News / Winnipeg

Fire department drones and 'rockstar' CPR devices among new tech for Winnipeg

The fire department, parking authority and community services department lined up for money from the innovation capital fund.

Chris Cauthers, acting liaison for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, demonstrates how an automatic CPR machine work to Tuesday’s innovation committee.

Stephanie Taylor/Metro

Chris Cauthers, acting liaison for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, demonstrates how an automatic CPR machine work to Tuesday’s innovation committee.

The city's innovation committee spent Tuesday morning hearing pitches from across city departments on how to spend $1 million on new tech.  

From infusing silica sand into concrete to improving how corporate finance does it accounting, chairman Coun. Jeff Browaty said all pitches presented at the committee were worth consideration. 

"It's employees throughout the entire organization that do this stuff day in and day out that often have the best ideas, not the people that are here at city hall," he told reporters afterwards. 

'It's good to see these ideas. I hope this encourages more employees across the entire organization, maybe even members of the public, to come forward with ideas to provide civic services better or at lower cost."

Browaty said the $1 million was pre-approved in the 2016 budget. 

Around $286,000 in projects were approved on Tuesday, which means there is $700,000 yet to be spent. 

That money could be transferred to next year's fund, Browaty said. 

Committee wants automatic ‘rockstar CPR’ machines for ambulances

The committee voted to start equipping ambulances with new automatic CPR machines.

Chris Cauthers, acting liaison for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said it’s difficult for paramedics to deliver proper chest compressions while standing in the back of a moving ambulance.

It’s equally, if not more challenging, to preform CPR while a patient is being maneuvered in and out of elevators and around corners when they arrive at a hospital, he explained.

“It’s also going to provide better quality and consistency for our chest compressions, which will contribute to improved survivable-ability for our patients," Cauthers told reporters. 

In a written report submitted to the committee, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service says it responds to around 1,100 cardiac arrest patients annually.

Equipping 24 ambulances with the machines and required batteries would cost $438,733.

But the committee balked at that cost and voted instead to give the department $70,000 to purchase four machines and explore funding opportunities with the province.

“This machine certainly will reduce injuries that are sustained by paramedics and firefighters, while providing chest compressions,” Cauthers added.

He explained that compared to manually delivered CPR where someone concentrates pressure on one area of the chest, the band on the machine distributes the compressions all over, so it reduces the risk of patient injuries.

“Lacerated organs, broken ribs, those are all expected injures with manual CPR.”

Drones for Winnipeg’s fire department

Winnipeg’s fire department could be next in North American to introduce a drone program to its service.

Tuesday’s committee approved a request from the department to spend $31,720 on a drone pilot program for next year.

A written proposal says that unmanned aerial vehicles would help with a variety of search and rescue efforts that could, in turn, produce faster rescue times. 

Scott Wilkinson, a training officer with the service, clarified on Tuesday that drones would not be used to fight fires, but rather provide a bird’s eye view of fire and disasters scenes to assist crews on the ground. 

“It’s going to potentially save firefighters’ lives,” Wilkinson said.

By reducing the risk of staff injuries by increasing disaster mitigation strategies, UAVs could also carry savings for the department’s operating costs, he added.

Wilkinson pointed out that departments in North American cities, such as Austin, TX., and Halifax, N.S., already utilize drones, while Victoria, B.C., is developing a similar program.

The department hopes to introduce drones into its operations on a full-time basis. 

The money sought for the pilot would go towards the purchase of two drones, cameras and the required for firefighters. 

No money for body cameras on parking officers

Tuesday’s committee voted to shelve the idea of strapping body cameras on Winnipeg’s parking officers.

Staff from the Winnipeg’s Parking Authority said back in 2006, ours was the first agency in North America to start taking digital pictures of parking infractions.

Adding body camera footage to the authority’s arsenal of evidence gathering mechanisms is a logical next step, they explained. 

Committee members, however, disagreed.

Coun. Marty Morantz (Charleswood) raised concerns about the privacy implications the cameras would carry, and who would have access to the footage.

Committee chairman, Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), added that data storage could cost extra, and pointed out the technology is still evolving. 

Ultimately, the committee voted unanimously to pass on the pitch.

Browaty said he's open to see it return for 2017 innovation money. 

"We have to look. Is equipping our police force the higher priority when it comes to body cameras. That's a very fair question, we need to have that discussion still," he said to reporters after the meeting. 

"Some of the issues that the police service has had --that are legitimate --that we need to more thoroughly flush out before making that type of investment."

The authority had requested $32,501 of capital to implement a pilot in 2016, and another $177,660 in 2017 to fully implement the program.  

Charging stations for libraries gets a 'yes', not Google Maps virtual tour

Twenty-one charging stations for smartphones and tablets will also be coming Winnipeg's libraries. 

The committee approved $32,000 for the community services department to purchase new charging stations--one for each branch--except for the Millennium Library, which would receive two. 

"Many Library resources are available on mobile devices and customers access these resources via Wi-Fi in our Libraries, making it both frustrating and inconvenient when these devices run out of power," a written proposal reads. 

Although that pitch got approved, another ask to hire Google Maps for $5,700 to create vritual tours of the libraries didn't go over as well. 

Councillors accepted the proposal as information which wanted to expand on a tour already done by Google staff for the Millennium Library. 

By giving patrons a virtual tour of what's inside each library, the department said it would save visitors time when looking for materials.

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