Twelve years later, in Van, the dogs were there again, but this time rescue teams were also armed with new technology to help them find people alive.
When what was arguably one of the worst natural disasters in Turkey’s recent history, the 1999 Marmara earthquake, hit the town of Gölcük, affecting seven cities in all, search and rescue dogs saved dozens of lives, sniffing and sensing signs of life under the rubble.
Twelve years later, in Van, the dogs were there again, but this time rescue teams were also armed with new technology to help them find people alive. Fiber optic cameras shaped like a snake the size of a finger are acting like the eyes of rescue teams under the debris. Audio frequency sensors used to hear cries for help from the depths of concrete ruins have become the rescuers’ eyes and ears, and have saved many lives.
The earthquake has shown Turkey in a painful way that it has not come a long way in terms of building reinforcement and quality control inspections. On the other hand, over the past 12 years, Turkish rescue teams have not only proliferated in number, but also caught up with state of the art rescue technology.
The fiber optic cameras not only help locate people trapped under collapsed concrete blocks, but also enable medical staff waiting outside to assess the medical condition of the person being trapped, giving instructions to the rescuer under the rubble to deliver first-aid. These cameras are inserted under the rubble of collapsed buildings with the help of highly sensitive drills that can drill holes without causing any vibration.
The use of acoustic sensitive devices mean rescue teams can detect cries for help inaudible to the human ear from outside the rubble, no longer wasting precious hours in the search and rescue effort. Seismic sensors can pick up vibrations when someone is hitting a surface, enabling rescuers to locate trapped people who can’t make any noise but still show signs of life.
Another serious improvement since the days of the Gölcük earthquake has been in the technology used for breaking concrete blocks. A decade ago, saws could only cut into 12 centimeters of concrete, while today there are saws with blades that can cut into concrete blocks as thick as 15 centimeters. Iron rods, which in the past were cut off with the help of iron scissors, are today tackled with hydraulic cutters that can cut into iron plates upto 14 centimeters thick.
Mechanical pulley systems have greatly advanced and diversified. There are now systems available that can easily lift 2.5 tons easily in places where a crane won’t fit.
Detectors that scan for hazardous gas under the rubble of a building are an indispensable tool for rescue teams in their work. The enhanced ability to be able to detect level of oxygen, carbon monoxide and any flammable gases buy hours in terms of risk assessment, and make rescuers’ work safer and quicker.
Old fashioned stretchers have been replaced by modern stretchers known as spine boards that immobilize the spine of the earthquake victim with the help of side straps and cervical collars to provide rigid support until the person is hospitalized.
28 October 2011 Friday