Greater Manchester firefighter Matt Keogh and Rory O’Rourke from Datum Monitoring have created a unique rescue service warning system, the WASP (Warning Alarm for Stability Protection).

Matt Keogh has served with the Fire and Rescue department in Greater Manchester for over 20 years. Using his first-hand experience of Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) operations both in the UK and globally with International Search & Rescue (ISAR), He identified a need for a structural monitoring system to make rescue operations much safer.

Custom Foam - WASP

The Indian earthquake on January 26th 2001 claimed more than 20,000 lives, left 166,000 people injured and more than 600,000 homeless. On deployment with ISAR in Western India after the earthquake in January, 2001, Matt and the team spent 7 hours in an unstable building, damaged by the earthquake, searching for a young boy and his mother. The earthquake had already claimed more than 20,000 lives, and the team were working around the clock to rescue the mother and child who were trapped beneath the rubble. Using a process called breach & breaking during the search operation, the team had to physically remove or destroy certain parts of the structure to gain entry. With the additional problems of aftershocks causing further structural movement, there was the very real danger of complete collapse, but thanks to the hard work of Matt and his team, the boy and his mother were eventually rescued.

On returning to the UK Matt began searching for equipment to measure structural movement that would provide that essential early warning to allow the search & rescue team to evacuate a building without delay. There was nothing on the market that met this fundamental need. Originally from Salford, Greater Manchester, Matt moved to Bolton where he became neighbours with Rory O’Rourke, the owner of DATUM Monitoring, UK leaders in geotechnical and structural monitoring.

WASP in Action

Matt shared his story with Rory and using Matt’s first-hand knowledge with the expertise of the DATUM team, they created the WASP. The WASP is attached to the infrastructure of a damaged building with a range of accessories available in the kit. It can be attached to any surface, in any position. The sensors measure movement and vibration in the foundations and structure of a building.

If the building becomes unsafe, sensing movement or vibration that indicates a potential collapse could be imminent, a siren sounds warning the team to evacuate as quickly as possible. Structural uncertainty is a major risk faced by rescue teams attending disasters around the world, with further collapse of damaged buildings costing many lives. The system is not restricted to use in buildings. It can monitor movement in a variety of rescue situations including monitoring shoring, the integrity of props, in trench rescue, road traffic collisions, flood damage structures and emergency lifting scenarios. The WASP is proving invaluable, reducing the risks faced by rescue personnel.

With an unrivalled reputation for durability, reliability and a lifetime warranty, Peli cases were the first choice of case to store and transport the WASP system. The Peli 1550 case houses a single WASP kit and the 1600 case houses two. Custom foam inserts were designed and manufactured for each case to store the individual components of the system and ensures that everything is present and correct awaiting deployment. On completion of a mission, each component can be accounted for, making certain that nothing is left behind.

WASP Peli Case

The WASP is used by UK ISAR on international rescue missions and has been deployed throughout the UK in a number of emergency scenarios. It was recently deployed in a search and rescue mission in the residential area of Gorton, Manchester. A property had sustained quite severe structural damage caused by a gas explosion. Once the blaze had been extinguished, the WASP was attached to the structure as a precaution prior to the search and rescue team entering the building. The Datum WASP confirmed the structural was stable and the team were able to work quickly and safely without unnecessary risk.

The WASP was deployed during Operation Exercise Unified Response, the largest training exercise in European history and was showcased at the INSARAG Team Leaders Meeting in Tokyo in September. WASP systems are now being supplied to Fire and Rescue services around the world. To find out more, the WASP system will be demonstrated at the Emergency Services Show 2016 or visit the official website here.