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World’s first “rental kit room” for scientists on deployment opens its doors

22nd January 2019
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US$1.3million worth of scientific equipment now available to experts "at a moment's notice"

T he world's first rental kit centre for scientists deployed to natural disasters has reportedly opened its doors.

According to, the centre at the University of Washington will help experts to gain a better understanding of the effects of earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster by providing them with the necessary equipment to survey the scene. The Natural Hazards Reconnaissance Experimental Facility - otherwise known as 'Rapid' - is home to 300 items that any researcher or scientist studying the earth sciences would have in a laboratory. All are available for hire at a cost "that won't break the bank". This equipment, together with equipment operators, can be rented at a moment's notice from the Moore Hall building on the University of Washington's main campus.

The centre is the brainchild of the National Science Foundation after scientists recognised a gap between when a natural disaster occurs and the time when experts can transport data collection equipment to the scene.

D irector of Rapid Operations, Professor Jeff Berman, from the University of Washington, told "There is a wealth of data that is lost because we can't get out into the field in quick enough manner to collect the data. The bulldozers come out, people’s memories fade and that data is lost for time."

Kit for hire includes an US$80,000 'Z-Boat', which can map underwater topography with sonar. It costs just US$300-a-day. A US$400,000state-of-the-art drone equipped with aerial scanning software, meanwhile, costs only US$400 per day. The centre also houses brain mapping kit, seismometers, surveying equipment, and 360-degree mapping cameras. In total, Rapid's tools are worth well in excess of US$1million and have already been used to study the effects of Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael, and the after-effects of an earthquake in Chitose, Japan.

Site Operations Manager Jake Dafni said those working on the scene of natural disasters have first priority and that equipment must be relinquished to scientists who need it most. "There’s about US$1.3 million worth of equipment, that with our educational discounts we were able to purchase for about $1 million," he said. "Anybody can use it, theoretically we can work with anybody, anytime, but our main focus is natural hazard."