New drone will help first responders in emergency situations

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CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Just look up and you may see Cabell County, West Virginia's new first responder.

The Cabell / Wayne LEPC (emergency services) was recently given a drone. Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry says it was a donation from an area company that got a new drone and didn't need their old one anymore.

"They were so kind to give us this so that we would be able to use it," Merry said. "Very exciting and it lowers the risk on us during an incident."

Merry says the more the drone can do, the fewer dangerous situations the crews will have to put themselves in.

He says they realized how helpful drones could be to them when one of his paramedics used a personal drone during flooding response in 2016.

"I think the best way I can say it: Enslow Park," Merry said. "When it flooded, it made a big difference. When the people would call and we would actually fly over their house and look at what they were dealing with. And if it was an emergency and they needed to be evacuated at the time, we know exactly where to go we can tell the crew is what we are seeing and tell them which house it is."

The drone can also be used for search and rescue missions, Hazmat situations and other emergencies.

It will also be helpful for police and fire, too. Merry gave the example of a recent incident in Lincoln County where a helicopter was used for a search effort. A drone would be easier, more safe and more cost efficient, he says, in situations like that.

"If the fire department has a large brush fire, we can fly the area just to see how large it is to see if they need to come in from different areas," said Albert Tibbs, the EMT who will be flying the drone.

Tibbs has been flying drones as a hobby for several years, but just recently became certified to fly one on the job. It was Tibbs who used a personal drone in the 2016 flooding and he is excited to use this technology for his work now.

"We can cover a lot of area very quickly," Tibbs said. "We've seen the true versatility of having the drone that we could operate it while keeping our people safe and also keeping the general public safe, so that way we know they're not getting out and taking an undue risk if not necessary."

With the FAA regulations, the drone can be flown 400 feet high and a distance of 3 miles as long as the people operating the drone maintain a visual line of sight.

Tibbs is trained and certified, and the drone is ready to be flown. Now they are just working on applying for exemptions that would allow Tibbs to fly the drone in situations that are important for first responders, but would otherwise be banned, like flying at night, around crowds and in certain restricted areas.

Read the original version of this article at wsaz.com.



 
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