First response

  • First respondersDigital database, tablets to provide Houston firefighters with fire scene-relevant information

    Firefighters in the greater Houston region will soon rely on tablets to provide information about certain buildings before they arrive at the scene of a fire. An anti-terrorism grant awarded by DHS has paid for the development of a digital database of high-risk structures, including buildings which are critical to the state and city daily operations. The tablets will replace binders full of papers stored in the back of fire engines and command vehicles, which were rarely used because they were difficult to reach while en route to a scene.

  • Public safety networkPublic safety network failed to involve important constituencies in development phase

    A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress established the First Responder Network Authority(FirstNet), an agency tasked with creating a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety and emergency response officials. Currently, the nation’s 5.4 million first responders rely on commercial carriers to communicate and share critical information during emergencies. Analysts say that a failure to incorporate the public safety sector into the development phase of FirstNet set the new agency on a wrong path since its early days. The failure by FirstNet to involve its most important constituency — emergency responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, and police officers – raises questions about the likely effectiveness of the network.

  • FirefightingMopping up toxic fire-fighting chemicals

    Australian scientists have come up with the solution to a world-wide pollution problem — how to mop up the toxic residues left after the use of special foams to fight fires. The technology uses a modified clay to soak up potential cancer-causing substances in the foam used by fire fighters, defense facilities, and airports worldwide to suppress fires.

  • DisastersThe Big One will have frightening consequences for Los Angeles: Scientists

    Scientists cannot accurately predict when California’s next massive earthquake – or, the Big One – will strike, but they can predict the effects, and it is frightening. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) say these effects will include powerless rescue services, widespread fire damage, and no fresh water for months on end. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake was the region’s the last mega-quake, but scientists say that “When we have the San Andreas earthquake, that earth fault will probably be about 20 to 30 times larger than the fault that produced the Northridge earthquake [which still resulted in $20 Billion in damages].”

  • InfrastructureLos Angeles revises rule requiring flat rooftops for skyscrapers

    For more than forty years, the building code in Los Angeles required skyscrapers to have flat roofs in order to facilitate helicopter landing in cases of emergency. Now, however, with newer technological advances and techniques that enable Angelinos to be safe during an emergency, the flat-roof code is seen as outdated, and it was changed on Monday. Instead of helicopter pads, skyscraper designers will now focus on other safety features, including special elevators for fire fighters, special exit stairwells, advanced sprinkler systems, and video surveillance technologies.

  • RoboticsFlying robots will go where humans cannot

    There are many situations in which it is impossible, complicated, or too time-consuming for humans to enter and carry out operations. Think of contaminated areas following a nuclear accident, or the need to erect structures such as antennae on mountain tops. These are examples of where flying robots could be used.

  • 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.