Gold Coating Keeps Oscars Bright
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Saving Lives in the Golden Hour
Every year, natural and manmade disasters take the lives of too many men, women and children. Fortunately, NASA scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), along with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel have developed a new tool to help rescuers find trapped victims during the very short time (known as the Golden Hour) before a rescue mission tragically becomes a recovery mission. Promising results during field trials have shown that the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) has successfully taken space technology and repurposed it for humanitarian efforts on earth (Detecting).
Prior to the creation of the FINDER for first responders, searching for buried survivors of a disaster included calling out for victims to respond, using trained search dogs, and visual sightings of a hand, foot, etc. All too often, the victim may be unable to call out to the responders and/or unconscious. They may also be underneath debris that keeps them from being sighted or even allow a dog to pick up their scent. With time always working against the probability of finding victims alive, the tedious process of moving debris in hopes of finding someone, who may or may not be buried at that site, takes precious time (Finding).
Overcoming these search limitations, the new FINDER is a unique approach to detecting possible victims. It “ . . . uses low-power microwave radar to detect small movements from breathing and the heartbeat of a buried person, even when the signal must pass through feet of building debris and rubble.” Even more amazing, the device has the capability to pick up breathing and heartbeat sounds up to 100 feet, depending on the obstacle factors involved (Finding).
Being able to search and scan more areas in less time provides the opportunity for the rescuers to save victims before the Golden Hour, when victims are more likely to still be alive, closes on the search and rescue missions. Time is not wasted searching locations that do not register signs of human life, allowing rescue teams to move to more likely areas faster and increasing the chances of victims to survive. With the possibility of severe injuries and the limited supply of oxygen, victims may have only a short time to be rescued successfully.
In June 2013, Urban Search and Rescue team tested the FINDER’s human-finding
Abilities at the Fairfax County Fire Department training center (Detecting).
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) developed this special type of radar used in the FINDER and its capabilities are amazing.
In disaster scenarios, such as earthquakes and tornadoes, the wreckage is made up of twisted and shattered materials. Radar signals bounce back so signals are complex. “Isolating the relatively weak signal of a heartbeat within the noisy signals becomes a difficult task,” said Edward Chow, JPL program manager. “JPL’s radar expertise helps in this challenge.” JPL uses advanced data processing systems to pick out faint signals (Detecting).
The implementation of this unique JPL radar will be a tremendous asset to rescue operations and created a higher survival rate.
The FINDER has been tested by professional rescue times to create feedback for the scientists and engineers. Some of the refinements have included:
A revised user interface and increased battery life of up to 14 hours. The mechanical and electronic design has evolved with the core being a lightweight 3”x3”x1” sensing module that uses a USB interface to integrate an antenna, radar electronics, and digital processing . . . Future phases of development will focus on a more specific locator function which will help determine, not only the presence of a victim but also more precisely where in the rubble the victim is located (Detecting).
Working to put the best FINDER possible in the hands of rescuers means only that more lives will be saved in future disasters and demonstrates the work ethics of the JPL.
Although NASA, the JPL, and DHS are American entities of the federal government, their project, the FINDER, will eventually be used around the world, saving countless citizens of many nations who would have more than likely lost their lives if not for this new search aid. With worldwide implications, the FINDER and its American developers, have served all of mankind, which is noble in itself and demonstrates that humanitarian efforts should always transcend all borders. The FINDER is just one of many NASA spinoff technologies that are making the world a better place to live for all its inhabitants.
“Detecting Heartbeats in Rubble: DHS and NASA Team up to Save Victims of Disasters.” Department of Homeland Security, n.d. Web. 01 July 2014. <http://www.dhs.gov/detecting-heartbeats-rubble-dhs-and-nasa-team-save-victims-disasters>.
“Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response.” Spinoffs of Tomorrow (n.d.): Technology Transfer Program: Bringing NASA Technology Down to Earth. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Web. 1 July 2014. <http://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff_tomorrow.pdf>.