• Keeping First Responders Safe by Detecting Cyanide Poisoning after Fires

    When first responders rush to a burning building to subdue the fire and save lives, it is not just the flames that are dangerous and potentially lethal, but also toxic fumes like cyanide that are released when certain materials are incinerated. These fumes, mixed with smoke, are so toxic that even in very low quantities may pose more risk than the fire itself. Chemists at DHS S&T have invented a test to indicate possible toxic cyanide exposure at the fire scene.

  • DOD Imagery Information Aids Wildland Firefighters

    With continuing significant fire activity in the western United States this year, the Department of Defense (DoD) is delivering requested personnel, equipment, and facilities, to assist our Federal, State, and local partners fighting wildland fires. One of the tools provided by the DoD is the Firefly system pilot program (Firefly), a capability from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). 

  • Autonomous Drones Could Speed Up Search and Rescue after Flash Floods, Hurricanes and Other Disasters

    Rescuers already use drones in some cases, but most require individual pilots who fly the unmanned aircraft by remote control. That limits how quickly rescuers can view an entire affected area, and it can delay aid from reaching victims. Autonomous drones could cover more ground faster, especially if they could identify people in need and notify rescue teams.

  • Small Towns Should Focus on Resilience

    With heatwaves, bushfires, and floods, small towns and their surrounding communities have confronted a combination of successive disasters fueled by climate change. And it’s predicted to only get worse. “So, the challenge for all of us, but particularly areas at increasing risk of climate-fueled disasters, is to get ahead of what’s coming,” says one expert. “We need to ask: what we can do to reduce or even prevent some of these disasters from happening?”

  • Sensor Detects When Firefighters' Protective Clothing No Longer Safe

    Firefighters risk their lives battling blazes, and aging protective gear can put them at even greater risk. Textiles scientist works with industry to develop a faster, easier way to detect damage from heat, moisture and UV light.

  • Innovative Approach to Find Victims Lost at Sea

    Researchers are completing a year-long project with the U.S. Coast Guard to develop an innovative and cost-effective approach to managing rescue operations at sea.

  • DHS S&T Selects Two Industry Partners for Second Phase Wildland Fire Sensor Research

    DHS S&T selected two industry partners for the second phase of research on wildland fire sensor. The first phase research was conducted in June 2021, and the next phase of the program will focus on hardening the sensors for longer-term field deployments.

  • Fire Season Heats Up, and Burnout Looms

    To the dangerous conditions such as scorching temperatures, drought across 90 percent of the West, and intense wildfire, we must now add another: a looming crisis of burnout among wildland firefighters.

  • Compact Lifesaving Drone for Beach Rescue Teams

    A student designs compact lifesaving drone for beach rescue teams after witnessing teenage surfer battle dangerous waves. As part of his final year project, the student designed a small, compact drone that flies above hazardous waters to locate individuals in distress and deploys a buoyancy aid that automatically inflates when hitting the water, helping casualties stay afloat while they wait for a rescue team to reach them.

  • Protecting Lives on the Wildland Fire Line

    Unlike first responders who fight structural fires, wildland firefighters are unable to use the current standard respirator systems, which are heavy, limited to 45 minutes of air and are too bulky. Since the current standard equipment for respiratory protection is a bandanna, DHS S&T and partners designed the Wildfire Respirator around a lightweight mask covering just the mouth and nose, relying on filtration rather than on heavy tanks of compressed air.

  • Massive California Blaze Triggers Lightning Fears

    Smoke columns from fires in California could spawn lightning storms that cause more blazes, experts warn. Several communities have been evacuated. Fires in California have already destroyed three times more vegetation this year than they had at this time last year, which was the worst in the state’s history.

  • We Can’t Predict the Next Wildfire Disaster – but We Can Plan for It

    When it comes to wildfire threats to communities, we are navigating uncharted waters. Under extreme conditions, we cannot stop a spreading wildfire. When they occur, the only option is to contain it or evacuate. So start planning your route now.

  • How Do We Prepare for Extreme Flooding?

    As the floodwaters recede following the devastating deluge in western Europe, survivors have begun the long, difficult process of cleaning up and rebuilding. But what can be done to reduce future risks?

  • Delivering Aid to Disaster Scenes with Hydrogen Fuel Cell-Powered Vehicles

    DHS S&T, along with other government agencies, is working on the design and creation of the “H2Rescue” emergency vehicle. The H2Rescue is an innovative new truck that can be a lifeline to responders and community members during times of chaos and uncertainty because the H2Rescue is fully powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

  • An Expert on Search and Rescue Robots Explains the Technologies Used in Disasters Like the Florida Condo Collapse

    Different types of robots may be used to search and rescue victims of disasters, such as the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. A robotics experts says that the current state of the practice for searching the interior of rubble is to use either a small tracked vehicle, such as an Inkutun VGTV Extreme, which is the most commonly used robot for such situations, or a snakelike robot, such as the Active Scope Camera developed in Japan. Teledyne FLIR is sending a couple of tracked robots and operators to the site in Surfside, Florida.