First response

  • Improving emergency radio communication

    Radio communications can be unreliable in underground tunnels and other large, complicated structures, posing a safety hazard for emergency responders. New tests of wireless emergency safety equipment by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have defined the challenges more precisely and suggest how emergency communications might be improved.

  • Hawaii debating creation of a state homeland security office

    Lawmakers in Hawaii are discussing the state’s Department of Defense the idea of creating a new homeland security office with. Supporters of the plan say having a DHS office will help improve efforts to prevent terrorist attacks in Hawaii. Critics are not so sure.

  • Larger fire-fighting crews save lives, limit damage in high-rise fires

    Between 2005 and 2009 there were, on average, 15,700 high-rise structure fires annually in the United States. Average annual losses totaled 53 civilian deaths, 546 civilian injuries, and $235 million in property damage. When responding to fires in high-rise buildings, firefighting crews of five or six members — instead of three or four — are significantly faster in putting out fires and completing search-and-rescue operations, concludes a major new study.

  • New Jersey to launch emergency, preparedness awareness campaign

    The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness is currently looking for a PR firm to help it launch a multifaceted awareness campaign. The campaign, worth about $4 million over three years, would aim to increase the level of emergency awareness and preparedness of residents, businesses, and communities in New Jersey.

  • UN event highlights importance of mobile technology during disasters

    A United Nations event, organized in conjunction with the Turkish government, the other day highlighted the role of innovative mobile technology in saving lives when conflicts and disasters strike.

  • DHS launches Campus Resilience pilot program

    DHS secretary Janet Napolitano announced Tuesday that seven universities will participate in a national preparedness initiative designed to help campuses train for, respond to, and recover from an emergency situation.

  • Tactile helmet helps first responders in challenging conditions

    A specially-adapted “tactile helmet,” developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, could provide fire-fighters operating in challenging conditions with vital clues about their surroundings. The helmet is fitted with a number of ultrasound sensors which are used to detect the distances between the helmet and nearby walls or other obstacles.

  • Suppressing naturally occurring blazes increases wildfire risk

    According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 9.3 million U.S. acres burned in wildfires in 2012 compared with 3.57 million acres affected in 2001 and 2.95 million in 1991. One reason for the increase in the number of acres consumed by wildfires is the U.S. government’s policy of suppressing of naturally occurring blazes. Researchers say that this policy can have unintended consequences, including making wildfires more severe.

  • How U.K. can better prepare for emergencies

    Well designed and planned exercises are essential to ensure that the United Kingdom can respond effectively to emergencies of all kinds. The emergencies may take the form of a terrorist attack, flooding, pandemic flu, rail or air disaster — or any major disruptive event requiring an emergency response.

  • DHS acquires 2,700 MRAPs

    The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles were first deployed to the field in 2007 as a way to protect U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from ever-more-powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by insurgents. DHS has acquired over 2,700 MARPs to be used on missions inside United States.

  • Infrared digital holography allows firefighters to see through flames, smoke

    Firefighters put their lives on the line in some of the most dangerous conditions on Earth. One of their greatest challenges, however, is seeing through thick veils of smoke and walls of flame to find people in need of rescue. A team of Italian researchers has developed a new imaging technique that uses infrared (IR) digital holography to peer through chaotic conflagrations and capture potentially lifesaving and otherwise hidden details.

  • Cockroaches gait informs search-and-rescue robot design

    More than 70 percent of Earth’s land surface is not navigable by wheeled or tracked vehicles, so legged robots could potentially bridge the gap for ground-based operations like search and rescue and defense. New insights on how cockroaches stabilize could help engineers design steadier robots for operating on difficult terrain.

  • Jumping soft robots avoid obstacles during search and rescue operations

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    These soft robots can already stand, walk, wriggle under obstacles, and change colors. Now researchers are adding a new skill to the soft robot tool kit: jumping. Researchers make the robots jump by using combustible gases. This ability to jump could one day prove critical in allowing the robots to avoid obstacles during search and rescue operations.

  • Maryland drills first responders in response to “large-scale” incident

    More than 100 police, fire, first responders, military and civilian personnel took part in a homeland security exercise earlier this month at Battelle in Aberdeen, Maryland. The exercise included intelligence and information sharing, mass casualty care, on-site security and protection, operational coordination, and public information and communication.

  • “Live burns” to benefit research and firefighter training

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    Fire researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and colleagues from fire service organizations will turn abandoned wood-frame, single-family houses near the site of an old Spartanburg, South Carolina, textile mill into proving and training grounds for new science-driven fire-fighting techniques. The objective of the study is to improve firefighter safety and effectiveness.