Lake Tahoe Basin End Warning System and Bi-state Next Gen 911 Dispatch and Traffic Management Center

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Lake Tahoe Basin End Warning System and Bi-state Next Gen 911 Dispatch and Traffic Management Center
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Lake Tahoe Basin End Warning System
Team Organizations Waycare
Team Leaders Danielle Hughes
Participating Municipalities Tahoe


The Lake Tahoe Basin End Warning Systems, will provide a cross-jurisdictional system that emergency managers will use to improve performance, while providing predictive insights and more connectivity between first responders, traffic and transit operations, and the public. The system will integrate Smart Street lights, SaS, and publicly available datasets to provide a better understanding of visitors in the Lake Tahoe Basin including travel movements and duration of stay, emergency roadway issues including closures or hazards caused by landslides, fires, toxic spills, avalanches, tree falls, and power outages. These criteria will be considered for real-time detection and notification systems and reduction in secondary incidents.

First responders and transportation agencies of the Lake Tahoe and Truckee region would also like to develop a Bi-State preliminary exploratory study of a consolidated command center for dispatch services of fire and emergency services with an integrated traffic management center that is consistent with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)


Communications to the Lake Tahoe Basin is extremely difficult due to the topography in the area. Microwave communications have limited success beyond a few miles due to the direct line of sight requirements needed for point-to-multipoint (PtMP) systems. Most microwave systems may need to be higher than the tree lines for effective communications. The use of fiber optic communications is limited or non-existent for center-to-center (C2C) communications. California and Nevada’s radio systems do not provide adequate coverage for first responders, additionally significant interference occurs in certain areas.

Through a collaborative effort the Tahoe Transportation District’s 2016 Linking Tahoe Corridor Connection Plan (LTCCP) and Transit Master Plan identified that cross jurisdictional Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) and information and communication technology are critically needed to decrease accidents and congestion, improve response times, and provide traveler information. Cellular data analysis indicated approximately 19.5 million to 29 million visitors enter the Tahoe Basin in any given year (58% overnight, 42% day use) with the majority of visitors accessing the region on primarily a two lane mountain highway system. Most communities in the Tahoe Basin are in the wildland-urban interface and are considered to be a “Communities At Risk” susceptible to wildfire and the growth in visitation that is expected from the growing metropolitan of the Sierra Pacific Megaregion, extending from the San Francisco Bay Area to Reno that drive to Lake Tahoe to enjoy its world-class recreation opportunities only exacerbates that risk. Extreme weather associated with an increase in winter recreation travel and increase in visitation demand as valley temperatures rise a means a significant number of people present in the Basin who are unfamiliar with the regional driving safety requirements, evacuation protocols, routes, and ability to access information during a catastrophic event.


Following the Angora Fire, the bi-state Blue Ribbon Commission developed recommendations, many of which have been implemented and many more are still under way (2017 update report). Most notable is the continued commitment at the leadership level supporting a cooperative environment in aspects of emergency response. One shortcoming remaining in regional interoperations is the large number of dispatch centers servicing the region. There are five dispatch or command centers providing emergency services across this region. Some centers are primary, and others are secondary (Public Safety Answering Points PSAP) using several different Computer-Assisted Dispatch (CAD) platforms with limited ability to transfer emergency calls from CAD to CAD. This leads to phone transfers of emergency callers often multiple times, leading to duplicate dispatches, increased call taking times and uncoordinated responses. These practices are also not in alignment with the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch’s best practices or Finding 42 of The Emergency California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission Report (2008) identified as “Interagency communications during wildland fire occurrences is at times delayed and confusing.”

To work around these issues for the past several years, a number of local fire agencies implemented Incident View software on their mobile data computers (MDCs). This inexpensive multi-platform response software allows for the sharing of incident-critical GIS data, mobile vehicle location information, and call routing of the closest resources between agencies from different jurisdictions, dispatch systems, and incompatible Computer-Assisted Dispatch (CAD). Given the trends in the number and scale of catastrophic wildfires in the west and the continuing increase in calls for medical and law enforcement responses, and the time for improved, more efficient consolidated dispatch and traffic management is now.

Additionally, a FEMA grant request has been submitted to develop a SaS interoperability system to provide emergency managers improved performance, while providing predictive insights and more connectivity between first responders, traffic and transit operations, and the public. The system will integrate publicly available datasets to provide a better understanding of visitors in the Lake Tahoe Basin including travel movements and duration of stay, emergency roadway issues including closures or hazards caused by landslides, fires, toxic spills, avalanches, tree falls, and power outages. As wildland fire is the biggest risk in the Tahoe Basin, further benefits will include early notification of wildland fire through the Alert Tahoe Camera system that will allow fires to be pinpointed and relayed back into the end warning system. Additionally, a Linking Tahoe application will provide location information to direct the public to defibrillators placed throughout public areas within the Basin. The overall development of the application will be phased with the first phase focusing on emergency applications and a future phase for Travel Demand Management within the Tahoe Basin. Currently, emergency managers use the bed base count to establish resource allocation and response priorities which provides inaccurate counts of the actual number of people present in the basin and no sense of real-time information, new data sources and more accurate visitor information are necessary to provide accurate analytics and allocation of resources both for transportation and emergency services.

Smart street lights will be utilized for housing a variety of end warning systems and to provide input to public agencies for overall situational awareness that can influence disaster management and evacuations. Public notifications and overall public agency situational awareness input would include: audio speakers, siren warning systems, dynamic message boards, outdoor acoustic sensors, weather sensors, camera systems, and lights to influence directional traffic flows in the event of evacuations. The devices will also be built with redundancies in their ability to relay information back to the public and provide reduction in secondary incidents. Public reliance on cellular networks has been known for some time to effect disaster management and public communication as proven in Hurricane Katrina (2005) where over 1,000 cellular sites were destroyed. Twelve years later, the Santa Rosa Firestorm (2017) again proved that cellular networks cannot be solely relied upon in disaster management and mitigation. The smart street lights will be interconnected with the ability to adjust to failures in the overall communication system and improve the delivery of end warnings to the public through artificial intelligence. Siren systems will provide redundancy in the event of telecommunication failures or where no home service is available. Another aspect of the project scope is to provide a simple way to communicate locations, which is critical in effective disaster response, search and rescue, and communicating with the public. Street addresses are commonly insufficiently accurate for rescue purposes, become irrelevant when buildings and streets are reduced to rubble, or when the public is located in a remote recreation area. GPS coordinates provide accurate and universal location information, but the long strings of numbers are difficult to communicate and prone to human error. Just one number typed incorrectly in a text message or misheard over the phone could send a response team to search for survivors or respond to an incident in the completely wrong location. “What3words” provides a proprietary product that uses a global grid of 3m x 3m squares where each square has been pre-allocated a fixed and unique three-word address. Words are easier to remember and communicate, and they are less prone to error. The system works offline and in multiple languages. In the immediate aftermath of the Mexico City earthquake, the Government of Mexico worked with Infinitum Humanitarian Systems (IHS) to convert collected GPS coordinates for collapsed buildings, trapped people, and street-side aid stations to three-word addresses so they could be used by teams on the ground. “What3words” technology can be quickly mobilized and used in situations where the destruction of regular infrastructure makes regular addresses and landmarks impossible to use. The project scope will include “What3words” in the situational aspects of the regional software platform discussed in the next paragraph.

The project intent will address the important aspects of disaster pre-mitigation. The early warning system found in the proposed regional Software-as-a-Service application will prepare the public and response agencies prior to the disaster occurring, thereby decreasing response lag time and efficiency. Linkages to way-finding, transit, traffic, construction, and tourism-related information will be utilized to assure the visitor is interested in and directed towards utilizing the application for push notifications and warning systems. Information sharing approach including electronic dynamic message boards, education, and other methods of outreach will occur to assure the system reaches the public will be a part of the proposed project. The software application is to be the information hub for the Lake Tahoe Basin as visitors are unaware of regional systems and don’t typically sign up for county warning systems as they have no residential property interests. The application will be tied to each county’s warning system to assure cross-jurisdictional coordination and information sharing with the visitor. Additionally, the application will inform the public how to access transit for high-risk communities and will be utilized for emergency coordination of the public and first responders in time of needed evacuation support. The number of people (370) who were rescued by transit in the 2017 Santa Rosa fire provided evidence that transit, transportation, and emergency coordination needs improvement.

Major Requirements

Multiple solutions are proposed:

  1. DHS recently approved a preliminary study for a regional 911 dispatch through a request from CalOES which will kick-off shortly
  2. A grant request for FEMA funding through CalOES was also submitted to develop an End Warning System and Interoperability Platform and Smart Street lights for connectivity and sensors for a Smart Cities solution for the Tahoe Basin. Additional funding request was made to expand the system after the Camp Fire.
  3. Both of these solutions will require extensive bandwidth both cellular and fiber optics are needed for a well-planned resilient and redundant network to meet the visitation demand and maintain connectivity in the event of wildfire. In the long-term solutions will need solar and battery back-up systems.
  4. Public and Agency Engagement – The project will require extensive public outreach and agency input to assure the solutions are successful. Several agreements and protocols will need to be developed to manage operations and maintenance of the systems.
  5. Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics

Performance Targets

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Measurement Methods

Actual KPIs will be developed through a project delivery team after kick-off it is expected that they will include the following:

  • EMS response times
  • Crash data density and 30/60/90 performance improvements
  • DOT maintenance and FSP improvements

Response time and data density comparisons of historical datasets and new data sets

Standards, Replicability, Scalability, and Sustainability

Nevada DOT, Highway Patrol, and the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada are implementing the SaS platform proposed that was integrated with the RTC’s ITS system, and Nevada is testing expansion of the system statewide, we will build off of lessons learned and develop the aspects that are necessary to implement solutions in a rural area. Southern Nevada’s initial findings have shown an improvement of 10 to 15 minutes in incident response time in just a few months’ time prior to the artificial intelligence aspects of the system. We will work with other jurisdictions to expand the system and develop strategies to incorporate the communication system through lease agreements to maintain long-term operability of the system.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

While it is difficult to fully anticipate the integration details until the project is funded, it is expected that the data will be maintained and stored on a dedicated secure cloud based data warehouse which will remove the need for IT infrastructure maintenance and will minimize bring-up and long term maintenance costs, all inter agency and cross agency communication will be done internally in using proprietary internal interfaces to the system and collaboration between the various systems will be handled through seamless secure encrypted communication using RESTful APIs.


  • Reduction in response time and loss of life
  • Improved quality of life, decrease risk of natural disaster


DHS Regional Dispatch Preliminary Study expected to be kicked off prior to July If funded, Interoperability and Smart Street lights project expected to be in planning and agreements phase.

In segment Public Safety

Year Started 2019