The Cost-Effectiveness of Satellite Earth Observations to Inform a Post-Wildfire Response
This study demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of using satellite imagery to assess burned areas and prioritize response measures after a wildfire; it shows that, by using Landsat imagery, federal agencies can save up to $7.7 million per year in post-fire costs.
- Wildfires continue to affect human and natural systems well after they are contained.
- Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) is a federal program that identifies post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property, and critical natural or cultural resources.
- Using satellite imagery to input burn severity information into the BAER program can yield cost savings of up to $35 million over a five-year period.
We use a value of information (VOI) approach to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of using satellite imagery as part of Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER), a federal program that identifies imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property, and critical natural or cultural resources. We compare the costs associated with the production of a Burn Area Reflectance Classification (BARC) map and implementation of a BAER response when imagery from satellites (either Landsat or a commercial satellite) is available to the costs of BARC map production and BAER response when the BAER team relies on information collected solely by aerial reconnaissance. The case study includes two evaluations with and without BARC products: (a) costs and cost savings for a specific wildfire incident request and (b) costs and cost savings of a multi-incident BARC map production program. In both cases, satellite imagery, and in particular, Landsat is the most cost-effective way to input burn severity information into the BAER program, with cost savings of up to $35 million over a five-year period.
Richard L. Bernknopf
Richard L. Bernknopf is a a visiting research fellow at RFF and research professor in the Department of Economics at the University of New Mexico.
Yusuke Kuwayama is a fellow at RFF and an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Bethany Mabee is the deputy director of the VALUABLES Consortium, a cooperative agreement between RFF and NASA.
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