20 August 2005

A Third Eye for Rescuers

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Fire brigades will soon have access to a safety system which is able to accurately detect and locate people that may be trapped in debris after, for example, an earthquake

Fire brigades will soon have access to a safety system which is able to accurately detect and locate people that may be trapped in debris after, for example, an earthquake. The tool, called Loccatec, is the result of European research with the financial support of the EU. Trials recently conducted in Italy and Greece demonstrate the tool?s effectiveness.

In the aftermath of earthquakes that have occurred in Turkey, Greece and Algeria, special fire brigade squads were often misled during rescue operations by wrong information from shocked survivors.

Two people are buried here, three over there? people shouted, but this was neither precise nor accurate?, recalls Pisa?s veteran fireman Stefano Capitani. Precious time was lost, and this unfortunately meant putting lives in jeopardy.

But such problems should soon be a thing of the past. A new survey tool called ?Loccatec? could speed up rescue operations and improve their success rates by providing firemen with prompt and reliable information on the location of people trapped in buildings.

Buildings will be equipped with small, autonomous cameras at low cost. Installed on solid structures, like pillars, these cameras begin to record and store images as soon as the start of an infrastructure collapse is detected. The cameras will record up to 106 images five minutes before the crash, in any light condition.

On their arrival, rescuers will then download these images wirelessly into a central unit -which is accessible only to those with a password- and will set up an audio-link with the cameras. They will then be able to assess the number of people trapped in the building, and access the exact floor plans.

The detection devices activate the cameras only upon signs of significant alteration in the structure of a building. This will prevent any false alarms occurring and protect individuals? privacy.

Developers of the Loccatec team come from France, Italy and Greece and experts have been working extensively in the incident prevention field. Others have come from the transmission sector. The device is still in its trial phase, but after testing by Pisa’s firemen it has already proved to be 100% successful.

Such excellent results should attract further financing to help market the Loccatec system. “The first large scale installations should be done in public buildings like hospitals and schools - stresses project manager Uberto Delprato- buildings with large numbers of potential victims, as well as an administration which can easily take care of the installation of the devices.” Once installed, the system does not need any maintenance.

The Pisa firemen have already hailed Loccatec as the best support to sniffer dogs and other traditional sensors. Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean region are still high-risk areas for earthquakes and natural disasters. And firemen know that any device that saves time allows them to save more lives.

 

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Country: France, Greece, Italy

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A Third Eye for Rescuers

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