrastructure from the disastrous effects of fire.
The final example of technology I have researched is sound wave fire extinguishers. These extinguishers distance themselves from the traditional chemical fire extinguishers and instead use sound waves to put out fires. This works by using mechanical pressure waves which are able to create vibrations and are able to separate the oxygen and the burning material. The sound could then be used to get rid of the oxygen and put out the fire.
There are countless numbers of pros to this technology. This extinguisher is chemical and water free and is does not leave any waste from the actual extinguisher as it only uses sound. The product will only cost around $600 which is not that expensive. This is ideal for home use as it is non-destructive. This invention is perfect and can be used in drones where they then could be used during wildfires and would keep our firefighters safe. A con of this invention is that it only able to work on small fires because it does not contain a coolant. This is because larger fires can reignite on other surfaces. This could also be considered too heavy as it is 9kg and may not be able to be handled by a woman or a child. Another con is that this is only in the prototype stage and is not being sold commercially yet.
The first technology solution effectively solves the grand challenge of improving urban infrastructure as VISD(Video Image Smoke Detection) helps improve the safety of buildings that mount this system. This addition could save or reduce damage to structures and may save lives. With the traditional smoke detectors, there can be several false alarms and they can easily malfunction. These devices may determine your life in case of an emergency; therefore, we must ensure that they are accurate and operate as built. Although VISD are not 100% accurate they are more reliable than the common smoke detector.
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