Drones taking firefighter security to the next level


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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — You may see drones with high-tech tools cruising around fires in Manatee County. Southern Manatee County Fire and Rescue was one of the first fire departments in Florida to use the technology to work smarter.

“The drones can spot dangers that the human eye can’t see,” Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue firefighter Rich Gatanis said. “We used them during a sulfur fire at the Port of Manatee and it helped immensely because sulfur fires are even harder to fight and see.”

And remember that massive propane tank warehouse fire in Sebring? The view from the drone helped save lives and, just as importantly, time.

“We cut hours from our response because of the information we get from these systems,” Gatanis said.

That precious time could mean the difference between life and death.

The drones can relay messages, drop off deliveries, take pictures and use thermal cameras. Gatanis said after using the drones it’s clear they provide a priceless addition to firefighting teams. 

“It’s a force multiplier. Drones are great at doing the dull and dangerous work that we don’t want to put our guys in danger to do. I recommend this to secure your own team more than anything.”

Gatanis said the smaller drones can cost between $3,000-$4,000 and the larger more high-tech ones can cost $30,000 or more.

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