Northern Bruce Peninsula fire department seeks grant money for drones

The Sun Times

Northern Bruce Peninsula has three new drones on its wishlist this year.

Municipal councillors on Tuesday approved a fire department’s request to support its Community Emergency Preparedness Grant (CEPG) application.

If successful, the fire department intends to purchase one large drone and two smaller drones while training six to seven operators at an estimated cost of $40,000.

The CEPG funding program was recently released through Emergency Management Ontario and is designed to help municipalities enhance resiliency and build capacity based on their own unique needs and circumstances.

The funding is available for emergency management projects, including operating assets, capital assets, and training for municipalities in Ontario with a population of less than 100,000 people.

The grant supplies, equipment and services that range from $5,000 to $50,000. The application window closes on Nov. 30.

In a report to council, Northern Bruce Peninsula Fire Chief Jack Burt said the use of “remotely piloted aircraft systems” is increasing and is becoming a valuable tool for firefighting and emergency management operations.

Fire departments use drones to quickly identify fires or locate people in hard-to-reach areas.

“The use of drones mitigates risk to first responders during technical rescues allowing for emergency scenes to be scouted in advance of deployment. The use of drones provides an additional level of safety before firefighters enter the water or on ice for rescue operations, and for scene size up prior to deploying, and during deployment, of equipment and staff for high angle rescues,” Burt said in the report.

Drones are also used in search-and-rescue operations, Burt said, to locate injured or stranded people in forested areas, saving time and money compared to resource-laden ground search-and-rescue tactics.

In July 2022, the Grey Highlands Fire Department used a drone to locate two people who needed to be rescued from the Beaver River when their planned two-hour tubing trip turned into a slow slog on the sluggish river and eventually stranded the pair in the middle of nowhere.

The Grey Highlands Fire Department purchased its drone in 2019 with the Hanover and Walkerton fire departments, and it is now a key part of the response to rescues and fires in the region, said Chief Marty Wellwood at the time.

Burt said the fire department, and municipality by extension, could use the drone to locate forest fires to enable quicker response times.

“Northern Bruce Peninsula’s Climate Action Plan has identified an increased fire risk for the municipality due to climate change, increased tourism, and more development. The use of a drone will increase the fire department’s ability to locate fires before they become larger concerns,” Burt said.

Mayor Milt McIver noted at the meeting a drone could be used by other municipal departments, including public works as well as for building and property inspections.

Burt told councillors he anticipates a grant of $40,000 would cover the entire cost of the one larger and two smaller drones as well as one round of training for the six to seven operators. There will be carryover costs as operators continue to train and become licensed, he said.

Drones are listed as an eligible operating expense for the CEPG grant, and collaboration with other organizations such as local municipalities and First Nations is part of the grant application criteria.

Grant applicants are to be notified of the CEGP funding decisions in February 2024.


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