SDIS 64 flood prevention in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department thanks to the vigicrues 64 and vortex-io networks

Partnership with the SDIS 64 fire department: deployment of the first two vorteX-io micro-stations

Last week, the vorteX-io news was particularly rich since the day before our presence at the Atlantica trade show in Niort, followed by our participation in the Rendez-vous Carnot in Paris, part of the team was in Pau, prefecture of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the south of France.

We had an appointment with the teams of colonel Alain Boulou, departmental director of the SDIS 64 (Service Départemental d’Incendie et de Secours) in order to initiate effective collaboration between vorteX-io and the fire departments of the Bearn and the Basque Country, in charge of Natural and Technological Risk Prevention and Civil Security.

The challenge and the means to meet it

Located in the french southern Nouvelle Aquitaine region and geographically bordered on its western side by some 35 kilometers of Atlantic coastline and to the south by the Pyrenean mountain range, the territory of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques covers an area of 7,645 km2. The SDIS 64 team must therefore ensure the prevention and surveillance of a huge and sometimes complex territory and have to master all types of interventions in various environments: ocean, plain, urban areas, medium and high mountains. By definition, this diversity of environments is submitted to changing and sometimes extreme climatic conditions throughout the year.
To meet the huge challenge that make up the daily life of the department’s firefighters, an awesome team is needed. Thus, nearly 2,500 people work for the SDIS 64: 503 professional firefighters, 1,865 volunteer firefighters and 105 administrative and technical staff.
While this well-oiled multidisciplinary team is prepared for any eventuality, it is always on the lookout for any innovations that could enhance its decision-making and operational effectiveness.
Driven by this desire to remain constantly at the cutting edge, the SDIS 64 command quickly showed a real interest in the services offered by vorteX-io regarding the flood-drought risk prevention.

The “firemen + start-up” partnership

During the exchanges, the idea of a collaboration was quickly born: a win-win relationship where each entity gives the other the benefit of its expertise.
On the vorteX-io side, it is a matter of providing the firefighters of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques with historical and real time data that will help them accomplish their missions in the best possible way via the platform MAELSTROM®.
In return, the SDIS 64, with its perfect knowledge of the terrain, determines the best location for the deployment of micro-stations, at the most relevant and strategic points of the territory, on the main sensitive sites and waterways at risk.

On October 10, 2022, this partnership became a reality with the installation of the first two vorteX-io micro-stations above the Saleys River. This stream, under constant surveillance, is regularly involved in devastating floods.

Deployment in less than two hours

Thus, the choice was made by the Risk Management Group, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Christophe Mourgues, to install the first micro-station on a bridge spanning the Saleys River in the commune of Salies-de-Béarn, which was the victim of a flooding episode in June 2018.
The second micro-station was deployed above the same watercourse, about ten kilometers upstream from the first, on the territory of the municipality of l’Hôpital d’Orion.
This rapid deployment (1h 55 min in total for the 2 stations) and the instant availability of the measurements on the web platform now allows to monitor the two communes in real time and continuously. In addition, the gap between the two sensors (several hours at water flow speed) also makes it possible to trigger early warning notifications, giving firefighters a decisive head start of several hours to deploy their emergency response capabilities: professional and volunteer personnel, vehicles, equipment, logistics, evacuation of populations, etc.
This is the whole point of the turnkey service deployed by vorteX-io in terms of flood risk prevention: the notion of a constellation of in-situ communicating sensors makes it possible to have extremely sharp supervision of the situation throughout extended territories.

Vigicrues 64 and vorteX-io: the complementary networks

At the departmental level, the deployment of the vorteX-io micro-station service is intended to complement the measurements provided by the thirty or so stations of the Vigicrues public network already active in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques area. All the data collected in real time by the two networks and available via the MAELSTROM® hydrological platform, will allow within a few months to mesh the Bearn and the French Basque Country in order to ensure a particularly effective monitoring.

Hydrological data at the heart of the process

Beyond the material innovations from the space domain developed by vorteX-io and embedded in its micro-stations, the members of the SDIS 64 command immediately understood the benefits represented by the other side of vorteX-io’s solutions: hydrological data.
The operational efficiency of emergency services depends on the ability to make rational, quick and coordinated decisions. The MAELSTROM® platform enables this large-scale monitoring. By providing particularly reliable indicators based on accurate and up-to-date local hydrological data, it will facilitate strategic decision making in addition to the irreplaceable experience acquired over the years in the field by these emergency professionals.

The next steps

This partnership between the SDIS 64 firefighters and vorteX-io opens up new perspectives in terms of population protection and prevention of water-related natural risks. These first two micro-stations deployed on the territory will be quickly completed by others and, eventually, several dozen vorteX-io sensors will cover the entire department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques.
Soon, the MAELSTROM® hydrological platform will be displayed on one of the control screens in the SDIS 64 operational command room, allowing firefighters to monitor in real time all the rivers at risk in the department.
Discussions are already ongoing between vorteX-io and other french fire departments, and let’s hope that this first partnership will be the first of many others.

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