SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - New equipment has been installed on two Santa Barbara County emergency helicopters to send down real-time pictures to coordinate a response in a disaster or rescue.
The cameras have been paid for by a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
They can transmit images directly to several desk computers, tablets and smart phones at one time. Multiple county and emergency leaders can see the incident and manage the response to save lives and property.
"It will allow us to take that video feed and analyst it to decide what we are going to do and when we are going to do it," said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Department Chief Sam Gross.
The choppers flew over the recent Isla Vista Halloween party scene last month. They were very effective in crowd control, and surveillance on the beach near the crowded college town.
In a wild land fire they will help commanders decide where to put their engines, and how to evacuate the public.
Santa Barbara County Division Chief Ray Navarro says the images will help to answer many questions quickly. "What are our routes for emergency response? Are they up and running? Buildings like hospitals and clinics and if it is during the day, what about schools or those types of buildings that house a lot of people? It helps us to know that," he said.
Night vision capabilities will help with rescues, missing persons, and SWAT enforcements.
At times the images may also be available to the media and the public as events are unfolding.
"We do envision in the future that we can show live pictures for public consumption," said Joe Guzzardi with the Office of Emergency Services. "We see that as a possibility. We do need to keep in mind that some of the feeds will be sensitive to law enforcement or fire."