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Video streaming could help evaluate fire reports

Jackson County Fire District No. 3 began piloting an emergency video streaming service Thursday that can help responders better assess incoming fire reports.

The service works like this: A dispatcher sends a link via text to a 911 caller, who then clicks on the link to start a secure, one-time-use video stream, allowing the dispatcher to view the status of an ongoing fire incident.

Dispatchers will only send links to callers who are in a safe location and who are able and willing to share their smartphone video with responders, according to a press release.

Callers don’t need to worry about downloading an app to make the streaming work, and they don’t need to worry about protecting information on their cellphones, according to the release.

The link only activates the video stream and doesn’t allow dispatchers access to any caller data or phone functions,

Real-time video can provide emergency responders with a tactical edge in combating fires, according to the release, helping responders, for example, decide on the number of firefighters and engines needed to manage a developing fire.

The pilot service, launched in partnership with the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District and Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon, is part of the Fire District 3’s broader tactical advantage initiative, which aims to improve the district’s response to emergency calls, according to District 3 Chief Bob Horton.

The service has already proven to be useful, according to Horton, who said the emergency streaming resource had a “soft opening” earlier in August.

Video streaming came in handy a couple of weeks ago when a report came through dispatch of an RV fire near the Pilot gas station on East Pine Street, said Horton.

“This could be a pretty scary event,” he added, remarking on the proximity of fire to gas pumps. However, video provided by a person on the scene revealed the RV fire had already been extinguished. The vehicle was also far enough away from the gas pumps that it presented no significant danger.

After seeing the livestream, the fire district did not need to scramble responders and resources to the gas station.

Fire District 3 is piloting the video-streaming technology of 911eye, a United Kingdom-based company. In recent years, 911eye has expanded its emergency-response services across the Atlantic to over a dozen U.S. police departments.

Horton said the district saw the video-streaming service’s value for evaluating fire emergencies. The district plans to pilot 911eye’s service during a 30-day free trial, after which it will try the service of Good SAM, another UK-based company with emergency-response video-streaming services.

According to Horton, either vendor would cost the district between $6,000 and $10,000 per year.

Horton said video-streaming would allow for a more efficient use of resources, such as saving fuel costs for fire engines that don’t have to be dispatched to an emergency that is no longer active. Horton also explained that video-streaming from the scenes of ongoing fires would show responders where to direct most of their resources.

A new $350,000, 4-wheel drive Pierce wildland interface engine will offer District 3 firefighters better maneuverability on rugged terrain than a standard engine. Fire District 3 photo