A New Paradigm in Seismic Safety

C. McGlynn, C. Zhu, H. Zhang
Rowan University,
United States

Keywords: earthquake, tsunami, flash flood, safety, disaster prep


Earthquakes and flash floods are often mass casualty events. The SHAKER Shield is a prototype of a rapidly inflatable (less than 10 seconds) device that will provide superior impact protection by absorbing shock and distributing load forces over a larger area. The final product is envisioned to support flotation and location (EPIRB/ COSPAS-SARSAT) ability. Together these features will enable residents to feel safer at home when one of these disasters strikes. In addition to well documented risks of climate change and rising seas, there are also more people living in coastal areas than ever before. Earthquakes and resulting tsunamis killed nearly 1 million people in less than 20 years and remains the greatest threat worldwide. Continued development of floodplains and increasing severity of storms will no doubt raise the risk that a given natural hazard will result in a large-scale disaster with a heavy loss of life and concomitant financial injury. There is a lack of available devices to address multi-disaster scenarios. The Shield is designed to improve safety in natural and man made disasters by offering a near instant safety margin during events involving partial building collapse, falling debris, and flooding.​ The Shield is the first technology of its kind designed primarily to protect the inhabitants of a structure rather than the structure itself. Its functionality is based upon distributing impact forces over a wide area and offers cross functionality due to its durability, flotation and EPIRB support. ​Target Customer: About 28% of people in the US reside in areas designated as high risk by the USGS. Flash flooding is a risk that is present nationwide and protective devices must be instantly available in order to be effective. ​Market Opportunity: Our technology aims to save lives by distrusting impact forces from structural failure, and falling debris. It also will save lives from raging waters that imperil evacuees. ​Our team has designed a portable, instantly inflatable safety device for disasters including earthquakes and floods. Our fabric will also have ballistic resistance capabilities.​ ​The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to create a seismic safety device that also provides protection from other natural disasters including flash floods, hurricanes and tornadoes that kill or injure thousands annually. Recent events continue to demonstrate the need for an all-purpose, affordable, portable device that will save lives under a variety of sudden high-risk scenarios. The technology developed will enable users to enjoy an additional margin of safety from these unpredictable and often deadly phenomena. Having this device in the home is expected to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries are also expected to decrease, thus reducing the human and economic loss of the event. The research will have multiple applications beyond disaster mitigation. Other industries and applications include high-performance, light-weight materials, ballistic resistance and aviation.