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As heavy snow stretches resources, Billings responders look to new technology

Posted at 6:02 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 15:06:43-04

BILLINGS — The Billings Fire Department says it’s been inundated with calls Tuesday during the major snowstorm, and emergency services are stretched thin.

Things were so hectic for the Billings Fire Department early Tuesday morning that fire officials had to up their staffing.

“We’re actually staffing another unit in the Heights, and in the West End, due to the fact that we could predict these weather conditions coming,” said Billings firefighter Cameron McCamley.

However, new technology could soon aid first responders on days like this in the form of two deployable surveillance cameras.

“They have point, tilt, zoom cameras, a 360-degree camera, and an infrared thermal imaging camera,” said Billings Director of Emergency Management KC Williams.

They also have solar panels, backup batteries, and a PA system.

The new cameras are courtesy of a Homeland Security grant and will aid police and fire crews, monitor and scope out accidents and potential pileups when roads are icy.

“If we need to set them up to look at a hazardous intersection, or if they’re really concerned about a stretch of highway, you can set those up and look at what’s going on in the highway,” Williams said.

They can also be used at hazmat scenes, or to look at natural disasters from a safe distance. They can survey large crowds at protests, fairs, or festivals. Williams said they can even help monitor river rescues.

This new technology will be a huge aid, especially on days when roads are slick and icy.

However, the Billings Fire Department recommends staying home and off the roads when the snow makes it so dangerous.

“If you do need to make a trip, try and make it a small trip, do everything you can, stay off the roads. It’s a great time to binge-watch anything you still haven’t,” McCamley said.

While conditions were dangerous Tuesday, some Billings residents still had to get out in town.

Angie Heaney of Billings had decided to make only one trip Tuesday to prepare for her kids’ snow day.

“Horrible visibility, it’s much better now than it was at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Heaney said.

“It’s cold and everybody’s driving slow, so hopefully it’ll be safe."