The SSDE tool uses an adaptive algorithm to calculate SSD. This algorithm is based on the standard safety zone calculation of 4 x vegetation height, but additionally accounts for local wind, slope and burning conditions (Δ).
- SSD: Safe Separation Distance
- VH: Vegetation Height
- Δ: Wind Speed, Terrain Slope, Burning Condition factor
SSDE is designed to be used by fire professionals who possess some familiarity with GIS mapping technology and some knowledge of the principles and procedures of wildland firefighter safety.
We envision the SSDE being of broad interest to the wildland fire community, from fire scientists to incident management personnel to wildland firefighters. Its open-access nature allows anyone to explore, examine, and interact with the concepts of safety zones and SSD. Even if not used in an operational context, there is great value in being able to quickly and easily examine the conditions that define potential safety zone suitability on a broad spatial scale. Wildland firefighters designate safety zones daily as a part of their fire management duties. Built into this designation process is an inherent degree of subjectivity that can result in differences in the interpretation of safety zone suitability between and among crews. By using an objective tool for safety zone suitability analysis that can be broadly applied in the US, fire crews across the country can increase the consistency and reliability of the safety zone evaluation process.
Safety zones are fundamental tools that can be used by wildland firefighters to avoid injury or fatality when engaging in wildland fire operations. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) recommends that a safety zone be defined as a pre-planned area of sufficient size and suitable location that is expected to prevent injury to fire personnel from known hazards without using fire shelters. Effective safety zones provide safe separation distance (SSD) from surrounding flames, ensuring that the surrounding heat cannot cause burn injury. We introduce a new online tool for mapping SSD based on vegetation height, terrain, wind speed, and burning conditions: the Safe Separation Distance Evaluator (SSDE).