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La. fire department puts cameras on all vehicles

By Jeff Adelson
The Times-Picayune

COVINGTON, La. — Firefighters in the Covington area now have a pair of eyes watching their actions when they’re on the road or at a fire scene.

St. Tammany Parish’s 12th Fire Protection District completed the installation of cameras in department vehicles this month, making it the first department in the state to have all its vehicles monitored by equipment that can sense and record poor driving, accidents and activities on a fire scene.

The cameras automatically turn on and record 12 seconds of video when they sense rapid acceleration, braking or an accident and can be manually turned on at a scene, said James Hartman, a public relations specialist hired by the district. The cameras’ two lenses are pointed out the front window of the trucks and at the front seat of the vehicle.

The system, which automatically e-mails the videos to district chiefs, is aimed at improving driving habits, Chief Darrell Guillot said.

“We saw an opportunity to do something that makes things safer for us and if we do see someone doing something incorrect, we can address it,” Guillot said.

The district paid about $10,000 for the cameras and will pay $8,000 a year for the service that uploads the video and e-mails it to district chiefs, Hartman said. He noted that the cameras could also be useful as documentation for accident involving fire trucks, which cost the district an average of $13,000 per crash.

There was no particular incident that sparked the installation of the equipment, Hartman said.

The cameras could also be used to identify vehicles that do not yield to trucks on the way to emergencies, though Hartman said he was unsure whether the department could use evidence from the cameras to get fines for those that don’t get out of the way.

Copyright 2009 The Times-Picayune Publishing Company