UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
Pulse Subscribe | Archive | Survey
 

Disaster Drill Tests New Wireless Applications

A UCSD bus with CyberShuttle technology became the mobile command center, giving officials and first responders high-speed access to the Internet.

Jacobs School faculty and students were out in force on May 12, when San Diego staged one of its largest-ever emergency response drills. Operation Moonlight tested how county agencies and first responders would react to a dirty bomb detonated outside an office complex in Carlsbad. It was also the first full-scale test of technologies developed at UCSD as part of Cal-(IT)2 WIISARD project (Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters). In conjunction with the UCSD School of Medicine, co-PI and ECE professor Ramesh Rao is leading the effort: "We deployed ad hoc systems and networks, and we got to see if those technologies are robust enough to work in such an environment, and they were."

CSE professor Bill Griswold oversaw development of complex software systems for the ad hoc networks required at the scene, and the location-based tracking of patients was based on technology originally developed for his ActiveCampus Explorer project.
The WIISARD team set up the UCSD CyberShuttle, which was used as the mobile command center and became the hub for wireless data transmission at the site. The campus bus is outfitted with an 802.11b (Wi-Fi) local area network connected to Verizon's wide-area, 3G cellular network based on QUALCOMM's 1xEVDO technology.

This system became the backbone for an ad hoc, multi-hop mesh video transmission network. Cameras deployed throughout the building gave emergency officials the ability to "see" the disaster site remotely, prior to dispatching hazmat crews. Hazmat responders also wore helmet-mounted cameras so that they could communicate details of the scene to the command center.

After SWAT and hazmat teams entered the building, they found a dozen "victims" - many of them students in the Jacobs School's ECE senior design class who are working on wireless-equipped pulse oximeters that allowed the command center to monitor continuously the vital signs of "victims" in the mock attack. The drill gave students a first-hand look at how the devices would be used in a crisis situation.