MANSFIELD -- Shawn Yerian has helped the Mansfield Fire Department obtain more than $1 million in outside financial assistance through his grant-writing efforts.
His latest success -- a $3,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources -- may result in more lives being saved through an unmanned drone to assist in firefighting and search & rescue efforts.
Yerian, a lieutenant with 16 years at the MFD, hopes Mansfield City Council on July 20 will approve acceptance of the grant, and add $3,500 in matching funds from the fire department's capital budget, to purchase a Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced drone.
He said the drone is small enough to fit inside an assistant chief's vehicle or in a fire prevention vehicle, making it a readily-accessible tool on an emergency scene.
The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, according to its website, "is lightweight and portable and can take off in less than a minute" and can "zip through complex operating environments thanks to the faster ascent and descent speed."
"It would be huge tool for us," Yerian said. "In the past, when we have needed a drone, we have had to call the police department to help us. It gives incident commanders an overhead view he normally would not have."
"This grant money is out there," Yerian said. "ODNR, through its forestry program, sets this money aside to help fire departments purchase this kind of equipment. We may as well do all we can to get it to better protect residents in this area."
Yerian was honored in June by City Council for completing the four-year U.S. Fire Administration's National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program.
To complete the program, Yerian took one two-week course per year at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. After each course, Yerian had to complete a research project related to the MFD within six months.
In the grant application, Yerian wrote the MFD conducted a community risk evaluation that identified the need for a drone, saying it would assist the department and also in the mutual aid requests it receives from other departments in the ODNR forestry wildlife protection area.
"Luckily, our department does not typically experience out-of-control wildfires such as those in northern California," Yerian wrote. "Still, the benefits that drones and other unmanned aircraft systems can provide for response and recovery operations are invaluable."
Yerian said drones provide firefighters a "bird's eye view of the terrain and help them determine pre-planning needs, known and unknown water sources, or difficult areas to reach."
He said the MFD "will review our existing community wildfire preparedness/prevention plan and include mapping and current imagery for incident response, which is crucial."
"With aerial intelligence captured by drones, incident commanders can make informed decisions that keep firefighters safe while they work to protect lives, property and natural resources," Yerian said.
The drone Yerian seeks to purchase is also equipped with a thermal sensor, which uses infrared radiation to help first responders locate heat signatures of humans and fire hotspots where fires are most likely to spread.
"Currently, the MFD and neighboring departments do not have this valuable resource," he said.
In the application, Yerian wrote the MFD will send firefighters to training and ensure they receive all certifications to operate the drone effectively and safely.
He also said the drone would be made available to other agencies, including ODNR, law enforcement and other local fire departments during mutual aid efforts.