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National News Roundup – February 6, 2024

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

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Oregon Cities Consider Closing Public Trails

Court cases, liability concerns could impact hiking trail systems.

Two cities in Oregon are considering closing their public hiking trails due to liability concerns. Municipalities across Oregon are faced with increasing levels of legal risk when accommodating recreation users. The two cities, Bandon and Ashland, are waiting for guidance from the Oregon state legislature before they decide whether to close hiking trails to avoid potential liability.

The issue started in 2019 when a woman fell while crossing a bridge owned by the City of Newport, Oregon. The woman sued, but the city claimed “recreational immunity” in its defense. The injured woman said she wasn’t using the bridge for recreation and in 2023 Oregon’s Court of Appeals upheld her argument.

“It blows a pretty big hole in our understanding of what our liability was prior to this ruling,” said Scott Winkels, a lobbyist with the League of Oregon Cities. Winkels says the court’s decision puts more weight on the mindset of the person using the land than the intent of the property owner. He says Oregon local governments are trying to determine whether keeping trails open is worth the new risk created by the precedent in the Newport case. “A trail that was built for a recreational purpose but is used by somebody walking to work instead of driving – is that recreational?” Winkels wondered rhetorically.

City/County Insurance Services of Oregon, which insures many local governments in the state, has recommended their clients close trail systems to avoid liability. Some cities have.

Go here to view or download the Oregon hiking trails appellate decision.

(Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting)

Drones Could Enhance Emergency Response

Uses include locating injured parties, delivering equipment.

When someone is stricken with a heart attack, every minute counts in providing emergency care. One life-saving tool for heart attack victims is an automated external defibrillator (AED), which can automatically diagnose dangerous heart rhythms and deliver an electric shock to get the heart pumping properly again. AEDs are designed to be easy to use and provide step-by-step voice instructions, making it possible for untrained bystanders to deliver treatment before an ambulance arrives.

A team of Swedish researchers decided to use drones to deliver AEDs directly to patients. Over the course of an 11-month trial, the team showed they could get the devices to the scene of a medical emergency before an ambulance 67 percent of the time this way. Generally, the AED arrived more than three minutes earlier than an ambulance, giving bystanders time to attach the device before paramedics reached the scene. In one case, this saved a patient’s life.

The Swedish project is just one example of how drones are changing the delivery of emergency services. Bellevue, Washington, used drones to monitor crowd safety on the Fourth of July. In Douglas County, Nevada, a drone quickly helped law enforcement locate the suspect in a casino heist, who was hiding under some plywood in the yard of a residence. “The drone allowed us to see that he had a gun and the deputies were able to approach cautiously,” said Sheriff Dan Coverely. Douglas County currently has six drones in its inventory.

The features of these unmanned aerial vehicles include aerial views, 3D mapping, and thermal imaging, which make them useful for crime scene documentation, assisting search and rescue, accident reconstruction, and disaster response.

A 60-second emergency response to a house fire, flood, or car crash can be a strong selling point for drones, and the aircraft can also boost officer safety. Some departments are using them to do aerial surveillance of a building before officers enter the structure in response to a 911 call.

(Sources: IEEE Spectrum, SmartCitiesDive, Record-Courier (Minden, NV))

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