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A Hole New Way: Busting Through Concrete with Search-and-Rescue Technology

(April 2008) Move over, drills, saws, and jackhammers. Now there’s something quicker and easier for search-and-rescue missions.

It’s called the Controlled Impact Rescue Tool (CIRT). And, although it’s still in development, a prototype is showing that it can bust through thick concrete walls or barriers in about half the time of traditional methods. The CIRT can mean all the difference when people are trapped inside wrecked buildings. First responders might have to rush to quickly get them out, or simply to provide lifesaving supplies. This new technology also performs the job without producing a lot of harmful dust that typically comes with using a concrete saw.

Funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and designed by Raytheon Company, the CIRT is carried and operated by two people. It uses a blank ammunition cartridge designed for a standard hunting rifle—driving a piston—that, when fired, generates a high-energy jolt. No hoses or cords are required, and it can be loaded to fire as often as two rounds every minute. At 36 inches long and 16 inches in diameter, it weighs all of 105 pounds—light enough to hold up against a wall, yet heavy enough to limit recoil action that can cause injuries.

Earlier this year, during a test at a fire-and-rescue training facility in Virginia, the CIRT went head-to-head against other, traditional rescue methods. It was a race to break through a vertical, 5½-inch slab of steel-reinforced concrete and create a hole 18 inches wide (see video clip). CIRT won with a time of about 13 minutes, compared with 29 minutes or more for the others. Based on similar testing, the tool has also shown that it can bust through a horizontal slab in about 10 to 12 minutes.

“In less than 16 months, we’ve achieved our initial goal to reduce the CIRT’s breach time to less than 20 minutes,” said Jalal Mapar, who manages the project at the S&T's Infrastructure and Geophysical Division. “Over the next 12 months, we’ll refine the design to make it even more affordable for production. We really believe this can be the embodiment of a faster, better, cheaper, and safer technology for the urban search-and-rescue community across the nation.”

To request more information about this story, please e-mail st.snapshots@hq.dhs.gov.

Last Updated: 08/26/2022
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