Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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May 29, 2014

Birds-eye view for first responders

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — Garvin County’s emergency services are about to take to the skies with a model-like helicopter that’s far more than a toy.

All three county commissioners voted Tuesday to allow emergency management to purchase the small copter equipped with a camera.

The whole idea behind the copter is to get an aerial view when needed with fires or other emergency situations.

“If there’s a fire in a wooded area and you can’t see the other side you put the copter up in the air to see what’s on the other side of the fire front,” said Bud Ramming, Garvin County’s emergency management director.

“There was a fire south of Lindsay last week and we couldn’t see the other side of the fire,” he said.

“We didn’t know where the hot spots were. If we had one of these we wouldn’t have been out there for three days.

“If there’s a manhunt we can also use it for that.”

Called a quad copter because of its four propellers, Ramming estimates it’s maybe 15 inches long.

The GPS programmed, electronic copter is battery operated and has a camera underneath allowing officials on the ground to get a birds-eye view from above, whether it’s a fire or some other type of emergency situation.

The small flying copter provides live video feeds or still photos to the ground as those images are provided to a mobile command vehicle.

“We can put it up in the air in any spot,” Ramming said. “It can fly up to four miles, but I would recommend it stay within eyesight.

“The camera feeds images into a monitor, which then goes to mobile command,” he said.

“This will be available for fire departments and law enforcement.

“There’s very few counties in the state that have one of these. Some counties don’t even know these exist.”

The cost of the equipped copter is expected to be just under $2,500.

Paying for the copter are funds from the 4 percent emergency management portion of a quarter cent countywide sales tax that is mostly split equally among the 12 fire departments in Garvin County.

Along with this copter Ramming says the smaller portion of the tax has also been used to help area firefighters with training and equipment, such as hand-held radios.

During a weekly commissioners’ meeting Ramming also said a decision has been made to use tax revenues to acquire a pumper for the Maysville Fire Department.

He told commissioners a lease-purchase agreement will be pursued to acquire the pumper expected to cost around $300,000.

“I don’t think we’ll allow them to go into debt,” said District 3 Commissioner Johnny Mann about fire departments using tax revenues to update equipment.

“Lease-purchase is not debt. A lease-purchase is the best way to do this.”

Ramming works closely with the fire chiefs in the county in determining how to use the revenues from the county sales tax passed by voters in 2012.

He added there have been discussions with the Pauls Valley Fire Department about getting a second emergency command vehicle.

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