New Decatur Co. Fire Dept. drone system expected to increase life-saving efforts
BAINBRIDGE, Ga. (WALB) - The Decatur County Fire Department is unveiling new life-saving technology — a drone system that fire personnel will now use in rescues and fires.
The drone system will help expand life-saving efforts in 50% of the over 800 average calls they respond to throughout the year.
“This drone has the capabilities of using thermal and the advantage of thermal is it allows us to see heat signature, even if someone touched something. It’s one more tool that we’re able to use out of our toolbox,” said Jamie Erp, Decatur County assistant fire chief.
After determining there was a huge need for more safety tools, the department was able to secure the drone with an over $6,000 grant through the county’s risk management group. The drone also comes with advanced features like flood lights, a speaker and GPS — all of which will be a way firemen can save lives take before they even step on the scene.
“When you talk about the current fatality rate, you know, maybe loss of life, serious injuries even included, if you were to calculate the times this would have made a difference. I say it’s greater than 75% of the time,” Erp said.
And with 14-15 calls they respond to a year being rescue operations, Erp said the drone will cut down on search times.
“We have this aerial view of a perimeter that might take hours, days to walk. We can scope it and that is all the difference it would take between somebody living and dying from hypothermia,” he said.
Engineer EMT Tyler Dalton remembers several calls he’s responded to where the system could have drastically helped. One of those calls was the tornado that ripped through Decatur County in April. Fortunately, no one was hurt but Dalton says there was extensive damage left behind that took more time to assess.
“There were certain areas it went through and rural roads that had a hard time getting to and getting through where if we would have had this, we could have deployed up above the road and actually been able to inspect (the) damage and to see if there was anybody else that actually needed rescuing,” he said.
Erp recalls a time when he was rescuing someone on the river who was in a boat crash. The rescue took hours to complete as they were only relying on the victim’s cell signal which was dying every second the search went on.
“We run about probably 14 to 15 calls a year where this piece of apparatus alone would make all the difference,” he said.
Currently, the department is in the training process to make sure everyone knows how to operate this drone system. But this new tool will hopefully be going on calls in the next two to three months.
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