First response

  • Report details first-response lessons from Boston Marathon bombing

    Last Thursday, DHS released a 19-page report titled “Boston One Year Later: DHS’s Lessons Learned,” detailing three topics which were a focus of attention in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. The report discussed the “importance of partnerships,” the “need for effective and reliable communications,” and the need to further boost anti-radicalization efforts.

  • Learning from ant colonies how to evacuate disaster zones

    An escape route mapping system based on the behavior of ant colonies could give evacuees a better chance of reaching safe harbor after a natural disaster or terrorist attack by building a map of showing the shortest routes to shelters and providing regular updates of current situations such as fires, blocked roads, or other damage via the smart phones of emergency workers and those caught up in the disaster.

  • 2014 edition of updated first responder biodetection technology guide available

    A 2014 update to a detailed product guide listing biodetection technologies and sampling products is now available. The updated digest, Biodetection Technologies for First Responders: 2014, provides a comprehensive compilation of commercially available detection devices and products published to help first responders when purchasing equipment and supplies needed to rapidly assess biological threats.

  • New York will issue red license plates for government emergency response vehicles

    Governor Andrew Cuomo last week announced that the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing the first New York State emergency management red license plates for vehicles registered to state agencies and political subdivisions such as counties, cities, towns, and villages. Vehicles that serve a critical role will be given the new emergency license plates to assure they have immediate access to locations impacted during a state emergency as well as prioritized access for assets such as emergency fuel supplies.

  • Spectrum Challenge: more robust, resilient, reliable radio communications

    Reliable wireless communications today requires careful allocation of specific portions of the electromagnetic spectrum to individual radio networks. While pre-allocating spectrum is effective in benign environments, radios remain vulnerable to inadvertent interference from other emitters and intentional jamming by adversaries. On 19-20 March 2014, fifteen teams from around the country demonstrated new ways to help overcome these challenges by participating in the final event of the DARPA Spectrum Challenge — a national competition to develop advanced radio techniques capable of communicating in congested and contested electromagnetic environments without direct coordination or spectrum preplanning.

  • Connecticut mulls regional 911 authority

    Connecticut House Bill 5531, if passed, would authorize the towns of East Lyme, New London, and Waterford to establish a municipal body to operate all 911 call centers in region. Creating a unified authority will allow for more efficient dispatch operations, reduce operating cost among the three towns, and will also equalize the towns’ liability should a lawsuit stem from a 911 call response. Critics disagree.

  • Predicting sliding mountain slopes

    If entire mountain slopes start to slide, danger threatens. It is not always easy to predict and monitor these mass movements. In an international project, scientists combined numerical models with microwave radar systems in Northern Tyrol — with promising results. The Steinlehnen slope in Northern Tyrol (Austria) started to move in 2003. Rockfalls threatened people, streets, and buildings. Meanwhile, peace has returned; although the slope is merely “creeping,” Steinlehnen has become an interesting research object for scientists in recent years.

  • App helps save people trapped by avalanche

    For the person buried under the weight of an avalanche, each minute is precious. A person saved from the snow mass within fifteen minutes has a 90 percent chance of survival. After forty-five minutes that chance has diminished considerably. Researchers develop an app that makes it possible for skiers with smartphones to find people buried in the snow.

  • Faster anthrax detection could speed bioterror response

    The fall 2011 anthrax attacks cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters. Currently, first responders have tests that can provide a screen for dangerous materials in about 24-48 hours. Now, researchers have developed a new method for anthrax detection that can identify anthrax in only a few hours.

  • Building a lie detector for social media

    In our digital age, rumors — both true and false — spread fast, often with far-reaching consequences. The ability quickly to verify information spread on the Internet and track its provenance would enable governments, emergency services, health agencies, and the private sector to respond more effectively.

  • Torrential rain, hurricane-force winds, floods continue to batter U.K.

    Torrential rains, floods, and winds with speeds reaching 108 mph continue to batter south and west U.K., causing massive disruptions to power supply and road and rail transportation. Britain is enjoying a short respite today (Thursday), but meteorologists warned people to brace themselves for more chaos as another storm brings heavy rain, strong winds, and more risk of flooding on Friday and into the weekend. Severe flood warnings, indicating danger to life, remain in place in Berkshire, Surrey, and Somerset, where hundreds of homes have been evacuated.

  • Smartphones to help find avalanche victims

    Not a winter goes by without an avalanche incident. In the search for those buried beneath the snow, every second counts. On average, rescuers have fifteen minutes to recover victims alive. This is why an avalanche transceiver is an essential piece of kit for anyone spending significant time off-piste. These transceivers do not come cheap, however, ranging in price from 200 and over 500 euros — perhaps one reason why many walkers and skiers still do not carry one with them. Now smartphones equipped with functions of an avalanche transceiver should help locate the victims quickly.

  • Know when to go: a new way to keep firefighters safe from harm

    For a firefighter, knowing when it’s time to evacuate can be the difference between life and death. But that can be a difficult call to make when you’re trying to protect life, property and resources while battling wildfires in arduous weather and terrain. Whether working at the fire’s edge or creating a fire break far from the front, firefighters must maintain situational awareness and monitor impending threats to their safety. When firefighters are unable to properly recognize risks, or they underestimate conditions, the results can be tragic.

  • Autonomous drones to help in search and rescue, disaster relief

    Research could soon enable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to track down missing persons on search-and-rescue missions, to penetrate curtains of smoke during wildfire suppression, or possibly even to navigate urban landscapes on delivery runs for online retailers like Amazon. It all could be done autonomously with a human acting only as a supervisor. “Drones have gotten a very bad rap for various reasons,” says Kelly Cohen, associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the University of Cincinnati. “But our students see that unmanned systems can have a positive impact on society.”

  • Carbon nanotubes improve flame-resistant coating

    Using an approach akin to assembling a club sandwich at the nanoscale, researchers have succeeded in crafting a uniform, multi-walled carbon-nanotube-based coating that greatly reduces the flammability of foam commonly used in upholstered furniture and other soft furnishings. In tests, the flammability of the nanotube-coated polyurethane foam was reduced 35 percent compared with untreated foam. As important, the coating prevented melting and pooling of the foam, which generates additional flames that are a major contributor to the spread of fires.