MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - There is a piece of equipment helping firefighters do their job more safely. It's a drone. Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire Rescue got clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration operate it.
Captain Jerry Howerton with Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire Rescue said their new technology will help the department save time, resources and manpower.
The drone can travel up to 30 mph, and with no obstruction, the drone technology can go straight to an emergency scene and possibly save a life, according to Howerton.
"This thing putting it in the air at 50, 60, 100 feet you get a whole lot better view point we can move a whole lot faster," said Howerton.
MIGC fire officials say during search and rescue operations it takes a lot of time to assemble boats and manpower... and often tips or information can turn up to nothing, wasting valuable time when it comes to saving a person's life. "We get very vague information on where the location where somebody might be," explains Howerton.
But he said with the drone the department can launch it in about two minutes and start a search pattern to get to someone when their life depends on the department's quick response.
Howerton said, "Once it goes up in the air, it takes over what could be an entire engine crew or medic crew that could be out there searching."
The drone technology operates with apple applications on an i-pad, offering a 360 degree view, along with capabilities to record and take pictures. Howerton said it was a 60-day stringent process the department had to go through in order to operate the drone legally under FAA guidelines.
He says there are certain restrictions that include, altitude requirements, distance requirements and restrictions from certain areas, such as airports. But he said, it is worth it, when he thinks of how this technology will revolutionize how first responders can handle emergencies.
"We can launch it at large wrecks, house fires, large commercial fires," he said. " We can set it up using the structure as the point of interest on the map and setting it into orbit mode."
Howerton said the drone will also help keep their firefighter safe as well, allowing them to enter into a hazmat situation, or structure fire without having to jeopardize their safety. "We can go ahead and launch this and get in there and get a good view of what's going on, what's in there, what kind of products are involved prior to sending our guys into an unknown environment," he added.
MIGC was able to obtain the drone with the help of the Elks Lodge. The community group recently obtained a grant that could be used for the community. Howerton said the group used the money to provide CPR training, with the help of MIGC, to more than 50 people in the community, the remaining money was given to the department. "It was able to pay for this drone in its entirety now we are able to use it to go out and further help the public," said Howerton.
All firefighter officials and firefighters will receive training for the drone.