Local News

Triangle Invention to Aid in Earthquake Search Effort

Posted August 17, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— As many as 10,000 people are still reported missing after Tuesday's earthquake in Turkey. The devastation may be a world away, but a Triangle man's invention will help in the search for victims.

With thousands of people believed trapped under thick slabs of concrete and debris, aFairfax, Va. rescue unitis bringing along a device that will be an extension of their hearing.

Five years ago, Uwe Beckman created a device that can detect even the faintest movements beneath tons of debris.

The"LifeDetector"uses highly sensitive sensors that can detect the slightest sound beneath piles of rubble.

In his backyard, Beckman demonstrates how his invention works by standing several yards away and tapping on a wall.

"If anybody is moving or walking or scratching, you will hear that sound," he says.

The device has been sold to emergency crews around the world and the country. Beckman says it will be used to find victims of the devastating earthquake in Turkey.

It does not take an assembly line or lots of employees to put these devices together. Beckman and his wife, Anna, build the sound-sensitive detectors in their basement.

While her husband is the one with the engineering degree, Anna says raising four boys is enough experience for her.

"When you have all boys, you tend to do more boy stuff than girl stuff, and plus I'm handy with hands," she says.

The Beckmans often work 12 hours a day putting together the devices. They say the hard work is worth it -- especially when they hear from people who say they owe their lives to the LifeDetector.