- The Helena Fire Department has acquired an industrial drone through the 2020 State Homeland Security Grant Program for $28,000 with a camera, thermal imager, gas radiation meter, spotlights, and life-saving material drop modules.
- The drone will be used for finding people on open lands, hazardous material incidents, analyzing buildings in fires, and more.
- Seven staff members have undergone FAA training and licensing for drone operation, and the department considers this drone a force multiplier, providing another set of eyes for the department.
In an effort to enhance their capabilities and effectiveness, the Helena Fire Department has recently employed drone technology as a tool to assist in emergency operations.
The use of drones for firefighting and emergency response has been gaining popularity in recent years due to their ability to provide real-time information gathering and situational awareness. In particular, drones equipped with thermal cameras can detect hotspots and potential fire outbreaks, enabling firefighters to respond faster and more accurately.
According to Helena Fire Chief Tim Burkhalter, the department has been using drones for several months now, and the results have been promising. “The drones have proven to be a valuable asset in our operations,” he said. “We can now identify and monitor hotspots, assess the extent of a fire, and determine the best approach to extinguish it, all in real-time.”
Apart from firefighting, the drones have also been used for search and rescue missions, water rescues, and hazardous material incidents. The department has trained several of their firefighters to operate the drones, which are equipped with high-resolution cameras, GPS tracking, and live video streaming capabilities.
The use of drones in emergency operations is not without its challenges. Privacy concerns, safety regulations, and technical issues can pose significant obstacles to their effective use. However, the Helena Fire Department has worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to obtain the necessary permits and clearance for their drone operations.
Chief Burkhalter emphasized that the drones are not meant to replace human firefighters, but rather to enhance their capabilities. “Our firefighters are still our first responders and primary assets in emergency situations,” he said. “However, with the use of drones, we can now gather critical information and respond more efficiently and effectively.”
The Helena Fire Department’s use of latest drone technology is a testament to their commitment to innovation and excellence in emergency response. With the continued advancement of technology, it is expected that more fire departments and emergency services will soon follow suit.