You may have heard of the old James Bond movie entitled, From Russia with Love? Well, these days I think we can swap out Mr. Bond for the brave men and women of the emergency response community and the tech gadgets they are using to save people and property.
The robotics revolution is beginning to take root within the emergency service field, as more first responders take to the skies to serve the public. Terms like small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), Unmanned Vehicles (UAVs), or drones are hovering these days, but regardless of what you call these new tech tools, emergency responders are certainly embracing new technologies. Aerial devices are shaping up to be the new cutting-edge halogen bars in their arsenal of tools.
Drones and such are being deployed to gain better situational awareness, perform search and rescue, provide medical supplies, and offer faster response where efforts to get real live responders are thwarted. In many cases, life safety risks can be offset by getting a drone to the incident first.
What’s interesting about the emergency services adoption of this ground-breaking technology, is the global ramifications that we are seeing. Whether you’re a first responder in Hawaii or Massachusetts in the United States or a firefighter somewhere in Central Europe, the fire service is embracing new-fangled intelligence machinery at relatively the same time.
This quick ramp up in the response field, has departments struggling to grasp the operational requirements of integrating unmanned aerial technology, while simultaneously dealing with national and local legislation related to the use of these devices. Responders in virtually every country are asking, “What piece of aviation-based legislation is going to pass in the next 12 months to 2 years?”
For example, in the United states all eyes are on Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, Aeronautics and Space, and in particular, Part 107, “Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems”. How is this rule going to change? If you’re located in a European Union location, you are most likely keeping a close eye on the adoption of the Delegated Act (as it relates to unmanned aircraft systems and third-party operators of unmanned aircraft systems) or the Implementing Act (covering rules and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft) by the European Commission. Whether its guidance or opinions from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the United States or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Europe, chances are there are likely some basic UAS questions swirling about. These are a few that come to mind. How do I set up a drone program? What do I need from an organizational deployment perspective? What training do I need specific to emergency response? What maintenance and record-keeping provisions should I be implementing?
Well to that end, allow me to introduce you to the cutting edge, public-safety-centric standard, NFPA 2400®, Standard for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Used for Public Safety Operations which was developed by dozens of representatives from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the fire service, law enforcement, emergency medical services, manufacturing, transportation, aviation, and consultant organizations.
NFPA 2400, which was released in December 2018, is an all-encompassing standard that applies to all public safety departments that operate sUAS. It is a clear, concise, all-encompassing standard that addresses everything from program criteria to Con-Op to training, and so much more. It applies to all public safety departments that operate sUAS, and breaks down an integrated SUAS program into three key areas.
- A section devoted to sUAS organizational deployment, which includes program criteria, deployment, sUAS selection, and both general and multiple aircraft operations.
- A professional qualifications component with minimum JPRs for both the pilot and observer so that they can be trained in accordance with public safety and emergency responder centric requirements.
- The standard also identifies maintenance responsibilities such as record keeping, discrepancy reporting, routine cleaning, upkeep, and storage.
What’s truly interesting about NFPA 2400, is its potential to help emergency responders on a global level. For example, the Kauai Fire Department in Hawaii has integrated an NFPA 2400 compliant drone program that incorporates drone technology into operations for ocean safety/rescue, incident management, pre-planning, fire prevention, fire investigation and Hazmat incidents. Likewise, the Department of Fire Services in Massachusetts has a state-wide program integrating the tenets of NFPA 2400.
NFPA is also working to provide even more topical insights to emergency responders by developing a free public safety drone compliance program with immersive training and a searchable knowledge base. FEMA in the United States provided funding to NFPA to help departments establish and maintain a legally sound public safety program that is compliant with FAA regulations, and current standards. The idea is to prevent emergency responders from deploying unmanned aerial devices inaccurately; inappropriately gathering information during an incident; or interfering with manned and unmanned flight operations because all these missteps needlessly expose fire departments to liability.
The NFPA drone project will document fire service drone programs and case usage – and generate the guidance, learnings, and best practices that fire departments need to establish successful drone programs. More specifically, the research project will:
- Assess the current level of understanding, policies, and standards on public safety drone usage;
- Generate resources, educational content, and an accessible portal that allows departments to comply with current regulations and standards;
- Track fire service drone programs; and
- Disseminate information and training so that departments can establish regionally and nationally compliant public safety drone programs.
When you look at the commonality in challenges that firefighters and others face when responding to emergency response calls. AND you look at the commonality related to integrating drone technology into emergency response protocol around the globe? AND you consider the unlimited potential for an international standard that bears the name of a 123-year old, respected global fire and life safety organization – the sky really is the limit for NFPA 2400 and the departments that use it.
For more information, go to www.nfpa.org