• Terror attacks: how psychological research can help improve the emergency response

    By Nicola Power, Laura Boulton, and Olivia Brown

    In this age of unpredictability, how can the emergency services prepare themselves to respond to a terror attack, like the one at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in 2017? We’ve looked into the psychology of decision making and how the key lessons from The Kerslake Report – which evaluated the emergency response during the Manchester attack – could be applied on the ground.

  • Artificial “nose” helps find people buried by earthquakes, avalanches

    Trained rescue dogs are still the best disaster workers – their sensitive noses help them to track down people buried by earthquakes or avalanches. Like all living creatures, however, dogs need to take breaks every now and again. They are also often not immediately available in disaster areas, and dog teams have to travel from further afield.. Scientists have developed the smallest and cheapest ever equipment for detecting people by smell. It could be used in the search for people buried by an earthquake or avalanche.

  • Twitter users likely to spread falsehoods during disasters

    We know that Twitter is littered with misinformation. But how good are the social media platform’s most active users at detecting these falsehoods, especially during public emergencies? Not good, according to researchers who examined more than 20,000 tweets during Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing.

  • Next California's Big One could kill hundreds, cause $100 billion in losses, trap 20,000 in elevators

    What will happen when the next big earthquake hits northern California? Researchers say that if a tremor similar in magnitude to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake were to hit today, it could kill 800 people, cause more than $100 billion in economic losses from the shaking and subsequent fires, and trap roughly 20,000 people in elevators across northern California.

  • The HayWired scenario: a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area

    Last week the USGS, along with approximately sixty partners, released a new fact sheet that summarizes a report from a larger study of what could happen during a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area along the Hayward Fault – arguably one of the most urbanized and interconnected areas in the nation. Earthquakes pose a threat to the safety of more than 143 million people living in the United States, and estimated long-term annualized earthquake losses in the United States are more than $6.1 billion per year.

  • Coastal surveillance benefits from enterprise information sharing

    Initially, DHS S&T wanted to empower maritime responders with better surveillance technology. Adding more radars and cameras alone was expected to make the difference, but further evaluation of the input from operational sponsors told a different story—it extended the benchmark for what S&T was asked to provide. Today, the Integrated Maritime Domain Enterprise - Coastal Surveillance System (IMDE-CSS) has evolved well beyond the initial information-gathering requirement into an information-sharing capability.

  • Portable device to sniff out trapped humans

    The first step after buildings collapse from an earthquake, bombing or other disaster is to rescue people who could be trapped in the rubble. But finding entrapped humans among the ruins can be challenging. A new, inexpensive sensor is light and portable enough for first responders to hold in their hands or for drones to carry on a search for survivors.

  • Separating factual from fake messages during a crisis

    How well can you tell facts from fake on social media? How about in a crisis? DHS S&T, together with Canadian partners, concluded the fifth Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE V) event last year, running drills involving the hypothetical eruption of Mt. Baker, an active volcano in the Pacific Northwest. As part of the simulation, a group of digital disaster services volunteers practiced separating fact from fiction on the web, with the mission of keeping responders informed during the event.

  • Southeastern European nations are latest to adopt emergency-response system

    By Kylie Foy

    The Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS), developed nearly a decade ago by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), is used today around the world for emergency response. Lincoln Laboratory, in partnership with NATO,  is modifying the system, and in its latest development, NICS has been implemented in the southeastern European nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

  • Hackers attacking 4G LTE networks could send fake emergency alerts

    Researchers have identified several new vulnerabilities in 4G LTE networks, potentially allowing hackers to forge the location of a mobile device and fabricate messages. Ten new and nine prior attacks were outlined in a new study, including the authentication relay attack, which enables an adversary to connect to core networks without the necessary credentials. This allows the adversary to impersonate and fake the location of a victim device.

  • Making U.S. health sector more resilient to major disasters

    The health sector in the United States would be far better positioned to manage medical care needs during emergencies of any scale by empowering existing healthcare coalitions to connect community resilience efforts with a network of hospitals equipped to handle disasters, according to a new report. The report’s authors found that while the U.S. health sector is reasonably well prepared for relatively small mass injury/illness events that happen frequently (for example, tornadoes, local disease outbreaks), it is less prepared for large-scale disasters (e.g., hurricanes) and complex mass casualty events (for example, bombings) and poorly prepared for catastrophic health events (for example, severe pandemics, large-scale bioterrorism).

  • If you want to know how to stop school shootings, ask the Secret Service

    By Jeff Daniels

    While President Donald Trump has not shied away from offering suggestions on how to prevent school shootings – including one controversial idea to arm teachers – what often gets overlooked in the conversation is research on the subject that has already been done. This research includes one major study of school shootings conducted in part by the very agency charged with protecting the president of the United States himself - the U.S. Secret Service. Has this research been ignored or just forgotten?

  • U.S. firefighters and police turn to an Israeli app to save lives

    By Abigail Klein Leichman

    When Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys in September 2017, the new First Response app from Israeli-American company Edgybees helped first-responders identify distress calls in flooded areas. When wildfires hit Northern California a month later, the app steered firefighters away from danger. This lifesaving augmented-reality app — designed only months before as an AR racing game for drone enthusiasts — is now used by more than a dozen fire and police departments in the United States, as well as the United Hatzalah emergency response network in Israel.

  • New challenge for first responders: Fake News

    First responders must find ways to address a new challenge: Not only do they have to deal with floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, active shooter events, and other natural and manmade crises – now they also have to find ways to deal with fake news. Social media may disseminate valuable and helpful information during disasters and extreme events – but it may also be used to spread fake news: disinformation and misinformation about the scope, nature, and sources, and location of a disaster or extreme incident. Such misinformation may not only confuse victims and potential victims, but also confuse and mislead first responders who rush to their rescue.

  • Disaster decision-support tool helps emergency managers ahead of storms

    S&T’s Hurricane Evacuation (HURREVAC) extended (HV-X) platform integrates forecast and planning data to provide emergency managers with decision support tools for use in advance of and during tropical weather. S&T made the developmental version of HV-X available to select Texas emergency management users in preparation for Hurricane Harvey. Emergency managers, who needed every tool at their disposal to make critical decisions on evacuations, preparedness, and response, found HV-X helpful.