• DisastersTechnology confronts disasters

    By Dorothy Ryan

    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.

  • Search & rescueFinal prototype of tool for spotting buried victims now commercially available

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, last week announced the transition of the final prototype of the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) technology to the commercial market. The technology proved successful during its first real-world operational use when it was deployed to Nepal following the 25 April earthquake to support international search and rescue efforts in the country.

  • TrainingSan Antonio emergency teams train for worst scenarios

    Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) in San Antonio, the sixth largest city in the United States, are worried that the large population and size of the metropolis could pose a major problem in an emergency situation. The area is already at risk of tornadoes and fires, but teams have recently completed training for a wide variety of imaginable scenarios. In training, participants learn plans and functions for traffic direction, logistical assistance, and search and rescue.

  • ResilienceMore resilient mass transit to improve Chicago emergency evacuation system

    A group of Argonne Lab researchers will be studying methods and creating tools for building more resilient mass transit systems to evacuate major cities under a $2.9 million grant announced today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration. The project will bring together researchers from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory with Chicago’s Pace Suburban Bus and Metra Commuter Rail Service to investigate ways to improve the detection, analysis, and response to emergencies, and how best to evacuate the city in a major emergency.

  • Disaster responseBefore-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.

  • First responseFaster 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.

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  • First responseHelping first-response robots operate for longer periods

    Through a project supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Sandia Lab is developing technology which will dramatically improve the endurance of legged robots, helping them operate for long periods while performing the types of locomotion most relevant to disaster response scenarios. One of Sandia’s new robots which showcases this technology will be demonstrated at an exposition to be held in conjunction with the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals next June.

  • Search & rescueCockroach cyborgs use microphones to detect, trace sounds in collapsed buildings

    Researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound. The technology is designed to help emergency personnel find and rescue survivors in the aftermath of a disaster. The researchers have also developed technology that can be used as an “invisible fence” to keep the biobots in the disaster area. “In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors,” says one of the researchers.

  • 911 systemsConnecticut and Kansas implement next-gen 911 system

    Connecticut and Kansas are both currently installing the next generation of 911 telephone systems (NG911) in different cycles, but both are seeing the added benefits of the evolved system.NG911 will allow both states to offer the services of up-to-the-second multimedia information, including cell phone texts and video, as responders rush to an emergency site.

  • EMS droneEMS drone dramatically increases survival chances of heart attack patients, accident victims

    A Dutch graduate student has designed an unmanned, autonomously navigating mini airplane that can quickly deliver a defibrillator to where it is needed. When the emergency services receive a cardiac arrest call, this drone can quickly deliver a defibrillator to the emergency scene. Via a livestream video and audio connection, the drone can also provide direct feedback to the emergency services and the persons on site can be instructed how to treat the patient. The drone finds the patient’s location through the caller’s mobile phone signal and makes its way to the location using GPS. The drone can carry up to four kilograms of medical equipment.

  • First respondersDigital database, tablets to provide Houston firefighters with fire scene-relevant information

    Firefighters in the greater Houston region will soon rely on tablets to provide information about certain buildings before they arrive at the scene of a fire. An anti-terrorism grant awarded by DHS has paid for the development of a digital database of high-risk structures, including buildings which are critical to the state and city daily operations. The tablets will replace binders full of papers stored in the back of fire engines and command vehicles, which were rarely used because they were difficult to reach while en route to a scene.

  • DisastersThe Big One will have frightening consequences for Los Angeles: Scientists

    Scientists cannot accurately predict when California’s next massive earthquake – or, the Big One – will strike, but they can predict the effects, and it is frightening. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) say these effects will include powerless rescue services, widespread fire damage, and no fresh water for months on end. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake was the region’s the last mega-quake, but scientists say that “When we have the San Andreas earthquake, that earth fault will probably be about 20 to 30 times larger than the fault that produced the Northridge earthquake [which still resulted in $20 Billion in damages].”

  • DisastersStart-ups offer apps which help people cope with disasters

    Open data policies which allow government agencies to share public information with citizens and the private sector have made California welcoming to startups dedicated to helping communities recover following a disaster.For example: Appallicious offers an app which allows subscribed cities and towns to select from hundreds of data sets, then share with the public, information on evacuation routes, current hazards, and location of critical resources.BlueLine Grid allows public employees from different agencies to communicate with each other during a crisis.SeeClickFix is connecting residents to their local government.

  • Emergency preparednessMedical registry systems are becoming part of emergency preparedness plans

    Communities across the country are exploring medical registry systems as part of their emergency preparedness plans. Using medical registries for emergency planning has been critical for New Orleans city officials, especially after Hurricane Katrina.St. Louis deployed its Functional Needs Registry after a power outage occurred in 2006. Experts note, though, that just because residents are listed in the city’s registry does not mean that help and services will always be delivered during emergencies.

  • EmergenciesSmartphones can save life in health emergencies

    MAs more Americans adopt smartphones for communicating, managing calendars, and storing contacts, but these all-in-one devices could also be used to save lives in health emergencies. Companies are developing apps that allow users to store health data which can then be accessed by emergency services personnel or physicians.