Are UAS Teams the new Fire Department Special Operations Division?
When the call comes, firefighters are forced to rush into a blaze or disaster scene with very little information, often, having no idea of the size and scope of the fire nor how many potential victims may be cut off from rescue. The good news is drones have arrived and are fast becoming the firefighter’s secret weapon in the battle.
It would be a very basic description of a fire department to say they only extinguish fires. Firefighters work to prevent the loss of life and to protect the environment in many ways. Specialized areas of fire and rescue operations include Hazardous Materials Response, Urban Search and Rescue, Technical Rescue, Wildland Fire Fighting and Trench Rescue to name just a few. It seems UAS Teams are becoming the next specialist discipline.
Small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones or unmanned aerial vehicles, have become one of the fast growing tool in fire departments. As fire departments move from researching the use of UAS for their Departments and move to day-to-day use, they soon realize they need to have a structured approach to personnel, training and equipment management just like any other discipline and inevitability this skill becomes a speciality. Just like a Hazmat team or an US&R team must operate in a very specific way, so to should a UAS Team.
Key Considerations Before Taking Your Drone Operation to the Fire Ground
1. Stay Compliant
The FAA is the U.S. regulatory agency charged with keeping the skies safe for all to share, and considers any drones used commercially to be subject to pretty much the same regulations as manned aircraft. Before you fly a drone, it’s important to know and understand the FAA regulations for commercial unmanned aircraft, detailed in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).
2. Be Accountable
It’s not enough to simply collect the sensor or camera imagery you set out to capture. You also need to collect data about the entire drone operation. That includes flight planning, scheduling, personnel certifications, preflight checklists, flight path, asset maintenance status, weather, FAA authorization to fly, pre-flight briefings, and logs of everything that occurred during flight, such as crashes, loss of communication, bird strikes, etc.
3. Structure Reporting
Ideally, the operational data from the drone flight is captured at the source in a way that simplifies reporting and also allows for drilling down to details behind the summary report level. It’s import to be able to report a number of flight details for each flight, like who was piloting each drone flight, the date of their pilot certification, aircraft maintenance status, and many more details.
4. Consider Asset Management
Asset management is a special concern to drone operators. Drones typically have fairly short life cycles; their batteries and equipment, such as cameras and sensors, need to be closely managed. If your operation has multiple drones, keeping track of maintenance schedules and lifecycles can quickly become a headache.
5. Personnel Tracking is Essential
Your personnel will always need to be ready to go. The training of public agency drone operators should be consistent with that of commercial drone operators. Commercial operators are required by FAA regulation to obtain a remote pilot certification; all public safety agencies should develop their curriculum around this.
D4H™ Decisions is multi-award winning Response Team Management software which is designed especially for the needs of special operations team. The software is available as a complete suite or can be broken down into independent modules D4H™ Personnel & Training, D4H™ Equipment Management, and D4H™ Incident Reporting & Analytics.
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