Thursday, October 5, 2023

Height of safety

Sophisticated drone being used by fire, police departments

Northville Township police officers are
trained to pilot the sophisticated drone
being used in public safety situations.
Public safety in Northville Township has reached new heights of advancement using technology and innovation. 

The Public Safety Department has been using a sophisticated drone purchased earlier this summer with partial grant funding from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA), officials said. 

The advanced technology of the drone includes a camera, spotlight, infrared capabilities and a megaphone, all of which have already proven valuable, according to officials. 

The infrared camera recently located multiple trespassers at Legacy Park and completed night surveillance in areas where cars have been stolen or riffled through, police said.

"Trying to locate suspects in the dark is difficult and dangerous," said Deputy Police Chief Matthew MacKenzie. "The drone has greatly increased the efficiency and safety aspect regarding this." 

In addition, the equipment has proven a benefit to the township fire department. During a 4:30 a.m. fire at an apartment complex in August, Public Safety Ofc. Laura Engebretson flew the drone using the infrared capabilities to guide firefighters to areas where water would be most effectively sprayed. 

"It was a huge benefit to us," said Fire Chief Brent Siegel. 

"It allowed a birds-eye view to show us what we were unable to see and that's exactly where the hot spots were." 

Siegel noted that firefighters were able to extinguish the flames more quickly because of the drone guidance. 

There are additional uses, too, noted Police Chief Scott Hilden. 

"It will be an excellent resource to help find missing loved ones, safely monitor hostile situations and assist in a disaster response," he said. 

Previously, Northville Township Police had to ask other departments or the Michigan State Police when searching for a missing person in large areas such as Maybury State Park.

 The drone is expected to speed up the search to locate the missing person.

Five members of the police department have undergone training to use the aerial device and follow Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. This includes a sergeant, two police officers and two public safety officers who assist in dispatch. 

Officials said the police team will assist the fire department whenever the use of the device would be helpful in a fire-service incident.

 Several firefighter/paramedics who work on the HAZMAT (hazardous materials and safety training) team already have access to a HAZMAT drone and are certified to fly, so the police drone augments those capabilities.   

Northville Township officials applied for and won a grant to pay half the bill for both the training and the drone. The MMRMA paid $4,381.50 of the total cost, according to a prepared statement from the township.

"We are so grateful to MMRMA," Hilden said. "Technology is a valuable tool in public safety and the drone lets us more effectively do our job and keep the residents and the public safety team of Northville Township safe."