Ron Austin, Associate Professor of Networks and Security at Birmingham City University, has created the prototype system which could be used to plug a crucial gap in systems such as telephone, GPS and internet links during the first 24-hours following a disaster.
The network runs using Raspberry Pi computer development boards, which can be linked together to form a bespoke setup, tailored to the needs of a site, which could also be used to monitor environmental factors such as earthquake aftershocks and tsunami second waves.
Around 90 per cent of live rescues are made during the first 24-48 hours following a disaster - a period known as the ‘golden 24 hours’ - but large scale infrastructure takes around two days to ship to a disaster site.
The new portable system could help save lives by allowing basic systems to be put in place to plug the gap during that critical window and allow communication with emergency services and survivors until full scale systems can be restored.
The system would be used by first responders to:
Ron Austin, Associate Professor of Networks and Security at Birmingham City University, said: “It was while experimenting with Raspberry Pi's that I first came up with the idea of using them in this way.
“By connecting a number of Raspberry Pi's together I’ve found that we could have a genuine solution to the gap in services following a disaster.“If we can provide a system that gets these important services back up and running swiftly and simply then we would have a real opportunity at getting people the information they need which could save lives.”
First responders would be able to transport the system in a single box or briefcase to the site and instantly setup communications systems which have been damaged or eliminated during a disaster.
Inbuilt battery power supplies fitted to briefcases or transportation boxes would provide power for up to two days, while solar panels could also be used in areas of good lighting
Researchers hope to work alongside emergency services and disaster recovery organisations to see how the system might be best utilised.
Ron Austin added: “What we want to do now is get out there and test the system and see just how much of a difference it might be able to make in these important situations.”