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Getting Ahead of Fire Risk

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Risk Strategies’ Jeff Kaplan attends an event presenting Pano AI technology to the public at the Big Sky Fire Department. PHOTO COURTESY OF RISK STRATEGIES

Risk Strategies supports local AI technology to catch disaster before it strikes


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BIG SKY—When the Shedhorn Fire broke out in Big Sky back in September of 2021, it was a small camera at the top of Lone Mountain that first detected the plume of smoke from 13 miles away. The camera was a recently installed Pano AI Wildfire Detection System, a pilot program for the technology, and in a drought-stricken West, it may have saved houses and lives from potential disaster.

Risk Strategies, one of the top 10 privately held insurance brokerage firms in the country who serves the Big Sky community, has embraced this technology as a part of their strategy to mitigate risk for their clients’ homes and businesses. These high-definition cameras are able to detect and triangulate smoke within a 15-mile radius with the support of the T-Mobile 5G network.

“We are proud to share and support the leading edge technology,” says Jeff Kaplan, senior VP vice president at Risk Strategies. “While ideally we mitigate fire risk before they start, its ability to detect fires early on keeps them manageable, protecting properties and people in the Big Sky area.”

Pano AI uses a 360-degree camera system with 30x tactical zoom to constantly scan for signs of wildfire.

Once the AI camera detects smoke, it sends an alert back to a 24/7 Pano AI intelligence center, where experts analyze the data, determine if it’s a fire incident, and notify the local fire department. This allows for early detection and accurate location identification so that resources can be dispatched promptly.

With the help of air crews, 41 firefighters and two 20-person hand crews, the Shedhorn Fire was contained at 74 acres after took two days to contain to 74 acres, and ultimately extinguished. It caused no damage to surrounding homes or structures—a response time and result that many would like to maintain here, including Risk Strategies, which is why they support the efforts of these cameras.

Founded in 1997, Risk Strategies has evolved into a specialty insurance broker with a team of experts across the country over its 25 years of life. They have ample knowledge in mitigating risk and are proud to apply that expertise to the community here in southwest Montana. From past disasters, their team, including Yale Rosen and Tom Beattie here in Big Sky and Bozeman, know that you can engineer buildings to withstand hurricane winds, floods and most natural disasters. However, just because a structure survives a large wildfire for example, that doesn’t mean it was spared from harm.

“What we learned in the California wildfires was that even if the property as not damaged by fire it was damaged by the ongoing smoke from large, nearby fires,” says Rosen. “The key here is to keep fire and smoke as far away as possible while still doing everything you can to engineer your property against direct fire.”

As part of the Pano AI pilot program, the company has installed more than 20 camera stations across Colorado, California, Oregon and Montana—locations that are determined as high-risk for fire. This October, they expanded their coverage in Big Ssky, adding a second camera nestled on Pioneer Mountain, and are considering adding a third station on Cinnamon Ridge in 2023.

The community is no stranger to, andto and has not ignored the threat of wildfire. Alongside forest and fuel management, fire safety education and a dedicated fire department, Big Sky can further benefit from AI technology in catching fires quickly once they break out making us, and our belongings, a little safer in the place we love.

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