Southern Manatee Fire Rescue is using drones to determine the risk associated with some hazmat situations. The technology takes the place of the first in entry teams and the drone determines if there are any hazardous materials in the area. Then, the teams know how to properly and safely respond without putting crews in danger.

“Anything we can do to help the public, that’s why we’re here,” proudly stated Chris Gould, Battalion Chief of Southern Manatee Fire Rescue and the county’s Hazard Materials Team Coordinator.

Public safety is number one for Southern Manatee Fire Rescue but that doesn’t mean rescue crews should be put in danger. That’s why Southern Manatee Fire Rescue is incorporating drones into its response efforts without risking the safety of first responders.

“For us to be able to get in in just a few minutes and determine what type of hazard this is, if this is something that is going to blow up or something that’s going to poison people, it tells us which direction to take the incident,” explained Gould.

“It’s actually improving life safety for response operations,” added Ryan English, co-founder and CEO of the drone technology company FLYMOTION Unmanned Systems.

Southern Manatee Fire Rescue wants every response to be flawless, so it ran multiple drills on Saturday incorporating drones.

The aerial thermal imaging, zoom, and regular cameras determine the type of hazard, if nearby areas should evacuate, evaluate if roads should close, and use the cameras to look for victims. Gould said crews successfully used the technology last year during the five alarm fire at Callahan Tires.

“We were able to use the drones to determine the ploom was heading toward a school,” remembered Gould. “Within a few minutes, we were able to call the school to tell them to shut all the doors and protect everybody in place.”

The drones save the county time and money. Gould said the technology can speed up response efforts by 1-2 hours so the county won’t have to pay first responders for their labor. Now, Southern Manatee Fire Rescue is using the drones to help other public safety agencies in the county to make sure all first responders can respond as quickly and safely as possible

“Once they start to implement it into their operations, it ends up being so effective it’s just a regular tool in the toolbox they’re using weekly,” stated English.

The News Channel 7 video can be found here.  Drones for Haz-Mat situations

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