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Drones aid public safety

Chris Carnahan

South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR) Emergency communications manager Chris Carnahan flies drones and gets paid to do it. Chris has been part of SMFR’s drone team for nearly five years.

Drones are flown by SMFR dispatchers who are part of the agency’s Drone Team. They respond from 911 call centers to support large incidents. Originally used to look for hot spots in fires, the implementation of drones has expanded over the past few years.

“These tools have been deployed to all aspects of public safety response,” Chris stated on the current use of drones. “We use them for scene overwatch to have an ‘eye in the sky’ to see how units are operating, looking for heat signatures, fire investigations, public education events, hazmat incidents and search.”

Drones provide a much faster view of a fire or accident scene, allowing for a quicker response. Using infrared heat-seeking technology, drones also search large areas faster than a ground search by people can do.

Chris has been eperimenting with small drones for years. He enjoys employing the more robust machines to help maintain public safety.

Originally from Dallas, Chris moved to Colorado in 2004. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Metro State University, intending to pursue law enforcement. While working for a private emergency medical service (EMS) company, he tried dispatch, and his career path was set.

After working as a dispatcher for private EMS companies and Denver Health, Chris looked for additional career growth opportunities; he found it with SMFR. Although fire dispatch is vastly different from EMS or law enforcement, he has risen through the ranks quickly. Beginning as lead dispatcher in 2016, Chris has held the supervisor, training supervisor and now in his current role in communications within SMFR. He also serves on the Incident Dispatch Team.

Chris loves to mentor less-seasoned dispatchers by “helping new dispatchers become great dispatchers,” he added. He finds satisfaction in supporting his leadership team as well.

Chris and his wife, Sarah, have been married since 2015. They enjoy spending time together and with their animals: three horses, three cats and four dogs. Chris also enjoys tinkering with amateur radios, getting lost in the woods in one of his older jeeps as well as fly fishing. The Carnahans love exploring Douglas County and their home county – Elbert.

South Metro Fire and Rescue uses drones to aid in many aspects of public safety. Communications manager and drone team member, Chris Carnahan supporting fellow SMFR members out in the field.


An infrared heat image from a drone, used to quickly see hot spots without risking bodily harm to firefighters.

By Celeste McNeil; photos courtesy of Chris Carnahan



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