ANNA — Police and fire personnel accustomed to responding to evolving situations agree that one of the most important elements in successful resolution of fast-moving situations is having reliable, instantly-available information upon which to base their decisions.

Moreover, investigators often rely on realistic recreations of accidents, incidents and other events, along with the circumstances surrounding them, in order to gain a better perspective on their causes.

“First responders are trained to assess the situation with the latest, most reliable information available to them,” said Anna Police Lt. Jeff Caponera. “Additionally, investigators seeking to recreate a situation often attempt to look at circumstances from a different point of view. Having a unique or unusual perspective can be extremely helpful.”

To help gain that different point of view, the Anna Police Department has obtained a mobile video surveillance device that includes a video camera that can rise 35 feet and scan the surrounding area in a 360-degree radius, allowing a clear view for up to two miles.

The extending pole can be attached to any vehicles with an appropriately-sized trailer hitch. Operating under its own battery power, the camera transmits video to a handheld screen and controller device on the ground.

“Knowing what’s out there can be exceedingly helpful to first responder who may be entering a situation with limited information,” Caponera said. “An active investigation or on-going situation can be aided immeasurably by having an elevated line of sight.”

Camera operators can relay instant information to police and fire personnel dealing with an emergency where sightlines are obstructed or inaccessible. Viewing dangerous situations such as structure or brush fires, active shooter situations, traffic tie-ups, crowd control or search and rescue operations from an elevated perspective can conceivably be life-saving.

“Having a viewing perch five stories high can help us see where and how to deploy or resources more effectively and efficiently,” said Caponera. “Also, having the capacity to record video or take still photos helps in post-event reviews, training and archiving.”

The immediate portability of the device allows for fast responses to fast-moving situations. And, unlike drones that have a very limited battery timeframe, the hitch-mounted camera can remain active for hours.

“The bird’s-eye-view provided by the device is something that extends our reach extensively, without the expense and delay of summoning a helicopter, or risking people’s lives,” he said. “Anything that keeps our personnel out of harm’s way and still provides critical intelligence is well worth it.”