First response

  • Non-toxic fire retardants developed

    Fire retardants are often extremely harmful to health. Despite this, they are found in many types of synthetic materials which would otherwise ignite quickly. Researchers have now succeeded in producing non-harmful flame retardants.

  • New underwater robots mimic designs found in nature

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    In recent years, robotic underwater vehicles have become more common in a variety of industrial and civil sectors. Now, a new class of underwater robot has emerged that mimics designs found in nature. These “biomimetic” vehicles promise to lead to new underwater technologies that could help the oil and gas industry, underwater humanitarian demining, environmental monitoring, search and rescue operations, anti-terrorist activities, harbor surveillance, coastal security and fisheries management, and more.

  • Young engineers compete in underwater robotics race

    Student-built autonomous underwater vehicles will speed through the depths of a Navy pool in a battle for supremacy at the 16th International RoboSub Competition. The competition is being held this week (22-28 July). In addition to building autonomous underwater vehicles, teams are also responsible for creating Web sites and writing journal papers that outline their work.

  • Houston, Texas boasts world’s best lightning detection system

    With thousands of strikes each year, Houston is the lightning center of Texas and one of the world’s most lightning-prone areas. Studies show about 1,800 thunderstorms pound the Earth at any given moment, resulting in about fifty lightning strikes every second. The country’s best system to detect lightning strikes — located in and around the Houston area — just got better, thanks to a complete overhaul and new software.

  • Advancements in technology making it easier to fight wildfires

    Following the Arizona wildfire disaster, many have been suggesting that new regulations are needed to control the spread of wildfires. Experts say that advancements in technology may well offer a more effective approach to saving lives and making it easier for firefighters to control wild blazes.

  • Firefighting experts calling for easing environmental restrictions on prescribed burns

    In the aftermath of the Arizona wildfire which killed nineteen firefighters in Yarnell, Arizona, there are growing calls for easing environmental restrictions which currently limit brush clearing and prescribed burns. It typically costs $5 per acre to conduct a prescribed burn in the wilderness, and about $50 per acre near residential areas. Thinning an area with chain saws and other equipment can cost around $500 per acre. These figures are small when compared to the $1,200 per acre cost of fighting the wildfire in Arizona.

  • Obama says Arizona wildfire deaths open up broader questions

    President Barack Obama said on Monday that several states need to reassess their wildfire management policies in the aftermath of the death of the nineteen firefighters who died battling an Arizona blaze.

  • Remote-controlled cockroaches to help in search-and-rescue missions

    Researchers are using video game technology to remotely control cockroaches on autopilot, with a computer steering the cockroach through a controlled environment. The researchers are using the technology to track how roaches respond to the remote control, with the goal of developing ways that roaches on autopilot can be used to map dynamic environments — such as collapsed buildings.

  • Robots to assist humans in mitigating, recovering from future natural and man-made disasters

    The goal of DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) is spur development of advanced robots that can assist humans in mitigating and recovering from future natural and man-made disasters. Seven teams will receive DARPA support to compete with an ATLAS Robot in 2013.

  • New firefighter breathing equipment test goes into effect 1 September

    As of 1 September 2013, standard firefighter breathing equipment cannot be certified to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards unless the facepiece lenses pass a new rigorous test developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

  • Responding to international WMD incidents

    Experts taking part in a workshop discussed ways to improve the U.S. government’s assistance in responding to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incident that might occur elsewhere in the world. In addition to preventing and alleviating human suffering, reducing the impacts of these incidents through better response could decrease the attractiveness to terrorists of causing such incidents.

  • Sandia hosts annual Robot Rodeo

    Sandia National Laboratories is hosting the seventh annual Western National Robot Rodeo and Capability Exercise, a lively and challenging five-day event that draws civilian and military bomb squad teams from across the country to see who can most effectively defuse dangerous situations with the help of robots.

  • Social media analytics help emergency responders

    If you think keeping up with what is happening via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media is like drinking from a fire hose, multiply that by seven billion — and you will have a sense of what researchers who are working on SALSA (SociAL Sensor Analytics) are facing. Efforts of emergency responders and public health advocates could be boosted by SALSA.

  • Flames change the sound of a firefighters' personal safety alarm

    The PASS, short for Personal Alert Safety System, has been used by firefighters for thirty years to help track members of their team who might be injured and need assistance to escape a fire. Though the alarm has saved many lives, there are cases in which the device is working correctly but is not heard or not recognized.

  • Firefighters, FAA weighing the use of drones for wildfires

    With the wildfire season already claiming land and homes in the Western United States, federal government firefighters are considering the use of drones outfitted with cameras to map out the size and speed of a wildfire.