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Drones proving to be multi-useful tools for Jefferson County 911 Center

Drones have been growing in use since the 1990s, and now safety organizations are taking full advantage of the technology.

Drones have been growing in use since the 1990s, and now safety organizations are taking full advantage of the technology.

Recently, Jefferson County first responders have adopted drones for a variety of uses.

It all started as an effort to eliminate the need for a person to climb 300 feet in the air to fix cell phone towers, but now their uses have expanded and are helping safety agencies across the Ohio Valley on a weekly basis.

"As we got involved in the technology and started to understand it, we saw so many other uses," Jefferson County 911 Director Rob Herrington said.

It’s as simple as firing it up and launching it into the sky

"We can actually deploy these drones in about 3 minutes, so we can be in the air immediately after we arrive at the scene and, their primary purpose is really a video platform in the sky,” Herrington said.

In hazmat emergencies, they’ve saved departments a lot of money.

"To dress out two people is $2,000 because those are disposable suits right there that actually pays for two drones, even if the drone would be damaged, it’s still cost effective,” Herrington said.

And it saves time. The drones can fly over a spill and determine what the substance on the ground is by looking at the drum, then come back in less than a third of the time

"By the time we would get people dressed, the drones already flown in taken pictures and they’re back,” Herrington said. “So, it’s completely changed the world in how we do that business.”

But that’s not all.

Obviously, these drones have video capability, but the 911 Center didn’t stop there. Now they’re using the drones’ thermal technology for a wide range of things, like helping to aid law enforcement on investigations and in search and rescue missions.

"We can be in the air and we can set the thermal temp to human temp, so if were looking for a lost person, we can set it so it pinpoints the temperature of a human being," Herrington said.

"The accuracy and the tech with the thermal is such that it provides information we would never be able to get any other way.

"My opinion is, anything we’re doing to help public safety people do their job is an asset to the community. Not only is it a time saver and a money saver, but it could be a life saver."

Officials are working to train more staff to fly the drones, because in the last few months alone, they’ve aided in several emergency cases, including three search and rescue missions. They also help law enforcement outside of Jefferson County.

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