Most New Yorkers may not realize it, but their first responders are better equipped for search and hazmat operations thanks, in part, to standard test methods developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Fire Department of New York City's hazmat chief recently sent a letter of thanks to NIST engineers for support that enabled the department to purchase its first robotic platform dedicated to search and hazmat operations.
A suite of 15 standard test methods and more than two dozen prototype test methods for ground, aerial, and aquatic robots, developed at the suburban Maryland NIST campus, enable more than 450 bomb squads and 28 urban search and rescue teams and firefighters across the nation to be better prepared for disasters such as the March 2014 gas explosion in New York that flattened two apartment buildings.
NIST engineer Adam Jacoff led the development of the test methods along with the standardization effort through the ASTM International Standards Committee on Homeland Security Applications; Operational Equipment; Robots (E54.08.01) which addresses the needs of emergency responders in general. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate, Office of Standards, funded the test method development.
Jacoff and his team were pleasantly surprised when they recently received a letter of appreciation from the Fire Department of New York City for development and use of the test methods. First responders and manufacturers of search and rescue robots participate in response robot evaluation exercises hosted by DHS and NIST to allow responders, robot developers, and civilian/military test administrators to validate the test methods. These exercises take place at the NIST Robot Test Facility, and at emergency responder training facilities across the country.
"The Fire Department of New York City would like to thank you and your team for supporting the evaluation and procurement of our first robotic platform dedicated to search and hazmat operations," wrote Nicholas Del Re, Haz-Mat Chief for FDNY. The test methods "helped us identify and refine our key mission requirements, assess available combinations of robotic capabilities and reliability, and perform acceptance testing to ensure it met our specifications."
Jacoff was happy to share the appreciation with his team. "We do this work because we see a clear need for more capable robotic tools in the hands of emergency responders, who often risk their own lives attempting to save others. It certainly is gratifying to know that what we do makes a difference to an organization like the FDNY and in public safety in New York and other cities across the country.
The Guide for Evaluating, Purchasing, and Training with Response Robots Using DHS-NIST-ASTM International Standard Test Methods is available on the NIST Intelligent Systems Division website (opens a PDF).
NIST will be hosting the upcoming meeting of the ASTM International Standards Committee on Homeland Security Operations; Operational Equipment; Robots (E54.08.01) at the new NIST Robot Test Facility on May 28-30, 2014.This event is open to the public and will feature robot test trials and demonstrations within standard and prototype test methods.