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Somerton/Cocopah firefighters wearing cameras on helmets
The Somerton/Cocopah Fire Department is now using small cameras attached to the helmets of its firefighters, making it the only fire department in Yuma County wearing them.
SCFD Spokesman Robby Rodriguez said the cameras will not only give the department a chance to evaluate its procedures, but also give the public a unique point-of-view look at fighting fires.
“It is something we can learn from. When we go back and look at the video, we can see if we are being safe, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and what we can do better or where we can improve,” Rodriguez said. “It will also give the public a unique perspective into what we do, by letting them see what we see.”
Rodriguez said the fire department originally planned to buy the cameras two years ago, but did not have the money at the time. He explained, since then, the department has been setting money aside in its budget each year, until it saved up enough money to buy them.
“We wanted to do this two years ago, but with the downturn in the economy there wasn't enough money in the budget for them. The cameras aren't real expensive, but it wasn't the time to be spending money,” Rodriguez said. “We tried to be frugal. We didn't want to be spending money that could be used somewhere else in the department, so we waited and saved up for them.”
Rodriguez said the SCFD purchased a total of three cameras, each costing about $289. They are being worn by the fire captain, a paramedic on the ambulance, and a firefighter on the engine truck.
In addition, the department also bought a dash-mounted camera for $209 that is mounted in the fire chief's truck, which gives the department a wide angle view of the incident. Rodriguez said they have also offered the use of the cameras to the Somerton Police Department as well, in case SPD ever needs them.
Although SCFD has only had the cameras for two months, Rodriguez said they have already recorded video of five or six videos of major incident responses.
Essentially the helmet-mounted cameras, or “third eyes,” Rodriguez said, will give the department a chance to evaluate its procedures and help firefighters improve responses when they go to a similar scene.
“It is a tool that allows us to learn from every incident that we respond to,” Rodriguez said. “But it's not just visual. It has a microphone and also records audio too.”
The cameras are battery-operated and can last up to a week. They are inspected and recharged every Monday. They can record up to three hours of high definition video on a 32-gigabyte memory card. Each camera also has the capability to shoot 12 megapixel photos at a speed up to 30 frames per second.
Rodriguez added that the fire department at Yuma Proving Ground has one helmet-mounted camera, but doesn't use it on a regular basis.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854.