Making use of the research project ANCHORS, the city of Dortmund’s Institute of Fire and Rescue Technology (IFR) recently organized a large scale exercise for its fire department.
The French-German ANCHORS research project (UAV Assisted Ad Hoc Networks for Crisis Management and Hostile Environment Sensing), is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the Federal Government's program "Research for Civil Security".
This program has been on-going for three years and seeks to find out how unmanned robots, both on land and in the air, can support the work of the rescuers in large-scale loss events such as natural disasters or major accidents. These events can represent an enormous risk for the rescue workers, particularly where disasters with strong radioactive radiation forces are involved. During the exploration of the environment and crisis communications this can be reduced by the use of such unmanned systems.
The large-scale exercise which featured over 190 rescue workers, was held on the premises of ThyssenKrupp Steel in Dortmund on April 18, 2015. The media, as well as representatives from politics, government and science, all demonstrated great interest in the project.
Because of the amount of space required for the project, the terrain chosen had to be exactly right for such a large scale operation. This ensured that the team of firefighters, paramedics, emergency services, special forces, and ‘injured’ participants would have a suitably large area for the realistic testing operations.
Numerous technical experts, academics and observers who followed the exercise, were particularly interested in the possible applications of robotic systems in real life situations, as well as the interaction between human beings and the novel technology.
The first scenario showed an accident between a dangerous goods vehicle and a car. In this situation, an unknown corrosive liquid had leaked and contaminated the occupants of the vehicles. The nature of the accident meant that a sealed source, which had been used in the immediate vicinity of the accident site for materials testing
, was damaged by a pressure wave. This in turn led to an uncontrolled radiation release, which had to be investigated.
As part of the rescue and damage control, it was necessary to work within the constraints of different priorities. On the one hand people had to be saved, cleansed of an unknown substance and provided with all necessary medical attention. On the other, it was important to identify the emerging unknown substance and to explore damage to the area in very high dosis rate.
During the exercise, the targeted usage of aircraft to communicate assurance, detection and identification of radioactive sources was demonstrated, within the context of the professional accident scenario being depicted. For this, aircraft were used that could explore the work site from the air by means of a sensor and camera technology, so the rescuers did not need to enter the contaminated area and thus expose themselves to danger.
In order to accurately and realistically represent the scenario, a real source of material testing was used. This was presented by Applus+ RTD Deutschland Inspektionsgesellschaft mbH.
To create a radiation field for metrological testing as part of the ‘ANCHORS project’, Applus+ RTD had to obtain a handling permit from the district government in Arnsberg. This was required by the terms of the Radiation Protection Ordinance handling permit. To obtain this, a radiation protection
calculation needed to be presented. The radiation source used (a Se-75 spotlight) was determined in advance using precise calculations, by the radiation protection agent of Applus+ RTD in conjunction with the relevant radiation protection authority.
Two very experienced Applus+ RTD representatives were present for this operation, who acted as ‘on-the-spot’ radiation protection officers. Accompanied by one representative of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection and the relevant supervisory authority, they ensured that the radiation source rigidly radiated upward toward the sky, as previously planned.
Needless to say, strict attention was paid to compliance with all security measures to ensure that no one was exposed to an increased dose of ionizing radiation. The required road closures were carried out with the assistance of the fire brigade.
Due to the large distance from the radiation source, video transmissions were presented on big TV-screens for the visitors during this part of the exercise.
The aim of the ANCHORS project is to allow fast and effective remote sensing of security incidents through the intelligent combination of autonomous, unmanned systems in the air and on the ground, and by providing an efficient flow of information through a new ad-hoc way of networking by all involved. The flow of information supports the capacity of crisis management as well as the safety of emergency responders. The final exercise within the project, which was funded with a total of more than € 8 million and which started three years ago, fully met all expectations.
See also the article about the large-scale practice in the broadcast radio station 3Sat Nano
Photos: Origin: Fire Brigade Dortmund