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IAFC Testifies About Emergency Responders' Use of Drones

McLean, Va – In testimony before the Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology and the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement and Intelligence of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Chief Kevin Fetterman, Division Chief, Command and Emergency Planning with the Orange County Fire Authority in Orange County, CA, elaborated on the many successes of the use of drones when it comes to emergency response. Chief Fetterman was testifying on behalf of the IAFC. 

Chief Fetterman described how the use of drones can keep first responders from risky situations. In the past, first responders had to traverse troublesome terrain, and encounter many hazards to get a whole picture of an incident scene. Now, with the use of drones, situational awareness can be established in a safer manner with a lot less time.  Drones also are instrumental when it comes to wildfire suppression. For example, fire departments can use drones to start backfires in remote areas. 

Chief Fetterman remarked, “The key to public safety’s use of drones is communication and coordination”. We say out in the Western U.S., if you are flying, we cannot”. Chief Fetterman described efforts to coordinate UAS operations. The use of standards such as a Fire Traffic Area, as well as Remote ID capabilities, help first responders safely use drones in emergency operations without conflicting with other aircraft.   

“Failure to address the issues of uncoordinated drone use on incident scenes undermines our ability to leverage drones effectively and potentially hinders our capacity to save lives and protect property.” 

The IAFC is committed to working with stakeholders to increase the availability and usability of UAS within the fire service.  

Steven Alonzo is the IAFC’s Government Relations Manager

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