Fire Chief highlights benefits of drone use in emergency response

June 10, 2024

Chief Fetterman testifies on drone usage before U.S. House Subcommittees

In testimony before the Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology and the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement and Intelligence of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Chief Kevin Fetterman, Division Chief, Command and Emergency Planning with the Orange County Fire Authority in Orange County, CA, discussed the successes of using drones in emergency response.

Chief Fetterman represented the IAFC who highlighted that drones keep first responders out of risky situations.

In the past, first responders had to navigate hazardous terrain to assess an incident scene.

Now, drones provide situational awareness more safely and quickly.

Drones are also essential for wildfire suppression, as fire departments can use them to start backfires in remote areas.

Coordination and communication are key to effective drone use

Chief Fetterman emphasized the importance of coordination and communication in using drones for public safety.

He stated: “The key to public safety’s use of drones is communication and coordination.”

He added that in the Western U.S., the saying goes, “if you are flying, we cannot.”

This underlines the need for coordinated UAS operations to avoid conflicts with other aircraft.

Efforts to coordinate UAS operations include using standards such as a Fire Traffic Area and Remote ID capabilities.

These measures help first responders safely use drones during emergencies without interfering with other aircraft.

Addressing challenges in drone use at incident scenes

Chief Fetterman warned against the dangers of uncoordinated drone use at incident scenes.

He stated: “Failure to address the issues of uncoordinated drone use on incident scenes undermines our ability to leverage drones effectively and potentially hinders our capacity to save lives and protect property.”

The IAFC is dedicated to collaborating with stakeholders to enhance the availability and usability of UAS in the fire service.

This commitment aims to ensure that drones are used safely and effectively in emergency operations.

Efforts to increase drone availability in the fire service

The IAFC is working to increase the availability and usability of drones within the fire service. This involves ongoing collaboration with various stakeholders to improve the integration of UAS into emergency response operations.

Chief Fetterman’s testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittees underscores the significant role that drones play in modern emergency response and the need for continued efforts to ensure their effective use.

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