Drones: Fighting Emergencies From the Air

Drones have really proven to change the dynamic for firefighters in South Florida.

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A tool has landed at Miami-Dade and Broward Fire Rescue and it’s proven to be a gamechanger for emergencies in South Florida.

Drones have really proven to change the dynamic for firefighters in our area. It’s something we could only see more of in the future.

“It’s been completely a blessing for the fire department,” said Chief Andres Liriano with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

“It’s a huge change, we’re talking about an increase in accountability, they can track their personnel throughout the scene. It also gives them another view of the scene they’ve never seen before,” said Sean Quitoni, an engineer and drone operator for Broward Fire Rescue.

It’s a view of an emergency that includes 4K cameras, optical zoom, infrared capability and allows rescue crews both in Miami-Dade and Broward to get up close and personal.

“Well, with remote areas we are huge for that. There have been cases where there have been missing jet skiers in the mangroves that air rescue can’t get a view of because of the mangroves,” said Miami-Dade Fire Captain Derek Foster.

Other cities like the Miramar Fire Department are looking into the drone program themselves. They’ve put together a committee and hoping to get it off the ground, but for now, they can lean on the county for backup, check availability for mutual aid to get a bird’s eye view or a better look at the scene.

“We’re all over the county wherever we may be needed,” Quitoni said.

Quitoni had to get FAA Certification and complete a 40-hour training within the department.

In Miami-Dade, a drone identified flames above a building during a training exercise. The commander can see the progress and their firefighters at a better angle. In a real-world situation, it could be life-saving, allowing them access from above after a hurricane to survey damage and flooding.

A junkyard fire showed the benefits of a drone when thermal imaging allowed them to see dangerous hotspots and the actual degree of temperatures inside of a home or scenario.

“With the advancement of thermal energy technology within the drones, we’re not only able to track where the crews are and see them better, but we’re also able to identify hazards that we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see,” said Lt. Brian Powell, Battalion Chief for Broward Fire Rescue.

They are safe and cheap. According to Federal Department of Agriculture statistics, to keep a helicopter like the ones used by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, it costs an average of $550 an hour. The drones only require a battery change.

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