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DHS and NASA Technology Helps Save Four Lives in Nepal Earthquake by Detecting Their Heartbeats

Nepal earthquake

Image credit: DHS/John Price via NASA

The new radar technology developed by NASA could identify the heartbeats of people who had been buried under 10 feet of rubble because of the fatal 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal. Such novel search-and-rescue technology is known as FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response). By application of the microwave-radar to detect weak heartbeats, two prototypes of it had been deployed by NASA to enable emergency teams to act accordingly.

According to dada collected by NASA, with help of the two prototypes of FINDER, rescue staff is capable of locating those trapped under 30 feet of rubble, 20 feet of solid concrete and from a distance of 100 feet in open spaces. Such apparatus was initially developed in 2013 by the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) of the Department of Homeland Security and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the National Aeronautics Space Administration. In addition to its original properties, scientists developed a novel feature of the locator, allowing rescue responders to confirm a heartbeat and the approximate locations of trapped victims within five feet, depending on which type of rubble it was.

As Dr. Reginald Brothers, a DHS undersecretary for science and technology said, the practicality of any technology was mainly associated with its good operation under a real-life situation.

In the Nepalese earthquake which witnessed the death toll of nearly 8,000 people, it was the first time that FINDER was used for the rescue work in a real-world setting. Amazingly, it had succeeded in saving four men buried under rubble.

Talking of this new technology, Dr. Reginald Brothers said, although people did not want disasters to happen, such tools were intently designed to give helping hands when the severe disasters did occur. It was his pride that their tools had successfully helped rescue these four men.

When an international rescue team got to the village of Chautara, these men had been trapped there under rubble for days. With FINDER, the team was able to detect heartbeats beneath two different fallen-down structures. The microwave radar technology enabled responders to indentify human heartbeats from those of other living things, like rats.

Being so sensitive, the technology could also indentify victims both in conscious and unconscious conditions so as to enable emergency response teams to make sure which the course of action was the best.

According to Dr. David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, FINDER could not only strengthen the role of NASA in space exploration, but also help save the lives of people on Earth.

It has been announced by NASA that it would transfer FINDER to commercial enterprise, where the device could be produces and applied to more in search-and-rescue missions all over the world.

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