New drone to aid emergency operations

HUMBOLDT — Humboldt’s emergency services are celebrating their newest piece of emergency equipment.

A new DJI Matrice 210 Enterprise drone was unveiled on Aug. 27 at the Humboldt and District Ambulance complex with Humboldt’s fire, ambulance and RCMP services, as well as the City of Humboldt, in attendance.

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This new technology will make emergency operations, like grass fires and accident scenes, easier and quicker to assess from the air in any weather with the drone, said Mike Kwasnica, Humboldt’s fire chief.

“The thermal camera on the drone will give a ‘bird’s eye view’ while using a heat sensory mechanism for tracking when other aircraft, humans or trained rescue dogs would not be able to assist.”

Doing search and rescue on the ground can be limiting. Whether using boots on the ground, ground vehicles or dogs, crews can be limited by weather, visibility, terrain and time.

Wayne Reineke, senior analyst with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, is the only certified drone pilot so far. Drones are not limited by things like smoke, he said, so sending a drone up during a fire situation can give crews on the ground better visibility, even for factors that humans cannot detect.

Talking with other drone operators, Reineke has discussed possible situations where flammables are hidden. A drone can detect areas of concern without risking fire crews.

“You can send your drone up and say ‘you have flammables there, there and there.’ You’re not sending fire teams into dangerous situations because you can see it right from the air.”

On average, Humboldt has about three to four search and rescues a year, said Derek Dagenais, supervisor with Humboldt and District Ambulance, most of which are dementia patients who wander away from care facilities or their homes and are already confused and disoriented.

Past rescues have been wide reaching, said David Mortensen, also with Humboldt and District Ambulance.

“We’re not talking just a few 100 feet away, they’ve made kilometres sometimes on us.”

This new drone can be in the air quickly, from 10 to 30 minutes depending on winds, and is able to scan an area spanning three football fields in a matter of minutes, Kwasnica said. This ability would have been helpful in many previous incidences, he said.

Having an aerial view will also help with quickly creating a plan of control when dealing with fire scenes or vehicle accidents, he said.

“If we are doing a big grass fire, we can take it up, we can have a look at what extensions are, what direction it’s going.”

Humboldt and District firefighters will have the opportunity for additional training in order to operate the drone, specifically drone licenses through Transport Canada. Kwasnica said that they will be looking for one of the firefighters to obtain advanced licenses that will eliminate some restrictions on height of flight and proximity to buildings and people.

This military grade model of drone is popular with emergency crews in the United States, said Kwasnica, but have yet to catch on in Canada. This influenced their decision on the type of drone that was purchased.

Without the strong relationship between Humboldt’s fire, ambulance, and police services, Humboldt would not have this valuable piece of technology, Kwasnica said.

Penny Lee with the City of Humboldt said the city will also be using the drone for public works projects and promotional material.

All three members of Humboldt’s emergency services fundraised for the drone. The city and the RM of Humboldt also contributed to the purchase.

The purchase was made locally through Danny Yuen at Yuen’s Cellular Centre.

© Copyright Humboldt Journal

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