• New challenge for first responders: Fake News

    First responders must find ways to address a new challenge: Not only do they have to deal with floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, active shooter events, and other natural and manmade crises – now they also have to find ways to deal with fake news. Social media may disseminate valuable and helpful information during disasters and extreme events – but it may also be used to spread fake news: disinformation and misinformation about the scope, nature, and sources, and location of a disaster or extreme incident. Such misinformation may not only confuse victims and potential victims, but also confuse and mislead first responders who rush to their rescue.

  • Disaster decision-support tool helps emergency managers ahead of storms

    S&T’s Hurricane Evacuation (HURREVAC) extended (HV-X) platform integrates forecast and planning data to provide emergency managers with decision support tools for use in advance of and during tropical weather. S&T made the developmental version of HV-X available to select Texas emergency management users in preparation for Hurricane Harvey. Emergency managers, who needed every tool at their disposal to make critical decisions on evacuations, preparedness, and response, found HV-X helpful.

  • Algorithm helps first responders identify vulnerable people during natural disasters

    By 2036, seniors aged 65 years and older could represent a quarter of the total Canadian population, and one sixth of the global population. According to the World Health Organization, older adults who live at home face disproportionately high fatality rates during natural disasters as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina where 71 per cent of the deaths resulting from that disaster involved people over 60 years of age. Researchers have developed a new algorithm to help first responders and home care providers better help the elderly during natural disasters.

  • 2017 Critical Incident Exercise put first responder technologies to the test

    In the wee hours of 29 October 2017, more than 200 people participated in a critical incident exercise and technology assessment, conducted by DHS S&T and partner organizations. The exercise took place at the Grand Central Terminal in New York City, with most of the action occurring on parked trains and on track platforms, and other indoor spaces within the Terminal. Emergency medical technicians were dispatched to quickly convert ramps in front of several track platforms into triage stations. Outside, first responders set up an incident command post and an operations center to coordinate the simulated response.

  • Virgin Islands re-establishes disaster early warning system

    The cabinet of the Virgin Islands has approved the expenditure of $442,000 to re-establish the National Early Warning System. Some of the networks were established as far back as 1979 and have been used to provide immediate warning and notification to persons throughout the territory. As a result of the National Early Warning Program, the Islands’ Department of Disaster Management (DDM) was able to apply for and receive Tsunami Ready Recognition in 2014 and this was renewed in June 2017.

  • Call for proposals on advanced first responder technologies

    Applications are now being accepted for the NextGen First Responder Technologies solicitation, an opportunity for a maximum conditional grant of up to $1 million, jointly funded by the DHS S&T and the Israel Ministry of Public Security (MOPS). the NextGen First Responder Technologies program is looking for innovations in fields such as protective clothing, wearable technology and situational awareness.

  • Tracing how disaster impacts escalate to help improve emergency responses

    Naturally occurring extreme space weather events or man-made cyber security attacks affect critical infrastructure through shared points of vulnerability, causing disasters to cascade into scenarios that threaten life and the global economy. Mapping common pathways along which the effects of natural and man-made disasters travel allows more flexible and resilient responses in the future, according to UCL researchers.

  • Helping secure first responder apps from cyberattacks

    In emergency and disaster situations, mobile devices and apps enable public-safety professionals to receive and share critical information in real-time, which enhances the delivery of life-saving services. As reliance on mobile technology grows, it is important that mobile apps used by public safety are free of malware or vulnerabilities.

  • Better gas mask filters

    In research that could lead to better gas mask filters, scientists have been putting the X-ray spotlight on composite materials in respirators used by the military, police, and first responders, and the results have been encouraging. What they are learning not only provides reassuring news about the effectiveness of current filters in protecting people from lethal compounds such as VX and sarin, but they also provide fundamental information that could lead to more advanced gas masks as well as protective gear for civilian applications.

  • Explaining personal hurricane evacuation decisions

    Why do some people living in the path of a major hurricane decide to evacuate while others stay put? That’s what researchers want to know so that they can improve how emergency evacuations are handled. The researchers are gathering information about residents in areas hit by hurricanes Irma and Harvey to learn more about how people make decisions in risky situations. This will ultimately help officials and emergency personnel better manage evacuations in the future.

  • Disaster zones could soon be salvaged by teams of smart devices – here’s how

    We will remember 2017 as an appalling year for natural disasters. It comes months after the UN’s head of disaster planning warned that the world is not adequately preparing for disasters. This, he said, risks “inconceivably bad” consequences as climate change makes disasters more frequent and severe. In such circumstances, modern technologies like smartphones, sensors and drones could help enormously, particularly if we can get them to act like an intelligent network. We recently outlined how these three strands from political theory, social science, and biology could be brought together to develop a new paradigm for complex device networks. We see encouraging signs that such thinking is starting to catch on among researchers. These ideas should enable us to develop new approaches that will underpin and enhance a wide variety of human activities – not least when the next disaster strikes. It might even mitigate the effects of climate change, making us better at foreseeing catastrophes and taking steps to avert them.

  • Fostering collaborations for bomb squad response

    Every day, state and local bomb squads place themselves in harm’s way in order to shield citizens and property from potential catastrophe. Many of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) they face are cobbled together from everyday objects with the intent to cause maximum casualties and damage—the reality is they are easy to build, difficult to combat and their makeup constantly evolves. How do first responders stay up-to-date on the latest tactics and techniques for IED response, and how does the DHS S&T ensure state and local bomb squads have the necessary resources at their fingertips?

  • New mapping software makes live-fire training safer

    Better to protect soldiers and sailors during live-fire training, the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) TechSolutions program has sponsored the development of a new Google Maps-style software tool to map out training areas in great detail. This “geospatial-awareness” tool is designed to plug into the U.S. Marine Corps’ KILSWITCH—the Kinetic Integrated Lightweight Software Individual Tactical Combat Handheld for Android.

  • Improving public safety during severe weather, other disasters

    Our ability to observe and predict severe weather events and other disasters has improved markedly over recent decades, yet this progress does not always translate into similar advances in the systems used in such circumstances to protect lives. A more cohesive alert and warning system that integrates public and private communications mechanisms and adopts new technologies quickly is needed to deliver critical information during emergency situations. At the same time, better understanding of social and behavioral factors would improve the ways we communicate about hazards, inform response decisions such as evacuations, develop more resilient urban infrastructure, and take other steps to improve weather readiness.

  • Communications system that can withstand natural disasters

    In the wake of natural disasters which have brought communication to a standstill, researchers have been leading an international research team to tackle the problems of maintaining communications under hostile conditions. A researcher at Queen’s University Belfast has been shortlisted for the 2017 Newton Prize after he created a robust wireless communications system which can battle through an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane.