Entries in First Responders (7)


Earthquake First Responders: Cockroaches?

iBionicS(NEW YORK) -- Move over search-and-rescue dogs.  First-responding cockroaches might be the next big thing in disaster response.

Researchers at North Carolina State University in Raleigh hope the unsightly pests can be put to good use, saving lives in disasters like earthquakes, fires and chemical attacks.

“Our research is basically to turn insects into beasts of burden as we did with larger animals: horses and camels,” Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor at N.C. State’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, told ABC News.

The bugs carry “backpacks” equipped with sensors that could potentially carry microphones to transmit audio or low-grade video cameras for video from their environment.

They are steered around in tight crevices and rubble -- say from an earthquake -- using their antennas that interpret low-grade electrical pulses as an obstacle the bug needs to avoid.

A video released at the iEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society conference in San Diego last month shows the cockroaches successfully being steered along a curved line drawn by researchers.

“We are interested in finding people after the earthquakes, under the building,” Bozkurt said. “The first sensor one can envision could be tiny microphones to listen to the help calls.”

The advantage of using the tiny creatures lies in both their size -- they are smaller than humans and dogs -- and their strength.

Bozkurt’s research uses the Madagascar hissing cockroach, one of the largest species of cockroach, which are small enough to slip into small cracks between rocks, but large enough to carry their potentially lifesaving loads. The bug can grow up to 3 inches long.

“Insects are self powered,” he said.  “It’s like riding a horse, as long as you feed the insect it will keep going.”

The radio that sends a signal back to rescuers waiting outside will be powered by tiny batteries.

Researchers are continuing to perfect the technology, looking for more ways to make tiny circuits even smaller, exert more precise control over the insect and move them around in a 3-D environment.

But Bozkurt expects that their work could make a huge difference after disasters in densely populated urban areas.

“It’s a huge mess and somewhere in the middle your kid is crying, asking for help and you want to help them as soon as possible,” Bozkurt said.  “So the only help would come from huge machines which dig through the rubble and it’s not very efficient.  So we’re trying to make this process more efficient.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feds Expected to Recognize Cancer Link to 9/11 First Responders

Anthony Correia/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The World Trade Center Health Program will now provide treatment and compensation for 9/11 victims who were diagnosed with cancer after they inhaled toxic dust, program administrator Dr. John Howard announced this afternoon.

(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government may formally acknowledge that Ground Zero first responders and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods could have gotten cancer as a result of their exposure to toxic dust following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which determines which cancers are covered under a fund established to care for first responders to the attacks, may make an announcement about the issue as early as Monday. Fifty types of cancers are expected be added to a list of illnesses covered by the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Initially, the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act — the fund established in 2010 and named for police Det. James Zadroga, who died at age 34 after working at Ground Zero — included only a short list of illnesses that qualified for compensation. Cancer was excluded because of a lack of scientific evidence linking any form of the disease to conditions in the debris pile, even though many of the 50,000 9/11 first responders believe they got cancer — among other illnesses — because of their exposure to dust and other substances at Ground Zero.

Dozens of cancers believed to be related to 9/11 exposure are expected to be added to the list of covered illnesses, the New York Post reported, citing two lawyers who represent thousands of first responders and area residents.

An estimated 3,000 people were killed when terrorists hijacked passenger jets and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 11, 2001. Passengers aboard another flight that is believed to have been destined for another Washington, D.C., target – possibly the U.S. Capitol building or the White House – took over the aircraft. It crashed into an open field in Shanksville, Pa.

The fire and collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers contaminated the nearby air with particles of glass, asbestos, cement, lead, gypsum, calcium carbonate, other metal particles and other toxins.

It is believed that exposure to this dust through the lungs and skin has contributed to the asthma, gastrointestinal problems, and possibly the increased cancer risk experienced by rescue workers, especially those who were on the site immediately after the attack, when the cloud of debris dust was its thickest.

The Zadroga Act provides first responders with screening and treatment for health problems associated with working at Ground Zero. It also created a $4.3 billion fund to compensate affected first responders for any wage or other financial losses they incurred as a result of working at Ground Zero.

About 40,000 Sept. 11 responders and survivors receive monitoring and 20,000 get treatment for their illnesses as part of the Zadroga Act’s health program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Signs 9/11 First Responders Health Care Bill

Photo Courtesy - White House/Pete Souza(KAILUA, Hawaii) -- President Obama signed the 9/11 responders bill while on vacation at his beachfront rental home in Kailua, Hawaii.

The $4.2 billion bill passed unanimously in the final week of Congress’ session before lawmakers adjourned for the year.

"I was honored to sign the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to ensure that rescue and recovery workers, residents, students, and others suffering from health consequences related to the World Trade Center disaster have access to the medical monitoring and treatment they need," Obama said in a statement released after he signed the bill Sunday. 

"We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others.  I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks," he said.

Under the deal worked out in the Senate and approved in the House, the total cost of the bill over 10 years would be reduced from $6.2 billion to $4.2 billion.  Of that $4.2 billion, $1.5 billion will go to health benefits for the first responders, while $2.7 billion will go to compensation for them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Two Chicago Firefighters Killed, At Least 15 Injured after Building Collapse

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Two Chicago firefighters were killed and more than a dozen injured Wednesday after they became trapped in a building while battling a warehouse blaze.

Rescuers dug frantically to free the two, who were among at least four firefighters trapped inside the building. At least 15 other firefighters were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed the deaths just before 11 a.m. EST.

"Without warning the roof collapsed trapping four firefighters," Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Huff said at a press conference. "Despite our best efforts at the scene and in the hospitals, two firefighters succumbed to their injuries."

Hoff identified the dead firemen as Edward Stringer and Cory Ankum. Stringer was a 12 year veteran firefighter.

Ankum, a 38-year-old father of three, was a three year veteran of the Chicago police force when he switched careers and joined the fire department 16 months ago. His youngest child is just one year old.

"Every firefighter that was there did the best they could do to save their brothers, our major concern right now is their families," Hoff said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


White House Says Comedian Jon Stewart 'Put Awareness' On 9/11 Health Bill

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images for Comedy Central(WASHINGTON) -- The White House said Tuesday that comedian Jon Stewart has "put the awareness" around the 9/11 health care responders legislation, hoping that will lead to additional Republican votes for the bill.

"If there's the ability for that to sort of breakthrough in our political environment, I think there's a good chance that he can help do that," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "I think he has put the awareness around this legislation -- he's put that awareness into what you guys cover each day, and I think that's good."

Last Thursday Jon Stewart devoted an episode of The Daily Show to the bill, a move that raised the public profile of the story, helping to bring the issue into the national spotlight.  Gibbs said Tuesday that he hopes Stewart can convince the Republicans further in a final push for passage.

"It seems, at the end of a long year, around the holiday season, a pretty awful thing to play politics about. But that's a decision that 42 Republican senators are going to have to make."

Likewise on Capitol Hill, Stewart is getting praise for putting a spotlight on the issue.

"We were making significant progress, but Jon Stewart really took the push for the 9/11 bill into overdrive by doing two separate nights' worth of coverage last week, and drawing attention to this that the networks had not," Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement Monday.

"He did a good thing," Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told ABC News when asked on Capitol Hill. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


'Christmas Miracle' for 9/11 Responders?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The first responders still suffering health effects more than nine years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks could get a "Christmas miracle" this year, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Saturday.

Senate Republicans last week derailed a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in health care and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors, but Gillibrand this weekend voiced confidence that the Senate will pass the bill in the next week, now that lawmakers have agreed on how to pay for the measure.

"We have the votes we need," Gillibrand said Saturday at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "We've had indications from several Republicans that they very much want to vote for this bill.

"They would like to vote for a stand-alone bill," she said. "There is general agreement on a new pay-for that we're going to offer, so the hope is to get to the bill as soon as the START bill is completed."

The bill was put to a test vote on Dec. 9, but supporters found themselves three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to debate and a final vote. The measure failed 57-42.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


House Passes 9/11 Health & Compensation Act

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House on Wednesday passed final congressional approval of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, which provides medical care for persons exposed to harmful toxins from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. First responders, cleanup workers and those living within the terrorist attack areas are eligible for care.

The bill passed 268 - 160.  17 Republicans supported the measure, while three Democrats voted against the bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in the chair when the vote was announced.

Pelosi spoke out on the House floor in favor of the bill, saying it will help those who jeopardize their health to rescue others, secure necessary medical treatment especially for the unique exposures suffered at Ground Zero, and ensures survivors and victims’ families can attain compensation for their losses.

“They and those who rushed to the scene in real time when it happened risked their lives and their health to do so. They didn’t ask any questions. Is anybody going to take care of me? They were there to help,” Pelosi said. “Today we remember all the heroes of 9/11, we praised the strength of thousands of firefighters, rescue workers, first responders and medical personnel who turned tragedy into inspiration, and gave themselves, of themselves, to help a city and our nation rebuild.”

Pelosi said the legislation, which was introduced by New York Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney, is fully paid for and does not increase the deficit. An attempt last July to get the bill through the House failed because it was brought to the floor under an expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, which it failed to get.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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