When a crisis or natural disaster strikes, finding victims and getting aid to them as fast as possible is obviously a critical factor. Although first responders in the EU have continually honed their techniques in recent years, there are still improvements to be made in the way first-responder resources are dispatched and, especially, in the speed of finding survivors in the rubble or confusion of an event.
These and other capabilities were the focus of the EU-funded project known as SGL for USaR (“Second Generation Locator for urban Search and Rescue Operations”). A four-year effort that ended in October 2012, this project brought together 21 partners from industry, academia and the public sector across 11 countries to forge new technologies for improving rescue operations.
With a total budget of EUR 6.22 million SGL for USaR clustered its research around three broad objectives, namely the:
For example, a key objective for the team’s researchers was to develop portable devices for first-responders and a network of sensors to help expedite the search for victims buried in rubble. A primary focus of research was to identify the traceable audio, chemical, and visual “signatures” emitted by human beings. By distinguishing among these, the team used the data to develop detection software for automatic sensor location of victims.
Laboratory and field testing of the data and software led to the development of two tangible product prototypes. The first – a portable and self-powered device know as FIRST – allows the detection of victims from the chemical, audio, and visual signatures. The second product, known as Remote Early Detection System (REDS), is used for autonomous monitoring (i.e., unattended by an operator), which frees up human resources to be allocated for other tasks. According to SGL, the two systems can be linked via a centralised operations center.
The research team also created an environmental test chamber to simulate collapsed buildings where new technologies and alarm systems for victim location were tested in conjunction with FIRST and RED. Moreover, the ethical implications of the project’s work were probed as well, with SGL participants consulting with public sector agencies to identify the privacy issues linked to the collection of personal data of entrapped people.
Since the conclusion of its research in late 2012, SGL for USaR’s consortium partners have been exploring how to commercialise their technology with industry. For example, a number of the partners have signed an agreement for exploiting the FIRST and REDS prototypes, and other aspects of the project’s results are also being explored.
For more information about SGL for USaR, see: http://www.sgl-eu.org/index.php