CASE STUDY: UAV Provides Situational Awareness for Firefighters

SUMMARY: Drones are a valuable tool for firefighters and HAZMAT teams to use when responding to an incident. UAV video streams allow for fire commanders to quickly assess the scope of the incident from the air, effectively deploy resources, monitor incident operations, and capture footage for release to news and media outlets. PROBLEM: In early 2014, a large fire has broke out at the Stony Creek Quarry in Connecticut. A supply of ammonium nitrate - fuel oil (ANFO) -- the largest type of industrial explosive manufactured in the U.S. -- was located near the fire. A quarry is essentially a large hole in the ground. The heat and smoke from the fire made it difficult for responders to get an accurate assessment of the scope of the fire and how close to the ANFO it actually was. SOLUTION: Peter Sachs, a volunteer member of the Branford Fire Department (BFD) had demonstrated his personal drone to the department two weeks before the quarry fire. He told the chief he would be ready to conduct an aerial assessment of a scene if every needed. Two weeks later, Sachs got his chance when BFD Chief Jack Ahern called him in to the quarry fire scene. "On arrival, I launched my drone and flew it over the quarry, pointing its camera downward at the blaze," said Sachs. "As the assistant chief looked at the monitor on my remote controller, which displays what the drone’s camera sees, he determined that the fire was burning at a safe enough distance from the explosives to send firefighters in to extinguish the fire.”

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