CASE STUDY: Melo Park Fire Department Uses Drone to Assess Rising Swift Water

Drones are helping firefighters establish situational awareness

SUMMARY: Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can be used to quickly establish increased situational awareness surrounding escalating incidents. A trained drone team can quickly capture imagery that can be used to accurately assess a situation and prescribe operational tactics.

PROBLEM: The San Francisquito Creek bordering San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, California reached a new milestone when water levels reached near-record flow. The creek, which borders the cities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and Menlo Park, was flowing at 4820 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, February 8 as recorded by a US Geological Survey Gage. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District needed to increase situational awareness of the incident as the creek approached overflow height.

SOLUTION: Menlo Park Fire Protection District Captains Tony Eggimann and Chris Dennebaum deployed four of the district's drones to monitor the rising water levels and inspect bridges and gate for obstructions. The drones allowed the firefighters to capture imagery of obstructions at various choke points which could then be forwarded to public works personnel for further action and removal.

“We will be using the UAS/Drone at every opportunity to give us better situational awareness and so we can better document these events in real time showing the cause and effect, at various risk areas,” said Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman

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