Cal OES Partnership with Google Helps Empower Californians with New Wildfire Maps

Google announced Thursday that it will offer more information on wildfires when people search for them on the its home page and maps app. It’s an update that arrives just as California and Colorado wage wars on wildfires.

The wildfire information is expected to be updated hourly, and comes with layers of detail such as traffic and public alerts that can be toggled on or off. The data driving this interactive map comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) as well as other satellite imagery.

At Cal OES, we take a proactive approach to addressing threats like wildfires. That includes maintaining a state of readiness, promoting emergency preparedness and working with partners, public and private, to solve known problems. One problem emergency responders have historically had with wildfires is being able to share useful, updated information at scale to all the people who need it. A wildfire can change direction at a moment’s notice. It can cross roads, force evacuations and closures, and present new dangers by the minute.  How can we help people know exactly where a wildfire is happening and how can we provide millions of people with accurate, helpful information about how to stay safe and all the resources available to them? Working with Google has given us the opportunity to broadcast helpful information about wildfires at scale, which is critical for the community when a blaze is nearby. With authoritative information about wildfires in Search and Maps, we’re able to help people where they are. We know people are going to Google Search to get more information in times of crisis and that so many people rely on Maps to help get them from A to B safely.

Abby Browning

Abby Browning, chief of the Cal OES Office of Private Sector/NGO Coordination, told CNET:

“The best thing to calm everyone is information. It gives people more of a sense of control of what’s going on around them.”

The CNET article goes on to say Google could also work with California state officials beyond the map features. The company has had discussions with the governor’s office about embedding Google employees in its state operation center to be better connected with those teams.

In the Cal OES partnership with Google, one thing Ms. Browning took away was their eagerness to hear from emergency response organizations about the types of information that could be most helpful for people when a wildfire is happening.  Being able to have a direct line of feedback and so clearly see our input, and information, reflected in this new Search and Maps wildfire mapping feature gives us the confidence that millions of people now have better access to truly helpful information in real times of need.