Equipment Distribution for Structural Stabilization and Civilian Rescue

Equipment Distribution for Structural Stabilization and Civilian Rescue

Albert Y. Chen (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), Feniosky Peña-Mora (Columbia University, USA), Saumil J. Mehta (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), Stuart Foltz (Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, USA), Albert P. Plans (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain), Brian R. Brauer (Illinois Fire Service Institute, USA) and Scott Nacheman (Thornton Tomasetti, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jiscrm.2011010102
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Abstract

The efficiency of Urban Search and Rescue operations depends on the supply of appropriate equipment and resources, and an efficient damage assessment facilitates deployment of these resources. This paper presents an Information Technology (IT) supported system for on-site data collection to communicate structural condition, track search and rescue status, and request and allocate appropriate resources. The system provides a unified interface for efficient gathering, storing, and sharing of building assessment information. Visualization and access of such information enable rescuers to respond to the disaster more efficiently with better situational awareness. The IT system also provides an interface for electronic resource requests to a geospatial resource repository service that enables a spatial disaster management environment for resource allocation. Request and deployment of critical resources through this system enables lifesaving efforts, with the appropriate equipment, operator, and materials, to become more efficient and effective. System development at the Illinois Fire Service Institute has shown promising results.
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Gap Identification

From lessons learned in recent disasters, information gathering for critical decision making has been recognized as one of the greatest challenges in disaster response. Response efforts cannot reach their full potential without the information needed to make critical decisions. For example, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the authorities were not fully aware of available resources and did not have complete access to available information. As a result, resources were deployed inefficiently, which compromised the effectiveness of response operations (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 2004).

Distribution of resources during disaster response operations has been characterized by various shortcomings that inhibit efficient and effective decision making. Setting priorities for allocation of limited resources is one of the challenges (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 2004). Efficient information gathering and decision making for distribution of resources is critical to support disaster response efforts.

A large number of engineering parameters such as the type of structure, patterns of collapse, and shoring alternatives play important roles for decision making. These factors contribute to decision making for prioritization of rescue activities and in some cases are vital in ensuring the safety of the rescuers. For example, in-structure route selection is critical to quickly and safely access victims trapped under a partial collapsed building. As such, structural triage and BMS has been one of the key features carried out by the engineering workforce on US&R operations (McGuigan, 2002). The information gathered (such as the structural triage) is then disseminated to the stakeholders for decision making (setting up operational priority for buildings). In other words, critical information needs to be communicated to or retrievable by numerous levels of command at different times and stages of disaster response. However, the information is usually transferred through paper copies, which cannot be effectively distributed.

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