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The city of Henderson has a new tool in efforts to fight fires and look at incidents: drones. 

The city's fire department recently entered into a contract with a drone maker to supply Henderson with unmanned aircraft for use. 

"We identified that this was something that was going to be big," Jeremy Hynds, emergency manager for the city of Henderson, told State of Nevada.

Hynds said the drone program is part of Henderson's Smart City initiative that looks for ways to make the city work better, and more efficiently. 

As part of the fire department, the drones will be used in emergency situations.

"For the fire department specifically, we want to make sure we save lives. That is essentially what we’ll push for -- saving lives and saving property," Hynds said.

The drones will be equipped with thermal imaging cameras, allowing firefighters to find hot spots within a burning building. They'll also be able to see a building's roof to assess whether someone can be on it to fight a fire.

Another important use will be search and rescue. Hynds said they have received increased calls from people getting lost or becoming hurt on trails around the city.

Once the fire department has established its drone program, the city will look at expanding it.

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"As they start identifying best practices and need for drones, we're going to start looking at how do we better utilize drones for utilities, or parks and recreation, or how can we better increase the capability of our floodplains with drones," Hynds said.

He would also like to have the live stream of what drones are capturing with their cameras sent back to operation headquarters during a major disaster.

One of the biggest concerns with drones is privacy. Drones can easily fly just about everywhere, but drones used by hobbyists are supposed to ask for permission to fly over private property.

With drones controlled by a government agency, there are more rules and restrictions -- but the private property rule is not one of them. Hynds said people have to understand the city's primary purpose.

"We're not there to invade privacy," he said. "We are there to effectively save lives and effectively save property, and effectively and efficiently do the job the residents have asked us to do."

 

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Jeremy Hynds, emergency manager, city of Henderson

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