Homeland Security Using Toughbook H2 to Locate Victims After Disasters

After major disasters, the task of finding living victims can be as challenging as it is critical. A natural disaster like an earthquake, or a manmade disaster such as a bombing, could leave an untold number of victims trapped or lost under many feet of rubble and debris. With survival rate being highest in the first hour after a disaster, it is crucial first responders are able to locate survivors quickly.

NASA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have collaborated on a portable radar device that is used to locate living victims after a major disaster. The device, called FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), uses sophisticated microwave radar technology to detect heartbeats and breathing of victims trapped in large disaster areas and rubble.

Based on radar signals, the FINDER system relays victims’ locations and condition information to a ruggedized computer within just one minute. The technology is sensitive enough that victims, whether conscious or not, can easily be detected, which helps responders decide the most efficient course of action. The device is able to distinguish between a human heartbeat and animal heartbeat and can even recognize multiple victims, so first responders can act quickly and reach the person in need with certainty of their location.

In disaster scenarios such as earthquakes and tornadoes, wreckage is generally made up of a complex mix of twisted and shattered materials that can make the use of radar a challenge. Relying on the radar expertise of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, DHS developed the FINDER solution to detect victims buried as deep as 30 feet in debris, hidden behind 20 feet of solid concrete and from a distance of 100 feet in open spaces. It’s designed to help rescuers find living victims during the critical “Golden Hour” – the first hour after a disaster occurs when victims have the best chance of survival.

FINDER’s low-powered microwaves are used to detect breathing and heartbeats by shining the signal onto a debris pile.  The microwaves then reflect off the victim and come back to the device. The FINDER shows both the unchanging reflection of rocks/debris and the very small changes in these reflections that indicate a person is beneath the wreckage. It analyzes those reflections and filters out inanimate objects to show only those that have been generated by a human.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab began working on FINDER in 2012 and first unveiled it to the public last year. The government plans to work with commercial partners to make the solution available on the market for search-and-rescue operations later this year.

H2_Head_OnA critical component of FINDER is the tablet computer used to operate the system. As the system must be sturdy enough to accompany rescuers in dangerous terrain and piles of rubble/debris, DHS and NASA decided to utilize a fully rugged Toughbook H2 tablet PC as part of the FINDER solution. Its sealed, all-weather design is IP65 and MIL-STD-810G certified to withstand inclement weather, liquid spills, freeze/thaw, drops of up to 6 feet and other tough conditions. It also features a LED screen capable of up to 6000 nits for easy viewing in direct sunlight, with other unique features such as hot-swappable twin batteries for maximum uptime and an integrated handle and ergonomic rubber hand strap for easy portability.  With the dependable Toughbook H2 platform, first responders can use FINDER’s incredible, fast-acting radar technology in virtually any condition when it’s needed most.

The video below shows the FINDER solution and Toughbook H2 in action. To learn more about Panasonic’s Toughbook products visit our website.

Image courtesy of NASA HQ