By STEVE YAHN, who has been a reporter and editor for national publications.
Whether it's a sealed, reinforced box that can help a person survive while buried beneath 10 floors of a crumbled building, or a parachute so workers on the top floors of high-rise buildings can escape a 9/11 style attack, restive minds are constantly pushing the boundaries of invention.
The latest product comes from Japan, which is still reeling from the powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck in March. Cosmo Power has developed a resilient, floating personal pod that can be used as a compact shelter in case of a tsunami. Bright yellow in color and aptly named the "Noah," it can fit four adults -- tightly -- and is designed to right itself so that persons inside aren't tossed around. Some arks can be custom-ordered to fit as many as 12 people.
That got us to thinking -- what are some other out-of-the-box disaster-prevention products that have been developed recently?
Take the portable expanded screens designed to block passing motorists' and pedestrians' views of accidents on a roadway to prevent rubbernecking and promote traffic flow. The screens have a number of panels assembled in a telescoping manner like an accordion. One or more of the panels can include an access door, which opens like a conventional door to allow stretchers, medical and fire personnel to enter and exit.
Another catastrophe-related innovator is the Safe Haven, a personal safety pod -- a small but strong 240-pound box -- that can protect an occupant from glass shards, sharp objects hurled around a room or rubble from a collapsed building. The Safe Haven can be used in case of earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and terrorist attacks and if properly maintained, can sustain life for 30 days or more.
The Engine Safety Shield uses a grid fitted to cover the opening of an engine. The cover has small holes that will allow for the unencumbered passage of air but that will not provide enough space for birds to pass through and choke a jet engine.
Yet another weapon in the battle against catastrophic threats is the Packbot, a metal, wheeled robot made by iRobotics. Packbots have been used in cleanups of major oil spills around the world as well as in investigating the reactor meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. The Bedford, Mass. company's robots operated side by side with workers at the 9/11 cleanup, able to perform in hard-to-maneuver, precarious conditions.
On a more modest scale, there's the "glow stick", a single-use translucent plastic tube containing isolated substances that, when combined, make light through chemiluminescence (CX). Glow sticks are often used for recreation, but they are also relied upon for light during military, police, fire or EMS operations.
Then there is a bicycle-safety innovation. Two industrial design students from Carnegie Mellon University have developed human-powered technology to make nighttime urban biking safe. Using LED lighting and a small electrical generator they eliminated the need for batteries by developing a way to create electrical power through peddling.
January 30, 2012
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