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Using Drones for Emergency Management

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By Allison G.S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

With new technology comes a variety of applications that can have tremendous benefits to organizations, society – and, of course, the way we handle emergency management.  Technology gives emergency management a new way of handling the given crisis, and perhaps, a new perspective for how to use resources a bit more effectively.  Drones have been in the news a lot lately with some of the policies that have come about about their uses in the federal government.  President Obama used drones during his administration.  Similar to other pieces of technology that are developed for the military, drones have an interesting application in emergency management and are giving emergency personnel new ways to manage a developing crisis.

Drones and Aerial Footage

Drones are similar to remote control toys - except they're a bit more expensive. Designed like a remote control airplane, drones have a little camera mounted to them that will take video footage while someone is controlling it from the ground.  They're tremendously fun to work with, but have a variety of smart applications when it comes to emergency management. Further, they can relay aerial footage for an incident providing a very different perspective to emergency managers on the ground figuring out how to initially manage the crisis and what kind of resources they will need to get the incident under control.

Emergency Management Applications for Drones

Prior to the creation of drones, emergency managers would often figure out the overall scope of a crisis using information from emergency personnel on the ground, and through the chain of command created through the Incident Command System. Drones, however, allow for Emergency Managers to evaluate a serious situation with the use of a drone potentially complimenting the information they have from personnel. In other circumstances, the use of drones prevents personnel from entering a potentially hazardous scene before emergency managers understand exactly what they're dealing with. To this end, drones can be used by the fire department as described by Frank Schroth in an article published by Drone Life.  Drones are also being used by Police departments and by Search and Rescue departments with clever uses depending on the given emergency. Drones can also come with infrared imaging that can be tremendously helpful in a large variety of incidents.

A Different Perspective

Drones provide a very different perspective to an emergency manager reviewing all of the information for an incident. Used as a complimentary tool, drones can provide a lot of information for a large variety of incidents.  In some cases, drones tremendously assist with the rescue efforts of people that may have been more difficult to rescue without its assistance. One elderly man was rescued because of an individual using a drone.  They were able to find him when the drone provided aerial footage 200 feet above the ground enabling a Search and Rescue team to rescue him.

Budgeting for Drones

While drones can be expensive to purchase if a lot of "bells and whistles" are added onto the overall device, it is tremendously important for an emergency management office, Emergency Medical Services, police and fire departments to consider purchasing one.  Drones can provide such useful information for a scene and when used properly, its use can save lives when minutes count.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, History, a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard and a Lifeguard Instructor. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and also serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.