NJ-TF1 and New Jersey UASI teams used robots at Hackensack collapse!

On July 16, 2010, a parking garage at a condo building collapsed, with at least one person thought to be trapped. New Jersey Task Force 1 and another New Jersey UASI team responded with robots! NJ-TF1 (the only US&R team in the US that I’m aware of that owns rescue robots ) used their Inuktun Extreme to search the rubble- and there were no victims. NJ-TF1 became early adopters after the World Trade Center. Jim Bastan- and all of NJ-TF1- has been a great advocate for rescue robots. They’ve hosted two CRASAR events, one in 2005 that gave some of the ground robots in our cache their first taste of snow.

It’s great to hear that robots are being adopted and used!

Uganda bombing

Woke up this morning to see the death toll in Uganda is up to 74 according to CNN. Terrorism is particularly ugly because it severely reduces the time responders have to get to someone before they die and creates a different set of challenges. Surviving a building collapse is easier– if you don’t die right away, and you are a surface victim or within 20 feet of the surface of rubble, the odds are in your favor that rescuers will be able to find you in time. But an explosion… the victims nearest the blast are killed instantly, the ones trapped within 20 feet are badly burned and require immediately assistance to survive. And the people beyond 20 feet in the interior, well, that’s where having robots can help by going farther than existing technologies.

I can’t tell from the pictures but it seems like the explosions were in relatively low occupancy structures versus big high rises, so there may not be tons of rubble to sort through- the local responders with existing tools can get in and get to the survivors.

Let’s hope so. The horror and senselessness of it all is hard to bear and our prayers go out the victims and their families.

Hurricane Alex

What a relief that Hurricane Alex was relatively minor, what I heard a resident on the news call “a normal one.” The two types of robots that fit these types of disasters are unmanned aerial vehicles and marine vehicles. A hurricane is a geographically distributed event- lots of homes demolished but commercial structures are evacuated and generally still standing. So rapid recon of large areas is important: UAVs help assess what areas are hurt, where people are gathering, and routes in and out of the area. National Guard Predators can get the broadest view and have been used since Hurricane Rita back in 2005 for strategic recon, while small UAVs can be used by tactical teams on demand (with an emergency COA). But don’t forget, most of the population and damage is near water (the whole being on the coast thing), and so littoral structural issues such as whether the bridges are damaged or debris is fixing to wash down and take out a piling become important for responder access, homeowner return to home and work, and to identify and speed up recovery. Unmanned marine vehicles, especially small robot boats, can be dropped in the water and get fantastic sonar images.