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A Breakout Year for CIRT

Firefighter testing CIRT prototype
Firefighters test a CIRT prototype at a Fairfax, Virginia, facility. The device uses a blank ammunition cartridge designed for a standard hunting rifle—driving a piston—that, when fired, generates a high-energy jolt.

Popular Science Magazine Picks the Department's Super Sledgehammer as a Best of 2008

 

Popular Science magazine picks DHS’s super sledgehammer as a best of 2008

It’s official: CIRT is a smash hit.

One of the oldest and best-known science magazines, Popular Science, has chosen our concrete-blasting lifesaver, officially called the Controlled Impact Rescue Tool (CIRT), as a “Best of What’s New” for 2008.

Funded by S&T and produced by Raytheon, the CIRT helps Search and Rescue Teams rescue people trapped inside collapsed buildings by firing a piston that “smashes through walls like the Kool-Aid Man,” according to a magazine photographer writing in the What’s New issue. At a test earlier this year, a CIRT prototype broke through a wall in less than half the time of drills, saws, and jackhammers. (See S&T’s archived story here.)

Editors considered thousands of entries this year, and settled on about 100 products in 12 categories. They looked for design quality, ambition, originality, and the significance of the innovation. CIRT broke through in all four categories.

“It looked like a very impressive technology, and it looked like it was head and shoulders over the alternative,” said Popular Science technology editor Sean Captain, who oversaw the judging process. “We just thought it was a real leap ahead in the (security) category, and something that could save lives.”

The CIRT pick follows on the heels of Time Magazine’s choice to name the LED Incapacitator a best invention of 2007. Awards like these are of great satisfaction, said Jalal Mapar, who manages the project at the Infrastructure and Geophysical Division.

“It’s the highest feeling of accomplishment when a prestigious publication picks our tool as one of the innovations of the year,” said Mapar. “It makes us feel like we are doing something important.”

Currently, the CIRT is still in the testing phase and minor modifications are being made. Discussions about mass production are underway with three major manufacturers.

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