Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Port Coquitlam Fire and Emergency Services receives drone grant

By City of Port Coquitlam   

Headlines News drone firefighters grant Port Coquitlam

June 6, 2023, Port Coquitlam, B.C. – Port Coquitlam Fire department has new life safety tools at its disposal with the help of a provincial grant.

The city has received $30,000 in community emergency preparedness funding from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities for two thermal imaging remotely piloted aircrafts – also known as drones – with additional support equipment, and pilot training.

The grant also provides funding for the development of planning exercise scenarios to improve staff preparedness to operate in the city’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). These training sessions will provide an opportunity to gather information and feedback from city staff to refine hazard and procedure-specific plans, while increasing overall operational readiness.

Port Coquitlam Fire is the first fire service in the Tri-Cities to be appropriately licensed by Transport Canada for drone use in fire operations.

“This is a great example of our city using creative technology tools to better serve and protect our community, residents and keeping our firefighters safe, “said Mayor Brad West. “Providing immediate access to real-time video footage, help our firefighters make better on-scene decisions. We are grateful to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities for providing us with this grant that will positively impact our community.”

A review of the current EOC practices, used to obtain information, suggests that more timely and reliable information can be obtained through the use of technology, such as drones. Using a drone to survey the site of an incident can reduce the risk of injury to first responders as well as give crucial information to the incident commander for planning response activities which can be livestreamed to the EOC.

Aerial imagery available through drones not only provides fire department staff with information to support response coordination activities, it also:

  • Provides fast and efficient reconnaissance of the incident from a safe distance prior to sending first responders in to perform search and rescue operations;
  • The use of drone-mounted thermal imaging cameras assist first responders in identifying heat signatures of trapped or injured civilians who may not be easily seen or heard;
  • Support city staff in pre-disaster planning efforts, e.g. geographic surveys and inspections of bridges, dams, and diking systems; and
  • Provides staff with updated, accurate, high definition images for the city’s data collection.

“The drone will be used to support fire ground operations, relaying important information regarding fire growth and heat,” said Coun. Steve Darling, council’s designate for community safety matters. “This will also increase firefighter safety, allowing the department to keep an eye on firefighters working in hazardous areas.”

A total of five fire department pilots are Transport Canada Advance Certified, and fly under Canadian aviation rules and regulations. Two more will be added by then end of this year.

Some requirements mandated by Transport Canada include:

  • Constantly maintaining direct line of sight on the drone during operation;
  • Restricting flight to 300 feet above ground level; and
  • Maintaining flight operations at a minimum distance of 100 feet from non-emergency personnel.

The department has drafted operational procedures to reflect these regulations.

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