Manlius FD Granted First Drone in Onondaga County

Mar 06, 2018 Jason Emerson Eagle Bulletin , News

Department approved for confidence course By Lauren Young Staff Writer

As of Tuesday night, the Manlius Fire Department will be the first station in Onondaga County to have their own drone.

Approved by the Manlius Village Board on Tuesday, the department was additionally granted permission to begin construction on an SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) confidence course at the firehouse, which Chief Brad Pinsky called “an amazing training resource for us.”

Manlius Fire Department Chief Brad Pinsky’s personal drone, which resembles the FAA-approved drone ordered by the department. (submitted photo)

Opening last October, the $10.3 million firehouse located on 8200 Cazenovia Road in Manlius will be the first emergency services agency in the county to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate a drone. The $2,400 drone can operate for day and night flight and will be utilized for search and rescue procedures as well as fire investigation. As a battery-operated device it will require no fuel, and will be covered by the department’s insurance policy.

Pinsky owns a personal drone, which has been used by the department before for a wildfire and investigating a basement deemed too dangerous to send fire investigators into.

“Had we had it at the Kirkville fires, we would’ve avoided two people getting poison ivy,” added Pinsky. “So it’s not only a time-saver and life-saver, but I think we’ll save injuries to people.”

While the drone was approved for the fire department, Pinsky noted that the device could be used by a wide variety of services, from DPW-related matters to the police department.

There will be no geographical limit for the drone, which was “one of the widest geographical approvals [the FAA] has ever given,” said Pinsky.

Training, which will be provided at no cost, should take a month to complete, and will be offered in house.

The department will choose 10 people to undergo training for the drone, which was officially ordered on Thursday.

“I think you’re going to find that it’ll save personal injury, time, costs and it’ll much more effectively perform certain services,” Pinsky said, adding that at least 20 hours of training would be needed in order to be skilled in using the drone.

The department was additionally granted approval to construct an SCBA confidence course, which will allow firefighters to build confidence for a multitude of dangerous situations, from entanglement scenarios, falling objects, breaking through walls and falling through a roof.

“One of the big things we do is crawl around in the dark,” said Pinsky. “A main focus of our training, from day one all through our fire service training, is becoming used to being in the mask, and getting tangled up. It’s terrifying, but it’s safe.”

After discussing the project with other county fire chiefs, Pinsky said the training is certainly “a big deal for firefighters. This training is [addressing] what makes people quit the fire service before they start.”

The maze, which will be a wooden, two-level, U-shaped tunnel obstacle course, will measure approximately 22 feet by 16 feet. Required training for the course will occur four times a year.

The only other obstacle course, not available for the Manlius department’s use, is in Syracuse, and another one is located at the State Fire Academy, which is where their firefighters go to train.

“This is what’s going to make our station the iconic fire training area, and the maze is the first of three things we want to do to make this the premiere training place for us,” said Pinsky. “I expect you’re going to see all our mutual aid departments want to come.”

In addition, the Manlius Fire Department received an upgraded rating from the Insurance Services Office, a private federal agency that rates fire departments. From one (best) to 10 (worst), the Manlius Fire Department was rated a two, making it one of 1,340 departments in the nation with such a rating. Pinsky said this benefits residents financially, by reducing insurance for home owners and property owners. “The lower your fire department rating is, the lower your insurance rates are,” said Pinsky.

A projected time frame of about two weeks has been proposed for the project’s completion.

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Jason Emerson Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.

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