August 21, 2014
Quickly detecting living victims buried in rubble or other debris greatly increases their chances of rescue and survival. This is especially true in situations where there are multiple rubble piles or large extents of debris. The ability to rapidly assess whether there are live victims at a particular site allows effective allocation of search and rescue resources. A rapid victim detection system will help first responders more effectively and efficiently save lives.
In partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate's (S&T) is developing Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER). FINDER uses low-power microwave radar to detect the small movements from breathing and the heartbeat of a buried victim, even when the signal must pass through several feet of building debris and rubble. FINDER searches for the unique characteristics of human breathing and heartbeat to distinguish between humans, animals, and mechanical movement. It can also distinguish between multiple victims, since each person's breathing and heartbeat patterns are different.
First responders often refer to the golden hour, which is the window of time where a victim's rescue greatly increases their chance of survival. FINDER will quickly direct rescuers to where the victims are, thereby allowing other victims to be identified who might have otherwise been lost. FINDER supplements existing search and rescue techniques: it is a unique tool because it doesn't require a responsive or conscious victim and it isn't confused by animals or deceased human remains. This tool will be key to finding lost individuals in natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.Jim Lux
Jet Propulsion Laboratory