By WILLIAM CLARK
The Ocean Township Office of Emergency Management is hoping to add airborne assistance to its resources.
Office of Emergency Management Director Tom Reu recently said that one of the purchases the department is hoping to make is an Unmanned Aircraft System, more commonly referred to as a drone.
“We have been working on the possibility of a UAS for a couple of years,” Reu said. “But we’re nowhere near ready to launch that.”
Several steps must be taken before OEM can deploy a drone, Reu said. The office is currently researching licensing, legal requirements and creating standard operating procedures. This includes procuring a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Reu said the department is working with other communities that have drone programs up and running to identify best practices before beginning the program in Ocean Township.
Reu believes that a drone could be a valuable tool in the event of an emergency, providing a “bird’s eye view” with a thermal camera to aid members of the police or fire departments in searching for a missing person.
The main intention, according to Reu, is public safety.
“We’re really in our infancy, we’re not ready to go yet.” Reu said. “We’re looking to see if this can be implemented in the right way. Obviously there are a lot of privacy concerns.”
The bond ordinance that was approved July 14 was just the first step in purchasing the drone, a program that Reu has been looking to implement since he started as OEM director in 2020.
The ordinance approved a total bond of $1.7 million dollars towards improvements in OEM, the Department of Community Development, Housing and Code Enforcement, Ocean TV, Police Department, Public Works and data processing.
Reu said that his office was also hoping to restart the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, a program that started in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Volunteers will be needed for the CERT program, Reu said, and said more information would be forthcoming.