Lessons from Disasters
Writing in American Heritage, James R. Chiles examines how the necessity to rescue people from disasters has spawned a series of innovations. An excerpt:
Those trucks carry a lot of stuff: hydraulic jacks and Jaws of Life spreaders; breathing sets and the compressors to refill the tanks; air bags such as those used to hoist wreckage at the Northridge Fashion Center; lumber; acetylene- and gasoline-fueled torches; air-powered braces; plasma cutters for concrete; ropes and blocks; diamond-tipped drills; ultrasensitive microphones and cameras on long rods to probe tight spaces; carpentry tools; toxic-gas detectors; and light stands for night work. For bigger emergencies experts can summon massive cranes, wrecker’s torches, and track-mounted “nibblers,” which can reach high to reduce a concrete slab into bite- size pieces.