First response

  • Nuclear accidentsPreparing the next generation of nuclear emergency responders

    The catastrophic failure of Japan’s Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 was a turning point in how the scientific community viewed nuclear emergencies. Up to then, the emphasis had been on prevention, not response. Virginia Tech’s Sonja Schmid has won a 2014 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Development (CAREER) Award to study the prospects and problems of creating a global nuclear emergency response plan. Key issues to be addressed in her research are how to convince the world that any nuclear accident is everybody’s problem and how to mobilize an effective international response.

  • PreparednessThe State of New York launches disaster preparedness initiatives

    The state of New York is implementing a proactive strategy to deal with the threat of terrorism and natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy. Local municipalities have been granted state support for emergency preparedness projects, and the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services(DHSES), led by commissioner Jerome Hauer, has expanded its regional footprint from five planning/response regions to ten. “Mother Nature has become much more aggressive, so we too must adopt a similar posture to ensure we are ready to respond effectively when the next disaster strikes, Hauer says.

  • DisastersStart-ups offer apps which help people cope with disasters

    Open data policies which allow government agencies to share public information with citizens and the private sector have made California welcoming to startups dedicated to helping communities recover following a disaster.For example: Appallicious offers an app which allows subscribed cities and towns to select from hundreds of data sets, then share with the public, information on evacuation routes, current hazards, and location of critical resources.BlueLine Grid allows public employees from different agencies to communicate with each other during a crisis.SeeClickFix is connecting residents to their local government.

  • Emergency preparednessMedical registry systems are becoming part of emergency preparedness plans

    Communities across the country are exploring medical registry systems as part of their emergency preparedness plans. Using medical registries for emergency planning has been critical for New Orleans city officials, especially after Hurricane Katrina.St. Louis deployed its Functional Needs Registry after a power outage occurred in 2006. Experts note, though, that just because residents are listed in the city’s registry does not mean that help and services will always be delivered during emergencies.

  • First respondersNYC tracks firefighters to scene with radio tags, automated display

    Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York City has been pursuing ways better to coordinate the 14,000 firefighters and emergency response it employs. Prior to 9/11, the Fire Department New York (FDNY) used a paper/carbon-copy ride list to account for who’s present). Now, on fifteen of its vehicles, FDNY can automatically see which firefighters are nearby from the onboard computer, and relay that information to the city’s Operations Center.

  • EmergenciesSmartphones can save life in health emergencies

    MAs more Americans adopt smartphones for communicating, managing calendars, and storing contacts, but these all-in-one devices could also be used to save lives in health emergencies. Companies are developing apps that allow users to store health data which can then be accessed by emergency services personnel or physicians.

  • 911 call locatorPhiladelphia refines area 911 call locator technology

    In the Philadelphia area and around much of the country, emergency services and first responders are looking to retool the ways in which cell phone locator technology could allow them to aid individuals, and they are calling for the further cooperation of cell phone providers and the government alike. “If you don’t know where the guy is, you can’t help him,” said Edwin Truitt, the Delaware County [Pennsylvania] Emergency Services director.

  • First respondersAlabama schools deploy 3-D virtual mapping to prepare responders

    The Alabama Department of Homeland Security has recently institutionalized a detailed 3-D mapping system, called Virtual Alabama, which aims to create maps of public buildings in order to prepare responders in the event of a security emergency.The tactic behind Virtual Alabama is to immerse local responders to the intricacies of key structures before the knowledge is ever needed.

  • InnovationEncouraging innovation for better preparedness, recovery, and resilience tools

    Last week the White House hosted innovators in technology and emergency management to discuss new tools that can improve preparedness, recovery, and resilience in the wake of a disaster. The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative Demo Dayshowcased innovations from the private sector and government agencies aimed at aiding survivors of large-scale emergencies. The key goal was to “find the most efficient and effective ways to empower survivors to help themselves,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.

  • 911 dispatch systemsPlans for nationwide 911 dispatch centers advance

    Municipalities across the country are planning to connect 911 dispatch centers in an effort to improve information sharing. Plan is to connect dispatchers via the Internet, which will allow centers quickly to transfer calls, 911 text messages, photos, videos of accident scenes, and other information. The technology is part of a “Next Generation 911” initiative already being implemented across the country.

  • ContractsDHS urged to investigate use of DHS grants for Motorola emergency comm. devices

    Three senior House Democrats have requested DHS’s Office of Inspector Generalto investigate allegations claiming Motorola’s contracting tactics have led state and local governments unnecessarily to spend millions of dollars on the company’s proprietary devices, including its two-way emergency radio systems.

  • Search and rescueA drone finds natural disaster survivors through their cell-phones

    During his semester project in Computer Science at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Jonathan Cheseaux developed a system for locating a person via his or her mobile phone with a drone. This device could be used to find victims in natural disasters.

  • Disaster trainingTraining volcano scientists from around the world to predict, respond to eruptions

    Scientists and technicians who work at volcano observatories in eleven countries visited the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory earlier this month to learn techniques for monitoring active volcanoes. The International Training Program in Volcano Hazards Monitoring is designed to assist scientists from other nations in attaining self-sufficiency in monitoring volcanoes and reducing the risks from eruptions.

  • WildfiresCalifornia braces for worst wildfire season in memory

    California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection(Cal Fire) is bracing for one of the longest and most difficult fire seasons in memory. A recent addition of $23 million to the emergency wildfire budget for the fiscal year that began 1 July, brings the department’s budget total to $209 million. “That’s just the first week, and we still have 51 more weeks to go,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for Cal Fire. “We’re not even to the peak of the fire season yet.”

  • PreparednessEmergency readiness of health-care providers

    In 2013 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services(CMS) proposed new preparedness requirements for hospitals and sixteen other types of health care providers, including home health agencies, nursing homes, hospices, transplant centers, and community mental health facilities, to mitigate natural and man-made disasters. Health-care providers say these requirements are too costly.