• FirefightingNew sensors detect cable fire before it starts burning

    Fires are frequently caused by smoldering cables. New sensors now help detect such smoldering fires at an early stage by analyzing the plastic vapors released by overheated insulating cables. Scientists have developed these hybrid sensors that combine measurement processes with data evaluation. These detect the gases released from the plastic coating due to heating and reliably identify and analyze the gas mixture and its concentration.

  • First responseDemonstrating technologies for disaster response

    Radiological incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima illustrate the need for effective coordination of federal, state, and local agencies in response efforts. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrated new technology developments at the Columbus, Ohio, Battelle Memorial Institute facility that will enable more effective radiological decontamination.

  • FirefightingOnline residential fire simulation tool for training firefighters

    Firefighting is not what it used to be. Whether it is a complex blaze raging in an urban high-rise or a seemingly straightforward single-level home fire, modern building construction and furnishings have made fighting fires more difficult: Flames burn hotter, produce more smoke, and spread more quickly. But fire research has advanced, too, and researchers are working with five major urban fire departments to build new knowledge on modern residential firefighting into game-based online simulations with an engaging, dynamic format.

  • DisastersTechnology confronts disasters

    By Dorothy Ryan

    In 2010, soon after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake, a team from MIT Lincoln Laboratory collected and analyzed information to help the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), the lead military agency responding to the crisis, effectively dispatch vital resources, including food, water, tents, and medical supplies, to the victims of this disaster. This Haiti experience demonstrated to Lincoln Laboratory researchers that advanced technology and technical expertise developed for the Department of Defense (DoD) can significantly benefit future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. In February, the Laboratory established the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group to explore ways to leverage or advance existing capabilities for improving disaster responses.

  • First response technologyDHS recruits Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to develop first-response technology

    DHS wants better technology for first responders — police, firefighters, and EMTs — but rather than pushing for innovation from within the massive corporations that already provide technology to government agencies, the DHS has come to Silicon Valley to tap the entrepreneurial ecosystem of northern California. Giant technology firms have resources of large scale manufacturing and distribution, but there is one crucial difference. Technology startups are much more nimble, and can shift their development much faster than the huge corporations can.

  • DisastersTeams of computers and humans more effective in disaster response

    Crisis responders need to know the extent of a natural disaster, what aid is required and where they need to get to as quickly as possible — this is what’s known as “situation awareness.” With the proliferation of mass media, a lot of data is now generated from the disaster zone via photographs, tweets, news reports and the like. With the addition of first responder reports and satellite images of the disaster area, there is a vast amount of relevant unstructured data available for situation awareness. A crisis response team will be overwhelmed by his data deluge — perhaps made even worse by reports written in languages they don’t understand. But the data is also hard to interpret by computers alone, as it’s difficult to find meaningful patterns in such a large amount of unstructured data, let alone understand the complex human problems that described within it. Experts say that joint humans-computers teams would be the best way to deal with voluminous, but unstructured, data.

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  • First response gearSeeing through the dark clearly

    A new device, dubbed Thermal on Demand (TOD), allows firefighters to see everything in a heavily smoke-filled room, where the unassisted eye sees nothing but a pitch-black environment. TOD allows responders to see doors, furniture, light switches, debris on the floor, and victims lying on the floor. Looking through a periscopic lens, in front of a thermal camera, the wearer sees a detailed image of everything in the immediate vicinity.

  • First response gearWearable device helps medics save lives in disasters, on the battlefield

    The First Response Monitor is a wearable device designed to measure and monitor the vital signs of multiple trauma patients for emergency response in disasters and battlefield situations. The device has been primarily designed with first response medics in mass casualty incidents in mind, but it has applications in many other fields — such as civilian medicine where additional monitoring of conditions has benefit in patient outcomes, wellness monitoring, and within sports for training and performance monitoring.

  • WildfiresHundreds of fires blazing across more than 1.1 million acres in the West

    Wildfires have been ravaging large parcels of land in the West and there seems to be no end in sight for the weary Westerners. There are hundreds of individual fires blazing across at least 1.1 million acres in the West. Both the military and foreign firefighting crews have been called in to help the beleaguered firefighters in the West. Washington State’s firefighters are stretched to the limit, and on Friday the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) opened centers in Omak and Colville to coordinate offers of help from trained, qualified volunteer firefighters and from people who have and can operate machinery like backhoes and bulldozers to dig fire lines.

  • Emergency communicationDHS S&T licenses innovative communication technology to commercial partners

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) last week announced that it has licensed the Radio Internet-Protocol Communications Module (RIC-M) to two commercial partners. RIC-M, used by local, state, and federal responders, is a low-cost, external, stand-alone, interface device that connects radio frequency (RF) system base stations, consoles and other RF equipment — regardless of brand — over the Internet or Private Internet Protocol (IP) network.

  • FirefightingHistoric drought complicates firefighting in California

    The twenty-one wild fires which have erupted in different parts of the state have already cost lives, dozens of homes, and millions of dollars in damages. To fight fires, firefighters need water – and although state water and fire officials say that, so far, there is no danger of running out of water, they are conscious of the state’s water predicament and they are trying to be more careful in the use of water. The persistent drought has forced crews to get creative, using more dirt and retardant on wildfires. Firefighting response to several blazes has been slowed down by the drought, because firefighting helicopters found it impossible to siphon water from lakes and ponds where water levels were lower than in previous years. In the past, property owners whose properties were threatened by fire, would allow firefighting crews to tap water on their property, and would then be compensated by cash reimbursements from the state. Now, many property owners demand instead that the state replenish the water used by firefighters to protect the owners’ property.

  • HazmatLos Alamos National Laboratory’s annual Hazmat Challenge begins today

    Twelve hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Missouri, and Nebraska test their skills in a series of graded, timed exercises at the 19th annual Hazmat Challenge held 27-31 July at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The competition tests skills of hazardous materials response teams in responding to simulated hazardous materials emergencies involving an aircraft, clandestine laboratories, various modes of transportation, industrial piping scenarios, a simulated radiological release, and a confined space event.

  • Health emergenciesHHS launches first compendium of resources for health emergencies

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week launched the first online collection of the federal resources and capabilities available to mitigate the health impacts of emergencies. The compendium offers an easy-to-navigate, comprehensive, Web-based repository of HHS products, services, and capabilities available to state, state, tribal, territorial, and local agencies before, during, and after public health and medical incidents. The information spans twenty-four categories, and each category showcases the relevant disaster resources available from HHS and partner agencies, a brief description of each resource and information on accessing each one.

  • Emergency communicationNIST, NTIA seeking industry partners for public safety communications test bed

    The Commerce Department’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program is signing up a new round of industry collaborators for the test bed used to evaluate advanced broadband equipment and software for emergency first responders. So far, thirty-nine telecommunications companies have signed new, five-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) to participate in the test bed program.

  • Emergency communicationWhen the phones went dead: 7/7 showed how disasters call for tomorrow’s tech

    By Nigel Linge

    At times of crisis communications are essential. The emergency services need to coordinate their response while the general public wants to contact loved ones and find out what’s happening. The problem is that there simply isn’t enough capacity for everyone to use the networks simultaneously, particularly in densely populated areas like central London. Thus, one aspect of the London bombings of 7 July 2005 that many who were there remember is that their phones went dead. Mobile phone coverage in parts of central London was almost unavailable. This was not due to damage; the emergency services had shut down public access to the networks. Today’s emergency services want to make better use of video and exploit the potential of real-time mapping applications — both of which demand a network with a greater data-handling capacity. The natural place to find this capacity is the 4G mobile network that is now being rolled out around the world. But this will require new services to be designed and built for emergency services use.