As Millions Of Americans Face Wildfires And Hurricanes, This Kentucky Startup Helps Them Rebuild Faster

Natural disasters including Midwestern windstorms, Gulf Coast hurricanes and West Coast wildfires have wreaked havoc for millions of Americans this year. Settling insurance claims and rebuilding after a disaster is a burdensome task, and all the harder during a global pandemic.

That’s where Louisville-based insurance tech startup WeatherCheck comes in. The four-year-old company collects data from dozens of sources — including FEMA and mapping-software maker Esri — to build a detailed model of weather damage across the U.S. and Canada. That data helps individuals, mortgage lenders, corporations and insurers prepare for natural disasters before they happen — and also process claims much faster after damage occurs.

“Almost 80% of Americans who own property or are renting have an insurance policy,” says Demetrius Gray, the 32-year-old cofounder and CEO of WeatherCheck. “When one of our users has a particular loss, we step in and help them advance those dollars. We’ve been able to reach out directly and say, ‘hey, we’re here to support you.’”

Before the pandemic, the company made most of its revenues selling data subscriptions to insurance companies and property owners. For a fee, customers can use WeatherCheck to access damage reports for all their properties and use a live monitoring tool to prepare for upcoming storms or hurricanes. When the virus began to spread, that business took a hit. As state governors imposed stay-at-home orders in March, the firm cut its sales forecast for the year by 20%.

“Our primary imperative internally is to sell to insurance companies and agents and brokers,” says Gray. “Back in March, there were a number of companies that said, based on this uncertainty, we’re not making any decisions.”

The pandemic also opened up new opportunities for the company. With customers facing a harder

SpaceX’s Starlink in action: Internet satellites keep emergency workers online amid wildfires

It’s emerged that SpaceX’s Starlink satellites have been delivering internet services since early August to the Washington state military’s emergency management unit helping residents recover from recent wildfires.

As noted by CNBC, providing services to Washington emergency responders is the first publicly known application of the satellite broadband service.   

SpaceX is currently conducting private Starlink beta trials with residents in some parts of northern US and lower Canada, including remote communities in Washington state, Starlink revealed in an FAQ posted on Reddit in July. 

The Washington emergency division has been using seven Starlink user terminals, which SpaceX Elon Musk has previously described as like a “UFO on a stick”, with a skyward-facing disk that measures 48cm, or 19 inches, in diameter.  

Musk has previously described the end-user terminals as being as easy to set up as “point at sky and just plug in”. 

Richard Hall, the emergency telecommunications leader of the Washington State Military Department’s IT division, appears to confirm Musk’s claim. 

“I have never set up any tactical satellite equipment that has been as quick to set up and anywhere near as reliable [as Starlink],” Hall told CNBC. 

Hall also suggested Starlink was superior to other satellite broadband services his unit has used previously. Starlink satellites orbit Earth at about an altitude of 500km, or 311 miles, far closer to Earth than traditional conventional satellite broadband services. 

According to Hall, Starlink offers double the bandwidth of other services and said he’d seen more than 150% decreases in latency. “I’ve seen lower than 30 millisecond latency consistently,” he said. 

That’s a pretty good third-party reference for Starlink, which has faced doubts from the Federal Communications Commission as to whether it can deliver round-trip latencies below the 50ms that it has claimed in an FCC application to launch 30,000 satellites. In

SpaceX Is Providing Satellite Internet Service to Towns Hit by Wildfires

(Credit: Washington Emergency Management)

Residents in Washington state recovering from the wildfires are remaining online, thanks to SpaceX’s satellite broadband network. 

The company’s Starlink system has been supplying the emergency internet to residents in Malden, a town of about 200 people, where an estimated 80 percent of the homes have been destroyed by the wildfires.

On Monday, Washington’s Emergency Management Department tweeted a photo of a Starlink satellite terminal acting as a public Wi-Fi hotspot. “Malden, WA is an area where fiber and most of the town burned down. Without this equipment, it would have been much harder for folks to get internet in that area,” the department added in a follow-up tweet.  

“SpaceX provided seven terminals for our agency to use for free, where we saw the most need,” the state’s Emergency Management Department told PCMag. Other Starlink terminals are supplying emergency broadband around Bonney Lake, Washington, where some local residents were also forced to evacuate due to the wildfires. 

“The terminals are being used for free public Wi-Fi, but we also used them for incident command vehicles out at the Bonney Lake, WA wildfire,” the department added. “SpaceX has not given us a timetable on when they need the equipment back. They’ve been pretty generous.”

The department declined to answer questions about the speed and latency rates for the emergency internet, and instead told PCMag to ask SpaceX. But according to CNBC, the latency rates have been reaching about 30 milliseconds, which is on par with ground-based internet. 

“I have never set up any tactical satellite equipment that has been as quick to set up, and anywhere near as reliable,” Washington State Military Department’s IT division head Richard Hall told CNBC in an interview. 

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But CEO Elon

Elon Musk Helps Washington Town Destroyed by Wildfires by Supplying Starlink Internet for Free

A Washington town ravaged by wildfires this month has been supplied with an internet connection thanks to Elon Musk’s “Starlink” project.

The state’s Emergency Management Division shared a photo of a SpaceX antenna on its Twitter profile yesterday—taking advantage of Musk’s in-progress satellite constellation, which has been pitched as way of providing high speed broadband across the globe.

Authorities indicated that it was supplied for first responders working to rebuild the small town of Malden. On September 8, police said 80 percent of the area, including homes and city government buildings, had been totally destroyed by flames.

“Happy to have the support of @SpaceX‘s Starlink internet as emergency responders look to help residents rebuild the town of Malden, WA that was overcome by wildfires earlier this month,” WA Emergency Management wrote in a caption.

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It added: “Malden is an area where fiber and most of the town burned down. Without this equipment, it would have been much harder for folks to get internet in that area.” In a later update, the account said that the equipment was provided for free.

In a tweet on Monday, SpaceX’s billionaire CEO Musk said he was “glad” to help and noted the project was now “prioritizing emergency responders and locations with no internet connectivity.”

There are currently around 120 Starlink satellites being built every month, with hundreds already launched into orbit, according to SpaceX data obtained by CNBC. Ultimately, the plan is to have around 12,000 units beaming internet down to earth.

The 260kg satellites are shot into space onboard a “Falcon 9” rocket in batches of 60. SpaceX forecasts that “near global coverage” could be achieved next year.

Musk, who also runs electric car company Tesla, suggested on his Twitter

SpaceX provides Starlink satellites to help Washington state towns get online after wildfires

Washington state emergency officials are using SpaceX satellites to provide internet access in Malden, Wash., after wildfires took out most of the small town in Eastern Washington. (Washington Emergency Management Division Photo)

SpaceX is lending a helping hand to Washington state towns ravaged by recent wildfires.

The Washington Emergency Management Division is using the company’s Starlink satellites to provide public WiFi access in Malden, Wash., where a wildfire destroyed 80% of the small town earlier this month. The satellites are also being used in Western Washington near Bonney Lake, Wash. SpaceX is providing the service for free.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded to the tweet above:

Starlink is SpaceX’s broadband internet constellation that now consists of more than 600 spacecraft in low Earth orbit. SpaceX is nearing the start of a limited commercial service, which was promised as early as this year. Eventually, Starlink aims to provide global broadband internet access, and there are military applications as well. Amazon is also developing its own constellation called Project Kuiper.

The Starlink satellites are manufactured at the SpaceX facility in Redmond, Wash.

Steven Friederich, a public information officer with the Washington Emergency Management Division, said internet access in places such as Malden would be nearly impossible without the Starlink service. This is the first time the division has used the satellites.

“This is a device we could definitely utilize should we have more wildfires or even