Demolition tests aim to improve emergency communications

02/13/04

A team of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientists have begun conducting experiments in "laboratories" that are here one day and gone the next. They are using buildings set for demolition to measure radio signals with the hope their work will some day lead to new tools that help emergency personnel save more people trapped in collapsed buildings.

The NIST team was in New Orleans, on hand as demolition experts were getting ready to raze a high-rise.

Prior to demolition, the NIST team placed specially modified radio transmitter modules operating in the frequency bands used by emergency personnel and mobile telephones at various points within the soon-to-be-destroyed Fischer Public Housing Project. The researchers collected information on the transmitters' signal strength and other data. They also used Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to determine the locations and distances of transmissions from within the building.

After demolition, the team found that 10 of the 14 transmitters continued broadcasting.

The researchers hope their work eventually leads to the development of technology that allows emergency personnel to lock on to cell phone or radio signals within collapsed buildings to help in locating and perhaps communicating with survivors.

The project was funded by the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs' Community Oriented Policing Services through NIST's Office of Law Enforcement Standards.

The NIST team will follow up its work in New Orleans by conducting similar experiments with other demolitions around the United States.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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