‘Eye in the Sky’: Drones play large role in recent mountain rescues in El Paso

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In an area with limited reception, the department said its relatively new drone program helps them track hikers who get lost or injured.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The warmer weather has already got some El Pasoans trekking up the Franklin Mountains, and the El Paso Fire Department is preparing for mountain rescues.

As we reported, the first one of 2020 already happened on Sunday, that left one person injured.

“It is a gem and a jewel that you can only find here in El Paso. We cherish this wonderful, natural resource however it does have dangers that we need to be aware of. One of them being the heat factor and the natural aspects of it,’ Craig Dagan, Fire Suppression Technician with EPFD shared.

EPFD said anything can happen when taking a hike up the Franklin Mountains which is why it stresses the importance of being fully prepared. For example: having good footwear, a first aid kit, water, and never hiking alone.

In an area with limited reception, the department said its relatively new drone program helps them track hikers who get lost or injured.

“With the drone technology, we’re now able to provide a situational awareness that the incident commander might not have otherwise to be able to see the needs for the membership deployed on the mountain and also help make decisions as to whether they need to increase the staffing as was the case yesterday.”

Another benefit to the drones is that they have real coordination. The coordinates help emergency crews on ground or even helicopter crew, identify where hikers may be located along with keeping an eye on COMSAR members.

“We can provide that ‘lat and long’ if you will, to the incident commander, and that enables them to have that clarity. Otherwise they’d have to wait back and forth with the radio communications,” Dagan shared, “Sometimes radio communications may not be possible given the nature of the terrain, so again this gives us an ‘eye in the sky’ that we’re able to convey those coordinates.”

EPFD said its looking into expanding its drone program sometimes in the future.

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