• Snake robot range-sensing control system improves search-and-rescue performance

    Rescue operations at disaster scenes often use robots to avoid further human danger. Modelling robots on snakes can provide better access through narrow paths in rubble, but previous models which control snake robots by the head do not adequately avoid collisions between the body of the robot and surrounding obstacles. Researchers say that to be more effective in search and rescue missions, robotic snakes should comprise a series of sections joined by links which either pitch up and down or yaw through sideways turning angles.

  • Locust-inspired robot traverses rocky terrain, assists in search and rescue

    Since the 1980s, advanced robotic platforms have provided assistance to crisis intervention teams in the wake of man-made and natural disasters. The objective of such robots, in various sizes and shapes, has been to intervene where humans cannot and send life-saving data to rescue teams in the field. A new, locust-inspired robot, can jump eleven feet high — more than twice the height of similar-sized robots — and cover a horizontal distance of 4.5 feet in one leap. The researchers believe the robot will perform well in search-and-rescue missions and in reconnaissance operations in rough terrain.

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  • U.S., Israel to co-develop technologies for first responders

    Some $12 million will be funneled to collaborative Israeli-American projects for the development of advanced technologies for first responders over the next three years. The agreement brings together the Israeli Ministry of Public Security and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in a drive to better equip and prepare both countries’ national rescue forces including fire, police, and first-aid units. Each side will invest equally in the project.

  • One third of U.K.'s specialized terrorist response vehicles to be scrapped

    In 2004, to meet the threat of terrorists using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons in an attack in the United Kingdom, the government introduced the Incident Response Units (IRUs), with their distinctive red coloring with yellow stripes, at a cost of £54 million. To save money, one third of all the fire brigade vehicles which were part of the IRUs, and which would have been called out in the event of terrorists setting off a “dirty bomb,” are being scrapped.

  • Improving active shooter response

    When an active shooter strikes, every second counts. The sooner law enforcement can respond and the more information they have, the more lives can be saved. Battelle’s SiteGuard Active Shooter Response (ASR) provides a high tech, integrated approach to help protect building occupants in an active shooter event. The ASRcombines gunshot sensors with building security and communication systems to provide critical information to law enforcement and building occupants. As soon as the sensors detect a gunshot, SiteGuard ASR activates a series of predetermined actions and automated responses vital to occupant and first responder safety and optimized response.

  • FDA clears military traumatic wound dressing for use in civilian population

    Early control of severe bleeding may prevent shock and may be life-saving., as 30 to 40 percent of civilian deaths by traumatic injury are the result of hemorrhaging. Of those deaths, 33 to 56 percent occur before the patient reaches a hospital. Last week the FDA cleared the use of the XSTAT 30 wound dressing, an expandable, multi-sponge dressing used to control severe, life-threatening bleeding from wounds in areas that a tourniquet cannot be placed (such as the groin or armpit) in battlefield and civilian trauma settings.

  • Human skin detection technology improves security, search and rescue

    Color-image based systems are excellent at locating people in aerial search and rescue operations, but fall short when it comes to discerning between actual human skin and objects with similar hues. To remedy this, researchers have developed a novel two-dimensional feature space which uses the spectral absorption characteristics of melanin, hemoglobin and water to better characterize human skin.

  • Improving police responses to mass shootings

    Before Columbine, law enforcement acted on the assumption that mass casualty incidents would involve a barricaded lone shooter who could be isolated, or a hostage situation in which the attackers would engage in negotiation before they killed more people. Thus, protocols established after the 1966 sniper attack at the University of Texas, called for first responders in the United States to set up a perimeter around the site of the shooting, gather as much information as possible, and then wait for specially trained assault teams, hostage negotiators, medics, and other specialists to arrive. “The assumption,” one expert said, “was that time was on their side.” Police forces arriving on the scene of a shooting no longer entertain this assumption.

  • DHS, NYPD train on response to active shooters

    After months of coordination between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the New York Police Department (NYPD) Counter Terrorism Division, the NYPD conducted an active shooter training exercise on 22 November. S&T says that the exercise not only tested their training and proficiency, but also allowed them to incorporate several commercial technologies that could benefit future emergency situations.

  • New sensors detect cable fire before it starts burning

    Fires are frequently caused by smoldering cables. New sensors now help detect such smoldering fires at an early stage by analyzing the plastic vapors released by overheated insulating cables. Scientists have developed these hybrid sensors that combine measurement processes with data evaluation. These detect the gases released from the plastic coating due to heating and reliably identify and analyze the gas mixture and its concentration.

  • Demonstrating technologies for disaster response

    Radiological incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima illustrate the need for effective coordination of federal, state, and local agencies in response efforts. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrated new technology developments at the Columbus, Ohio, Battelle Memorial Institute facility that will enable more effective radiological decontamination.

  • Online residential fire simulation tool for training firefighters

    Firefighting is not what it used to be. Whether it is a complex blaze raging in an urban high-rise or a seemingly straightforward single-level home fire, modern building construction and furnishings have made fighting fires more difficult: Flames burn hotter, produce more smoke, and spread more quickly. But fire research has advanced, too, and researchers are working with five major urban fire departments to build new knowledge on modern residential firefighting into game-based online simulations with an engaging, dynamic format.

  • Technology confronts disasters

    In 2010, soon after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake, a team from MIT Lincoln Laboratory collected and analyzed information to help the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), the lead military agency responding to the crisis, effectively dispatch vital resources, including food, water, tents, and medical supplies, to the victims of this disaster. This Haiti experience demonstrated to Lincoln Laboratory researchers that advanced technology and technical expertise developed for the Department of Defense (DoD) can significantly benefit future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. In February, the Laboratory established the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group to explore ways to leverage or advance existing capabilities for improving disaster responses.

  • DHS recruits Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to develop first-response technology

    DHS wants better technology for first responders — police, firefighters, and EMTs — but rather than pushing for innovation from within the massive corporations that already provide technology to government agencies, the DHS has come to Silicon Valley to tap the entrepreneurial ecosystem of northern California. Giant technology firms have resources of large scale manufacturing and distribution, but there is one crucial difference. Technology startups are much more nimble, and can shift their development much faster than the huge corporations can.

  • Teams of computers and humans more effective in disaster response

    Crisis responders need to know the extent of a natural disaster, what aid is required and where they need to get to as quickly as possible — this is what’s known as “situation awareness.” With the proliferation of mass media, a lot of data is now generated from the disaster zone via photographs, tweets, news reports and the like. With the addition of first responder reports and satellite images of the disaster area, there is a vast amount of relevant unstructured data available for situation awareness. A crisis response team will be overwhelmed by his data deluge — perhaps made even worse by reports written in languages they don’t understand. But the data is also hard to interpret by computers alone, as it’s difficult to find meaningful patterns in such a large amount of unstructured data, let alone understand the complex human problems that described within it. Experts say that joint humans-computers teams would be the best way to deal with voluminous, but unstructured, data.