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VICSES and MFB partner up to assess storm damage from above

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24 Jan 2020
A partnership between VicSES and MFB has resulted in increased safety for emergency responders in Melbourne’s suburban south-east this week.

On 22 and 23 January, VICSES and MFB teamed up in challenging weather conditions, using MFB’s Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) ‘drone’ technology to scour Glen Iris for building damage following a powerful storm system.

MFB uses the cutting-edge technology at a wide variety of events from bush fires to floods and police incidents and fire investigations, and VICSES’ Duty Officer David Baker was the brainchild behind getting the technology used for storm damage assessment.

Within hours of Duty Officer Baker floating the idea of surveying storm-affected homes with drones, volunteers from both the VICSES Malvern and MFB crews were on the ground on Wednesday, setting up for a day of Rapid Impact Assessments (RIAs).

The technology allowed VICSES crews to stay on the ground instead of inspecting the roofs themselves, making the operation approximately 90% faster.

According to Malvern Unit Controller Phil Munslow, a standard RIA set-up on a roof takes between 30 and 45 minutes - not including the time it takes to actually find building damage and assess whether it requires an emergency response. In this week’s operation, drones were up and inspecting a home at each location within 3-4 minutes.

 Footage from the drones has since revealed damage on a numerous buildings – ranging from 100 year-old townhouses to modern apartment buildings. Home owners were told to contact tradespeople and insurance companies to lock in permanent repairs.

A contingent of almost 20 MFB firefighters has been deployed to south eastern suburbs over the past two days, and MFB’s specially trained RPAS Pilot, Leading Firefighter David Rylance said that MFB was pleased to be able to provide this aerial intelligence to support VIC SES in response to this incident.

“Having our RPAS on scene to provide an aerial overview increases safety for firefighters and other emergency responders as we can see what hazards and situations our crews may be exposed to in advance,” said LFF Rylance.

“As a recognised leader in the field, MFB is often called upon to provide expertise and assistance to our sector partners and government on this technology,” said LFF Rylance.

Following the operation, VICSES volunteers in Malvern are keen to continue teaming up with MFB crews following powerful storms in the future.

Quotes attributable to VICSES Duty Officer David Baker:

“I was with colleagues in the State Control Centre, and asked why we weren’t using drones to inspect the 100+ damaged homes that still needed to be looked at in Glen Iris.”

“I made some inquiries to MFB and they were happy to assist us, it’s actually historic that we’re using the technology for building inspection after storm activity.”

Quotes attributable to Malvern Unit Controller Phil Munslow:

“Rapid Impact Assessments can be done by VICSES, MFB or CFA, so we are well-versed in what to do when storms hit – this time was a bit different, though.”

“Usually, our volunteers will spend between half an hour and 45 minutes setting up a rooftop safety system and finding appropriate anchor points – using drones means we cut all that out and can safely look at the damage from above.”

“The partnership between MFB and VICSES, and all emergency services, is a critical one for our communities across Victoria.”

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