When a fire is raging, time is of the essence. Speed of response and having the right equipment needed at the scene can be the difference when saving a home, or more importantly, a life. Drone technology is now playing a vital role in assisting firefighters. Let’s explore some of the ways that fire departments are using UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to go beyond the boundaries of distance, terrain, and altitude to assess an emergency quickly and accurately.
Enhanced Situational Awareness
For firefighters, running into a burning building can often mean running into an unknown situation. However, UAVs are helping to reduce the unknowns for firefighters through real-time visibility and aerial intelligence.
Firefighters use drones equipped with infrared and thermal cameras to identify a fire’s exact location. Thermal aerial visibility can help guide firefighters to safe entry points and inform routes before entering an unstable building. The UAV can view how the fire is spreading and identify new areas to avoid.
For significant fire events, including building collapses, plane crashes, and wildfires, getting complete visibility of a scene is critical to understanding containment and any additional hazards before approaching. Firefighters can quickly get full visibility of a situation that could otherwise take several hours to assess, with resources that are a fraction of the cost of helicopters to operate.
Drone as a First Responder
By deploying a drone in response to a 9-1-1 call, an agency can more quickly size up and understand an emergency, enabling them to make quick and accurate decisions and better inform the response.
For example, scene assessments are traditionally conducted from the ground when a fire department gets a call. With UAVs, firefighters can get a full aerial view of the scene and quickly determine and allocate needed resources almost instantly. Firefighters can better decide whether they need to either escalate a call to a two-fire alarm and have the next closest fire station assist.
Additionally, drones can help fire departments assess if a call-in is an actual fire or not. Dispatching a UAV to get a quick view is extremely valuable for agencies that cover rugged or remote terrain. A report of smoke on a mountainside can be quickly validated with a drone, ensuring departments marshal an appropriate response — or none at all, keeping resources ready for the next emergency.
With tools like geofencing and obstacle avoidance, a firefighter can safely fly a UAV close enough to see into the windows of a burning building, helping to find anyone who may be in danger without worrying about colliding into the building. Quickly identifying where people are trapped on each floor can help firefighters determine their plan of attack, and increase the odds of getting everyone out safely.
Aerial intelligence from UAV technology provides a new level of situational awareness and greater visibility to support the quick and accurate decision-making needed to keep communities – and firefighters – safer.