• Why Houston isn't ready for Hurricane Harvey

    The brunt of Hurricane Harvey is projected to miss Houston, but the sprawling metropolis is likely to face massive flooding from its third crippling storm in the past three years. It underscores a new reality for the nation’s fourth-largest city: Climate change is making such storms more routine. Meanwhile, unchecked development in the Houston area is wiping out the pasture land that once soaked up floodwaters.

  • FirstNet for emergency communications: Six questions answered

    In the aftermath of 9/11, public safety officials in New York City and around the country realized that firefighters, police officers and ambulance workers needed to be able to talk to each other at an emergency scene – not just to their supervisors and dispatchers. The solution was nearly sixteen years in coming, but on 30 March, the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, was created. “It’s hard to know what we’ll need in twenty-five years – just as twenty-five years ago, it would have been very hard to envision the technical details of today’s interconnected world,” say two experts. “But building FirstNet will help protect and serve both first responders and the public during emergencies – and it will enhance communications in times of peace and prosperity.”

  • Emergency communications in developing countries

    When major emergencies strike, effective communication is critical. Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives can be saved by rapid, clear and well-coordinated communication regarding impending risks, their mitigation, and how to respond when damage is done. Researchers have created a best-practice toolkit to help developing countries rapidly generate and implement life-saving communication plans in the event of local emergencies.

  • Creating reliable emergency communications networks

    When disaster strikes, it is important for first responders to have reliable, unhindered access to a controlled network, allowing them to receive and deliver critical information while ensuring effective emergency response. Unfortunately this is currently not the case. Due to power outages and cell tower damages, the infrastructure for communications is not readily available during the response to an incident or disaster, and furthermore, the cost of this infrastructure is unreasonable, even for large organizations.

  • Strengthening security of first responder sensor systems

    Metronome Software is developing a technology solution that will significantly enhance the security of mobile device-based sensor systems used by first responders with funding provided by DHS S&T. The Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) Apex program is integrating multi-threat personal protective equipment, plug-and-play sensors and advanced communications devices to provide multi-layer threat protection and immediate situational awareness to first responders.

  • Hacking functional fabrics to aid emergency response

    Hazardous environments such as disaster sites and conflict zones present many challenges for emergency response. But the new field of functional fabrics — materials modified to incorporate various sensors, connect to the internet, or serve multiple purposes, among other things — holds promise for novel solutions. Over the weekend, MIT became a hotbed for developing those solutions.

  • Testing communication systems for public safety use

    DHS S&T says that by partnering with first responders to gauge capability gaps and leverage existing technologies, it can develop new technologies, test and evaluate existing technologies, and work with industry and the innovation community to ensure solutions are available to first responder agencies. For example, S&T’s First Responder Group (FRG) recently examined a couple of noteworthy existing communications technologies and evaluated them for public safety use.

  • Shifting storms threaten once placid areas with extreme waves, extensive damage

    The world’s most extensive study of the impacts of coastal storm fronts in a changing climate has found that rising seas are no longer the only threat. The study of a major storm front striking the coast has revealed a previously unrecognized danger from climate change: as storm patterns fluctuate, waterfront areas once thought safe are likely to be hammered and damaged as never before.

  • Better technologies help first responders respond more quickly, safely, and effectively

    When disaster strikes, first responders rush in to provide assistance. In addition to their courage and training, they depend on a panoply of technologies to do their jobs. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has partnered with emergency management and public safety professionals to define, develop, test and deploy these technologies to improve response and recovery. The Lab also applies its scientific capabilities to assess emergencies as they unfold.

  • Three advanced first-response technologies funded

    The Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation awarded funding to three homeland security projects, selected by DHS and MOPS, between U.S. and Israeli companies to advance technologies for first responders. In addition to the grants from BIRD, the projects will access private sector funding, boosting the total value of the three projects to approximately $7 million. The program funds technology collaborations between U.S. and Israeli partners that have significant commercial potential to meet the most pressing requirements of first responders.

  • “Social media triangulation” to help emergency responders

    During emergency situations like severe weather or terrorist attacks, local officials and first responders have an urgent need for accessible, reliable and real-time data. Researchers are working to address this need by introducing a new method for identifying local social media users and collecting the information they post during emergencies.

  • Soft, growing robot for searching people under collapsed buildings

    Imagine rescuers searching for people in the rubble of a collapsed building. Instead of digging through the debris by hand or having dogs sniff for signs of life, they bring out a small, air-tight cylinder. They place the device at the entrance of the debris and flip a switch. From one end of the cylinder, a tendril extends into the mass of stones and dirt, like a fast-climbing vine. A camera at the tip of the tendril gives rescuers a view of the otherwise unreachable places beneath the rubble. This is just one possible application of a new type of robot – a robot that can grow across long distances without moving its whole body.

  • Search and rescue dogs perform well despite travel stress

    When disaster strikes, you want the very best tools, functioning at their peak. In the case of catastrophic earthquakes, tornadoes, or even bombings in war zones, those tools are search and rescue dogs. But researchers have found that getting dogs to disaster sites can add to the animals’ stress. search and rescue dogs fly on a moment’s notice to the site of a disaster, where they are expected to perform at the top of their game. But, just like for humans, flying can be stressful for dogs.

  • Hazmat Challenge tests responders’ skills

    Ten hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri tested their skills in a series of graded, timed exercises at the 21st annual Hazmat Challenge 10-14 July at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Ten hazardous materials response teams tested their skills in a series of graded, timed exercises simulating hazardous materials emergencies involving aircraft, rail and highway transportation, industrial piping, a biological lab, and a confined space event.

  • Lessons for first responders on the front lines of terrorism

    Acts of terrorism are on the rise globally. Over the past several weeks alone, the world has seen stabbings, shootings and bombings in Flint, Tehran, London, Kabul and Bogota. Given the persistent risk of terrorist attacks and large-scale accidents, it’s more critical than ever to learn from past incidents. That will ensure that first responders can work together effectively during the chaotic but critical minutes and hours after an incident.