To lift heavy debris such as concrete slabs weighing several tons, specialist equipment is required, but the extremes of war make obtaining these necessary rescue tools an almost impossible task. Lifting airbags are available to well-supplied search and rescue teams, but are prohibitively expensive to all but the most well-funded humanitarian organisations. In response, Field Ready has developed a means to locally produce lifting airbags for less than 10% of the commercial cost while still meeting international safety standards.
In March of 2017, Field Ready’s airbag system was used to save lives in Syria after a car bomb explosion caused extreme destruction to a hospital and residential area in Idlib. The area search and rescue team were informed that a family of four were still trapped beneath the rubble of their collapsed home, including a little girl who was pinned by a large piece of the collapsed ceiling.
A safe passage was created within the building by removing as much debris as possible before placing the airbag system under one corner of the house to lift the collapsed roof and carry the family out from rubble to safety. Although the little girl sustained a broken leg that required surgery, she is recovering well and already back on her feet. So far eight people have been saved by the airbag system, and many more lives will be spared thanks to this critical device.
Field Ready’s lifting airbags comply with the same conventional UK safety standards of airbags already used commercially. In Europe, CE marking is the standard that new products must meet before they can be sold, imported, or put into service. Where practical, Field Ready has followed the principles of CE marking to ensure its designs are safe to use. The not-for-profit is also aiming to meet British safety standards for lifting bag systems used by professional fire and rescue services.
Field Ready’s process and test results are openly shared and encouraged to be reproduced to ensure authenticity; however, Field Ready strongly recommends requesting its technical support due to safety concerns. The resulting devices are not only able to be locally manufactured, but are capable of lifting up to five tons in an emergency situation.
Usamah Shamma and Hamada Aaroub represent Field Ready’s team on the ground. Usamah, who attended school in Aleppo and earned his university degree in Mechanical Engineering, developed the design and process to locally manufacture the airbag systems himself. Until the onset of the Syrian Civil War, he lived and worked in Aleppo, producing horizontal lifters and hydraulic pistons while consulting in the development of rescue and firefighting equipment.
Image: Field Ready
Hamada was born in a small town in the countryside of Aleppo where he graduated from Aleppo University with a degree in Engineering. Later, Hamada worked as part of the Syrian Civil Defence as head of the technical office in Aleppo, responsible for cars and technical equipment until the opportunity to join Field Ready emerged.
Making in The Field!
When Usamah was asked what interested him in working with Field Ready, he replied, “The most important thing that motivated me to work with Field Ready is the idea that humanitarian supplies can be made in the field, using modern technology to make products that help people who are suffering from crises. That’s exactly what my people need nowadays. It’s like I found my passion for making things and inventions with Field Ready. What is impressive when we work together is that we deal with each other like a family, and that’s really great”.
Hamanda was intrigued by Field Ready for similar reasons, “I was most attracted to work at Field Ready because of the wonderful nature of its work. It’s about approaching the most difficult challenges differently. This stimulates creativity within us and provides a chance to serve my community differently from other organisations. My ambition is to invent easy and uncomplicated ways of addressing technical problems in my country. With Field Ready, I am working, learning, and always add to my experience.”
Together, Usamah and Hamada have handmade and distributed 100 airbags for Syrian Civil Defence, saving the organisation over $450 000 in humanitarian supply costs when compared with the commercial alternatives. Every kit consists of four airbags, pressure regulators, valve boxes, and connection accessories – with all parts produced and assembled by Usamah and Hamada in Syria.
The airbags are constructed from two layers of 1 mm thick polyester with a protective vinyl coating. Vinyl-coated polyester is more commonly used for tent covers and truck sides as it is waterproof and resistant to dirt, mildew, oil, salt, chemicals, and UV rays.
When Usamah was asked how people have responded to their work in Syria, he simply replies, “They are inspired and amazed that we could make things with simple materials and equipment, and those products are efficient and reliable. People now really respect what we do, and try to help us. It’s something totally new in Syria. We won’t leave our country – and Field Ready helps me help my people. And the whole world could help us by stopping this crazy war.”