Joint Oversight Hearing Tuesday on Drones and Emergencies

August 14, 2015

SACRAMENTO – The Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a joint oversight hearing on Tuesday, August 18 that delves into the risks and benefits of drone use during fires, medical emergencies and other emergency response situations. The hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. in room 444 of the State Capitol.

The hearing will include testimony from fire, law enforcement, and emergency management personnel, as well as from NASA, the media, a leading drone manufacturer, industry groups, and others. The hearing will explore ways to ensure drones do not undermine emergency response efforts, as well as steps for equipping California’s first responders with this new technology.  A copy of the agenda is attached. The hearing is expected to be televised.

“The rapid rise in popularity of inexpensive drones is putting emergency responders at risk and threatening public safety,” said Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona), chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. “As an EMT of over 30 years, I see the potential benefits that drone technology can bring to emergency response; however the lack of guidelines and regulations on their use is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. This hearing is an important part of that conversation.”    

“Drones have the potential to revolutionize some emergency situations, like search and rescue missions, but they can also create enormous problems for first responders and undermine our response to emergencies, creating great risks for the public, “ said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and vice-chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. “This is an important conversation that we need to have, particularly in the midst of this very serious fire season.”

Drones have on numerous occasions impeded firefighting efforts in California this year.  Just this week, an air ambulance helicopter delivering a patient to a hospital in Fresno nearly collided with a drone.