When earthquakes strike, people often get trapped in buildings. Search and rescue teams can pinpoint some victims using sniffer dogs and sensors. But a new European system that takes pictures during or after a building collapse promises to save many more lives.
The ‘low-cost catastrophic event capturing system’ is the fruit of the IST Loccatec project. It comprises capturing devices (small, autonomous infrared cameras) and a portable central unit for the rescue teams. The cameras – pre-installed in a building – only record images when they detect a structural collapse. Nearby rescue teams can wirelessly download these images and even set up an audio-link with the devices. The priority is to find where people are and the best routes to reach them.
Early tests were done in 2002, in the Italian town of San Juliano De Pulia – scene of the terrible earthquake that killed many schoolchildren. “After the disaster, we placed our cameras inside several damaged buildings earmarked for demolition,” says Uberto Delprato, project coordinator. The resulting eight films, recorded during demolition, were used to fine-tune the system’s ability to trigger image-recording during a building collapse.
Tara Morris | alfa
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