SAR News March 2007 (courtesy Joe MacDonald)


An official publication of Emergency Response International   
Published by dbS Productions LLC

                                                                                                                                                                 March 2007

In this issue:

  • State Urban Search and Rescue (SUSAR) Alliance Has Formed
  • New Research Refines Search and Rescue Robot
  • Rope Ascender Has Potential to Assist Military and Rescue Personnel
  • DHS Awards $194 Million to States for Emergency Management
  • Katrina: Lessons Learned and Recommendations for Preparedness
  • Updates Hurricane Preparedness Page
  • National Weather Service Releases Smoke Forecasting Tool
  • NOAA Develops New Model to Improve Tsunami Forecasting
  • Why Communication Breaks Down During Disasters & What Can Be Done About It
  • DHS NIMS Upgrade Draft Open for Final Comment
  • Avalanche Research Media Library
  • Homeland Security References and Resources
  • Call for Speakers: IAEM 55th Annual Conference



State Urban Search and Rescue (SUSAR) Alliance Has Formed
Currently 41 states have joined the newly established State Urban Search and Rescue (SUSAR) Alliance in an effort to make more resources available at a national level during disaster emergencies. Jim Riley, Chairman of SUSAR and Task Force Leader of New Jersey’s Urban Search team, said one goal of SUSAR is to have some urban search capability in every state ready to respond. The alliance aims to promote greater cooperation among states and urban search teams and develop effective working relationships to help others in need. For more information, contact Jim Riley at 732.756.7001 x13. To read more about the history and purpose of SUSAR, check out the SUSAR Web site below.

New Research to Refine Search and Rescue Robot

The Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech received a grant from the National Science Foundation to design and test search and rescue robots with a new mechanism modeled on the way an amoeba moves. The Whole Skin Locomotion mechanism has a cylindrical shape that expands and contracts to propel the robot and allow it to squeeze through tight spaces smaller than its normal size, such as debris from an earthquake or a collapsed ceiling.!news&s=1045855934842

Rope Ascender Has Potential to Assist Military and Rescue Personnel
The Atlas Powered Rope Ascender—a new device created by an engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—was designed at the request of the military. It may soon help troops in Iraq and Afghanistan literally pull themselves up and out of dangerous situations—in a matter of seconds. The 15-pound device, the size of a hand-held power tool, can lift a 250-pound load more than 600 feet into the air at nearly 10 feet per second on a single battery charge. It could be used to drag obstacles out of the road or to rip a door off its hinges. Further development on the device may enable it to lift people who are wounded.

DHS Awards $194 Million to States for Emergency Management
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released $194 million to help states and local governments prepare and implement emergency management activities through the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program. State emergency management agencies use EMPG funds to enhance their emergency management capabilities in a range of areas that include planning, equipping, and training; conducting exercises; and providing for all-hazards emergency management operations. In addition, EMPG funds are used to pay for personnel who write plans, conduct training and exercise programs, maintain emergency response programs, and educate the public on disaster readiness. The full report and a list of grant allocations by state are available on the Web sites below.

Katrina: Lessons Learned and Recommendations for Preparedness 
“Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina and the Role for Standards and Conformity Assessment Programs" is a new report from the American National Standards Institute Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP). It contains recommendations aimed at bolstering national preparedness, response, and recovery efforts in the event of a natural disaster. The report was developed during a series of ANSI-HSSP Workshop meetings that examined congressional, agency, and White House reports citing federal, state, and local failures during and following Hurricane Katrina. Updates Hurricane Preparedness Page has updated and re-organized the Hurricane Preparedness page to highlight information about several different aspects of hurricane preparedness, planning, response, and recovery (e.g., Evacuation & Sheltering Operations, Functional Needs Populations, Health &

Medical Issues, Logistics, Uses of Modeling & GIS, Private Sector & Business Involvement, Public Information, Recovery & Mitigation,
and Volunteer & Donations Management). The page also provides state hurricane response plans, public information guides from several jurisdictions, and after-action reports. is currently collecting additional state and local hurricane plans in anticipation of this year’s hurricane season. Interested readers can become members of by emailing

National Weather Service Releases Smoke Forecasting Tool 
The National Weather Service has released a Smoke Forecast Tool, which will produce a 48-hour prediction of smoke transport and concentration, and is updated daily. According to NOAA, emissions from large fires are a significant source of fine particle pollution, and this type of pollution is responsible for an estimated 50,000 premature deaths each year. This smoke forecast tool will help air quality forecasters and the public take steps to limit exposure to the harmful airborne particulate matter. The Smoke Forecast Tool integrates the NOAA Satellite and Information Service’s satellite data on the location of wildfires with the National Weather Service’s weather information and NOAA’s smoke dispersion simulations.
The Smoke Forecast Tool is available at
For more information, go to 

NOAA Develops New Model to Improve Tsunami Forecasting
Scientists with the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences have created a high-resolution digital elevation model, or DEM, which is designed to improve forecasting for early tsunami warning systems and to help coastal communities prepare for storm-driven flooding. It will also provide the underlying framework necessary to accurately forecast the magnitude and extent of coastal flooding during a tsunami or storm surge event. Models have been created for coastal communities throughout the US, including Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia as well as Puerto Rico. They expect to complete more than 100 such models for US coastal communities in the coming years. Completed digital elevation models, with accompanying graphics and documentation, are available online.

Why Communication Breaks Down During Disasters & What Can Be Done About It
"Interoperability: Stop Blaming the Radio,” an article that appears in "Homeland Security Affairs," looks at radio interoperability and solutions to miscommunication during disasters, and explains that impediments to successful communication include insufficient radio infrastructure, behavioral reactions by people in stressful situations, intergovernmental relations, inadequate procedures and training, and general lethargy over the need to institute special operating policies distinct from routine practices.

DHS NIMS Upgrade Draft Document Open for Final Comment

On February 1, 2007, the Department of Homeland Security released Version 1 of the Draft National Incident Management System (NIMS) Upgrade and opened it for nationwide review and comment. This first comment period ended on February 19. Currently, comments are undergoing adjudication and a revised version of the Draft NIMS Upgrade will be available on March 26, 2007. The final comment period will end on April 6, 2007. To provide comments, request a comment form, or for any questions, email .

Avalanche Research Media Library
This site contains a large collection of videos, accident reports, photographs, maps, television shows, and audio files about avalanches. The site lists a goal of acting as a memory bank for the avalanche community on both a local and global scale. Users can browse the collection and submit their own videos and documents for the community.

Homeland Security References and Resources
This lengthy list of homeland security and emergency management-related references and resources has just been updated. The list contains links to government documents, task groups, newsletters, conference proceedings, and much more.

Call for Speakers: IAEM 55th Annual Conference
The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) conference committee is issuing a call for speakers for the IAEM 55th Annual Conference and EMEX 2007. This call also includes proposals for pre-conference training sessions. The theme of the conference, which takes place November 11-14 in Reno, Nevada , is "Partners in Emergency Management: Working Together." The IAEM Annual Conference provides a forum for current trends and topics, shares information about the latest tools and technology in emergency management and homeland security, and advances IAEM committee work. Sessions encourage stakeholders at all levels of government, the private sector, public health and related professions to exchange ideas on collaborating to protect lives and property from disaster. Four conference tracks will be featured this year: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
The deadline for applications is April 2, 2007, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Presentation applications must be submitted online at, then click on the "Call for Speakers" link.


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