Menlo Fire and US Coast Guard demonstrate cooperation in exercise on air and water rescue

by Contributed Content on November 29, 2017

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District and the United States Coast Guard regularly work together on water and mud rescues and recoveries in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay. The Fire District has operated a unique and specialized Air Boat needed for shallow water or mud conditions as part of their mission for almost 30 years.

This morning (Nov. 29), the U.S. Coast Guard and Menlo Park Fire District held a three-hour exercise to practice the safe and efficient integration of a bay water and air search and rescue effort, using water rescue craft, drones and helicopters. Public safety partners working effectively together in the same airspace requires continuous refinement of standards for deconfliction (airspace management) and regular exercising of emergency scene integration and communication processes.

“This is one of the busiest air corridors in the world and we want to show and prove that public safety drones, helicopters and water craft can all safely and effectively work together in the same space, complementing each other’s essential and time sensitive life-saving efforts,” said Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

Commander Brian Potter of the U.S. Coast Guard added, “Partnerships like this ensure we remain at the leading edge of integrating unmanned technology into maritime search and rescue. UAS/Drones are a tremendous asset for searching the confined areas around bridges and powerlines and, when combined with manned helicopters, provide a more complete and effective maritime rescue package for the Bay Area public”

“Integration is key for the safe and effective use of public safety assets in a common airspace, but equally important is refining and advancing UAS aircraft, software and sensor technology capabilities, which in turn continuously improves our situational awareness, timeliness, and effectiveness,” said Michael Ralston, who leads the Crisis Technology & Innovation development efforts for Menlo Fire.

“[This was] a tremendous opportunity to learn and practice integration between the US Coast Guard and the Menlo Park Fire District’s airboat and drone operations.”

Photos courtesy of Menlo Fire

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