CASE STUDY: NYFD to Use Drones to Increase Situational Awareness


SUMMARY: UAV's help provide fire department commanders better situational awareness about the types of events they are responding to. Imagery from drones gives commanders much needed insight about the often dangerous and fast-moving incidents they are sending firefighters into. This can help save lives. PROBLEM: Firefighting tactics have changed little over the years. Commanders typically use the same proven strategies based on experience and instinct that has served them well for decades. Lack of situational awareness can sometimes lead to brash decisions resulting in tragic mistakes. SOLUTION: Drones allow firefighters to better assess the dynamics and hazards surround complex and expanding incidents. The Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) is now implementing a tethered drone that can provide fire commanders with a direct video feed leading to vastly improved situational awareness about an incident. This helps commanders make more informed tactical decisions with a higher propensity of safety and success.

“That tool for a chief is just night and day from what it was not just 30 years ago when I started, but 15 years ago,” Daniel A. Nigro, the New York fire commissioner, told The New York Times. “And moving forward, technology like this is a terrific advantage for us and for fire departments around the country.” The job of a firefighter remains physically demanding, Mr. Nigro said, but the department has embraced technology “to make their jobs easier and safer.”

“One of the biggest issues at a fire scene is trying to get as much information as quickly as possible,” said Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “and a drone is offering something we’ve never had before.”

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