First response

  • Insects’ way of flying inspires design of tiny flying robots

    Researchers have identified some of the underlying physics that may explain how insects can so quickly recover from a stall in midflight — unlike conventional fixed wing aircraft, where a stalled state often leads to a crash landing. The analysis improves the understanding of how insects fly and informs the design of small flying robots built for intelligence gathering, surveillance, search-and-rescue, and other purposes.

  • Philippines prepares for worse disasters to come

    On average, the Philippines experiences about twenty typhoons a year, including three super-typhoons and many incidents of flooding, drought, earthquakes, tremors, and occasional volcanic eruptions, making the country one of the most naturally disaster-prone areas in the world. Filipino government agencies, with the help of international disaster and relief agencies, have created new strategies for disaster preparedness, response, and mitigation which may well have potential applications in other parts of the world. As the impact of climate change grows more pronounced, the Philippines is becoming a hothouse for developing new methods and systems in the growing business of disaster relief.

  • Wildfire science returns to California’s Rim Fire

    The challenging job of managing wildfires rests with other agencies, but the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides the underlying science for sound land management decisions, before, during, and after wildfires. The USGS role studying natural hazards such as floods, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanoes is well known, but fewer people are aware of the USGS scientific work in major wildfire events, which are one of the most regular and sometimes most devastating natural hazards in the West.

  • Resources on disaster preparedness, resilience

    One year after Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern United States, local, state, and federal agencies as well as community groups and businesses are working to strengthen the U.S.s resilience to future disasters. A National Research Council (NRC) has issues a series of studies and reports, and has put together workshops and study groups, which should advance the national conversation on preparedness and resilience.

  • Helping first responders identify chemical, biological, and radiological agents

    The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has expanded the reach and capabilities of its rapid urban plume modeling and hazard assessment system, CT-Analyst, by providing a commercial license to Valencia, California-based Safe Environment Engineering (SEE) for the fields of use of public safety, industrial safety and monitoring, and environmental monitoring. CT Analyst is a tool designed to provide first responders with fast and accurate predictions of chemical, biological, and radiological agent airborne transport in urban environments. CT Analyst will be integrated into the existing product line of SEE’s Lifeline MultiMeterViewer software suite.

  • Arkansas deploys first statewide SmartPrepare system

    Arkansas uses citizen-supplied data for more efficient emergency planning and response. The service allows citizens to create secure profiles online which contain vital details about their household. Public safety officials can use the data to gain greater insight into their communities and identify potential challenges in order to prepare more effectively for disasters, allocate resources, and expedite emergency response and recovery efforts during events.

  • Dolphin-inspired radar system detects hidden surveillance, explosive devices

    Scientists, inspired by the way dolphins hunt using bubble nets, have developed a new kind of radar that can detect hidden surveillance equipment and explosives. The twin inverted pulse radar (TWIPR) is able to distinguish true targets, such as certain types of electronic circuits that may be used in explosive or espionage devices, from clutter (for example, other metallic items like pipes, drinks cans, or nails) which may be mistaken for a genuine target by traditional radar and metal detectors.

  • New spectrometry standard for handheld chemical detectors

    When it comes to detectors for dangerous chemicals, toxins, or nefarious germs, smaller and faster is better. Size and speed, however, must still allow for accuracy, especially when measurements by different instruments must give the same result. The recent publication of a new standard provides confidence that results from handheld chemical detectors can be compared, apples-to-apples.

  • Cell phone technology for quicker search-and-rescue operations

    Avalanches and earthquakes can be highly unpredictable — and all too often deadly. Search and Rescue (SAR) operations are expensive, and somewhat limited given the current tools at their disposal. Many of these tools are highly complex, and require intense training or the deployment of specialized teams. A new project aims to address this weakness by developing cost-effective, robust, and lightweight technology that can easily be transported to an affected zone.

  • Snake robots move quickly in confined spaces, rough terrain

    Snakes usually travel by bending their bodies in the familiar S-pattern. When they are stalking prey, however, snakes can move in a straight line by expanding and contracting their bodies. This “rectilinear gait” is slow, but it is quiet and hard to detect—-a perfect way to grab that unsuspecting rodent. This “limbless locomotion” is a highly effective way for a robot to move through cluttered and confined spaces.

  • Building disaster-relief phone apps on the fly

    Researchers combine powerful new Web standards with the intuitive, graphical MIT App Inventor to aid relief workers with little programming expertise.

  • How Sandy has changed storm warning procedures

    Superstorm Sandy slammed against the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in October 2012, inundating iconic communities. Those communities have been rebuilding since then and things are almost back to normal for most. Something else, however, has had to be rebuilt as well: the structured procedures for issuing warnings. The goal is to help communities better comprehend what natural disasters will bring their doorsteps.

  • Top Five most awesome robots

    In the last decade, robots have often been employed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, usually to seek out hidden bombs. More and more of these the robots are now being adopted by first response agencies to help in search-and-rescue operations in the wake of disasters. The growing interest in – and usefulness of — robotics have also inspired a series of competitions and challenges, some of which are directed at high-school and college students, to encourage budding scientists to go into the field of robotics.

  • Justice Department sues to block release of FirstNet-related information

    A federal court in Des Moines, Iowa, accepted arguments by Justice Department lawyers to issue a temporary injunction to block the release by an Iowa Sherriff of e-mails pertaining to a public safety communication network. The Justice Department argued the release of e-mails could seriously impede plans for this single, interoperable network designed to resolve the communications problems that hampered responses to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and other disasters. FirstNet, to whose board Fitzgerald was appointed last year, was authorized by Congress in 2012 to develop and deploy the communications network and is housed in the Department of Commerce.

  • World's smallest drone may be a search-and-rescue tool

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    Researchers have designed, built, and tested the world’s smallest open source autopilot for small unmanned aircraft. A smaller and lighter autopilot — it weighs only 1.9 grams — allows these small flying robots to fly longer, fit into narrower spaces, or carry more payloads such as cameras. This makes them more suitable to be used, for example, rescue operations.