Facebook was recently forced to halt construction of a new facility in their Menlo Park Campus, in the Bay Area, when a building collapsed killing two construction workers. Shortly after, a building in Lagos, Nigeria, collapsed killing two more men.
While it is not an often-advertised fact, at any given point of time there is at least one incident of building collapse in an urban area around the world, whether it is a result of natural causes (earthquake, mudslide, tsunami,) or unnatural causes (bombings).
In response to this, an entire industry has formed in order to assist the men and women who respond to such incidents and help minimize the losses in such tragedies.
Urban Search And Rescue Dogs
When a building collapses, victims can be trapped under tons of rubble. These dogs use their keen sense of smell to find the areas where a person might be buried. While a great deal of technology has been developed to assist in cases of urban collapse, these dogs remain an effective way of narrowing down the search.
The main drawback is their inability to determine depth of the survivor, whether there is 3 feet of debris over the top of them, or ten?
Emergency Borehole Camera
A borehole camera is a portable downhole camera used to establish visual confirmation and even contact with trapped survivors. Usually attached to a long cable, these are fed down through the rubble.
While there are a number of borehole camera uses, there is also one large limitation: it?s scope. The camera can search only within a limited reach, making it more useful as an emergency well camera than it is at discovering survivors on its own.
Ultra-Wide Band Radar
This radar is designed to identify minute movements for up to 100 feet in free space. This allows rescuers to zero in on the subtle movements of the survivors trapped underneath the rubble. Perhaps more importantly, it allows emergency responders to know where the ground is too unstable to safely dig.
In practice, it takes all of these techniques, experience and luck at the scene of a building collapse: The rescue dogs, UWBR and borehole camera uses alone would be nothing without the exceptional team of human rescuers who train to interpret and use the information they are given to save the survivors lives.