• Former Israeli PM Ehud Barak invests $1 million in emergency reporting app developer

    Israeli start-up Reporty Homeland Security has raised $1 million from former prime minister and minister of defense Ehud Barak. The company’s technology aims to streamline communication between citizen and government agencies at the same time that it protects the user’s privacy. The company’s application establishes a two-way video and audio connection to the emergency help center, transmitting information which gives the precise location of the person making the report and allowing for an evaluation of the incident report’s credibility.

  • L.A.’s emergency communication system facing many hurdles

    After the 9/11 attacks, the federal government encouraged authorities in large cities to build emergency communications systems that would allow separate agencies to coordinate together quickly and efficiently. The government offered grants to help pay some of the costs of the systems, pending completion of the work by a set deadline. In Los Angeles County, a common communications system is still not a reality years after officials signed up for the federal program. Besides technological hurdles, contracting issues, and constantly changing requirements from the federal government, Los Angeles County is having to deal with firefighters and residents who object the plan citing health and property value concerns with the placement of giant cell towers in their neighborhoods.

  • Fighting fires with low-frequency sound waves

    A thumping bass may do more than light up a party — it could flat out extinguish it, thanks to a new sound-blasting fire extinguisher by George Mason University undergrads. The fire extinguisher uses low-frequency sound waves to douse a blaze. Their sound-wave device is free of toxic chemicals and eliminates collateral damage from sprinkler systems. If mounted on drones, it could improve safety for firefighters confronting large forest fires or urban blazes.

  • Tethered robots to be the “eyes” of firefighters in “blind” conditions

    Researchers have developed revolutionary reins which enable robots to act like guide dogs, which could enable that firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings could save vital seconds and find it easier to identify objects and obstacles. The small mobile robot — equipped with tactile sensors — would lead the way, with the firefighter following a meter or so behind holding a rein. The robot would help the firefighter move swiftly in “blind” conditions, while vibrations sent back through the rein would provide data about the size, shape and even the stiffness of any object the robot finds.

  • Prize competition for tracking first responders indoors

    The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the Department’s first crowdsourced prize competition in support of the first responder community. The Indoor Tracking of the Next Generation First Responder prize competition seeks innovative ideas for solving the challenges of real-time, accurate indoor tracking of first responders during an incident. S&T says it is looking for innovate solutions that will help first responders with basic questions such as “where am I?” and “where is my team?”

  • Applying life-saving lessons from past train derailments

    Firefighters and first responders who were called two weeks ago to an oil train derailment near Mount Carbon, West Virginia applied life-saving lessons learned from a rail disaster which occurred thirty-seven years ago. When the CSX train derailed near Mount Carbon last month, local firefighters could have sprayed water and foam on the fire from the explosion, but instead they evacuated residents, maintained a safe distance, and let the fire run its course — which took four days. Choosing not to put the fire out with water likely prevented contamination of the Kanawha River, a local source of drinking water.

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  • Social media help alert students during campus emergencies: Study

    Using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to spread information during campus emergencies can help keep students safer, according to new research. The study found the widespread popularity of social media and associated mobile apps enables campus authorities to instantly reach a large percentage of students to provide timely and accurate information during crisis situations.

  • Redesigning wild-land fire fighter uniforms

    The most common cause of injuries to wild-land firefighters is not burns. When leaders at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) noticed their wild-land firefighters were experiencing more heat stress injuries — like heat exhaustion and heat stroke — than burn injuries, they wanted to know why and how to prevent them. They soon realized their uniforms were part of the problem. Working with a team at the University of California, Davis, they developed technical and design specifications for a new uniform aimed at increasing the comfort and breathability while maintaining the current level of protection against flames. In 2011, CAL FIRE approached the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) requesting assistance in developing prototype garments.

  • Improved fire detection with new ultra-sensitive, ultraviolet light sensor

    Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger smoke particles found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke from rapidly burning fires. Researchers have discovered that a material traditionally used in ceramics, glass and paint can be manipulated to produce an ultra-sensitive UV light sensor, paving the way for improved fire and gas detection.

  • Los Alamos leads collaborative effort of explosives detection innovation, education

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading a collaboration of strategic public and private partners focused on the innovations in and education about explosives detection technologies. The Los Alamos Collaboration for Explosives Detection (LACED) site serves as a virtual gateway to world-class expertise and capabilities designed to counter all types of explosives threats, predominantly through enhanced detection capabilities. The site went public online in January and is beginning to attract attention among specialty audiences.

  • Before-and-after aerial imagery of infrastructure to help first responders

    When disaster strikes, it is important for responders and emergency officials to know what critical infrastructure has been damaged so they can direct supplies and resources accordingly. Researchers are developing a program that uses before-and-after aerial imagery to reveal infrastructure damage in a matter of minutes.

  • A first: Engineering students design firefighting humanoid robot

    In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames. The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy better to assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots.

  • Faster first aid for catastrophe victims

    In mass casualty incidents, triage of the victims must be performed as quickly as possible, in order to evacuate and take them to appropriate hospitals. Today, first responders use colored paper tags to classify victims. Researchers have developed an electronic gadget that may replace the colored paper tags in a triage. Beyond just visually tagging a victim, the device transmits, in real time, the victim’s location and vital data, for example, heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation, to emergency response control centers.

  • Modeling study reveals the lethal dynamics of a San Francisco house fire

    A new computer-based fire-dynamics study by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has helped to clarify the circumstances and violent fire behavior of a lethal 2011 blaze in a San Francisco hillside home. The fire in the multi-story, single-family dwelling claimed the lives of two firefighters.

  • Drawing disaster response lessons by comparing quake responses

    Following the devastating 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake which hit the Tohoku region of Japan, many local and provincial governments rushed to aid the people in the area with personnel and materials, providing important relief in a time of crisis. At a recent symposium, some were comparing the response to the 2011 disaster to the response to the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995 in order to draw lessons and offer guidelines in effective crisis management.