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Victoria fire department adds 3 drones to emergency response kit

The Victoria Fire Department has begun using drones to get a better look at fires in progress. Neetu Garcha reports.

The Victoria Fire Department has a new tool at its disposal: drones. The department now has three drones, which have multiple uses.

City of Victoria emergency program coordinator, Tanya Patterson said the drones can be used “for delivering medical supplies, searching for lost or trapped victims, situational awareness, so after an earthquake they can go out and get an aerial view of some of the most damaged areas and we can send our crews quickly there.”

But the use of drones has been subject to privacy concerns with some worried about the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) hovering near their window.

“We would always receive approval in advance and our cameras won’t be capturing any images that they shouldn’t be,” Patterson said.

The entire city is a no-fly zone for drones but Transport Canada said the Victoria Fire Department has a special licence.

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“We’ll be allowed to use them for emergency uses; it’s recognized that the benefits of using them in those situations outweigh any risks,” Patterson said.

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It’s becoming a trend for first responders to keep the drones as part of their emergency response plan.

In Langford, the fire department has had one drone in operation since 2014 and they say it’s proven very useful.

Langford Fire Rescue assistant chief Geoff Spriggs said one example is a rescue mission of an injured and lost hiker on Mount Finlayson in the summer of 2015.

“We were using the UAV to demonstrate its purpose of can we locate the person and clarify that, yes this is actually where the incident is… and we were able to do that very quickly,” Spriggs said.

“It took about 10 minutes whereas it would have taken about 30 minutes by ground to walk in, assess the situation and then deploy the rest of the resources.”

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But the use of these drones in settings like that is still very new, so the City of Victoria has decided it will work to develop its own operating manuals.

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Along with cameras and accessories, the drones came at a cost of just under $20,000.

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