Disasters

  • Tiny flying robots to monitor forest-fires, chemical spills, and more

    Swiss researchers developed a tiny flying robot which could be equipped with different sensors and small cameras for a variety of applications; the robot could monitor different kinds of emergencies — from forest fires to chemical accidents

  • Italian scientists face manslaughter charges for failing to predict 2009 L'Aquila earthquake

    Italian prosecutors have issued indictment against six scientists for failing to warn the residents of L’Aquila about the 6 April 2009 earthquake; the magnitude-6.3 earthquake caused 308 deaths and 1,600 injuries, and left more than 65,000 people homeless; prosecutors say the scientists participated in a press conference on 31 March, in which they encouraged residents not to move out of the L’Aquila region; coming to the defense of the seismologists, nearly 4,000 scientists from around the world have signed a letter to Italy’s president, urging him to focus on earthquake preparation rather than holding scientists responsible for something that they cannot do — predict earthquakes

  • Cybersecurity insurance gains more adherents

    With so many large U.S. companies suffering security breaches — and with companies losing an average of $234,000 per breach in 2009 — more consideration is being given to cybersecurity insurance; a crashed server policy is not as easy to write as a crashed car policy

  • Insuring cities against terrorist attacks

    Do small towns really need to spend money for terrorism insurance? To collect on such policies, an act of terrorism has to be certified by the U.S. attorney general, the Department of the Treasury and the secretary of state; there also has to be at least $5 million in damage and an intent to coerce or influence U.S. policy; nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological attacks are excluded

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  • A surge protector to end all surge protectors

    If an equipment failure, terrorist attack, or lightning strike causes a power surge, also known as a fault current, that fault current can cascade through the grid and knock out every substation and piece of equipment connected to the problem site; DHS’s Resilient Electric Grid project aims to develop a superconductor cable designed to suppress fault currents that can potentially cause permanent equipment damage

  • DHS adopts ASIS's resilience standard for private sector organizations

    DHS has adopted ASIS International’s Organizational Resilience Standard as part of a program designed voluntarily to bolster the resilience of private organizations during man-made and natural disasters and emergencies

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  • It may be impossible to protect the North American grid against catastrophic events

    Making sure the North American grid continues to operate during high-impact, low-frequency (HILF) events — coordinated cyber and physical attacks, pandemic diseases, and high-altitude nuclear bomb detonations — is daunting task; the North American bulk power system comprises more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, thousands of generation plants, and millions of digital controls; more than 1,800 entities own and operate portions of the system, with thousands more involved in the operation of distribution networks across North America

  • Former high DHS officials, lawmakers oppose new FCC plan for public safety band

    Former DHS officials, lawmakers oppose the FCC’s latest plan for reallocating the U.S. limited airwaves; they say the plan could endanger public safety by limiting the ability of first responders to communicate during crises like 9/11

  • Demand for stand-alone terrorism coverage down

    Reinsurers would like to place more terrorism business, but the demand for stand-alone terrorism coverage is on the wane; the market could tighten if the Obama administration proceeds with its plan to scale back the federal government’s terrorism insurance backstop, which has been in place since 2002

  • 2010 hurricane season is going to be a busy one

    The 2010 hurricane season, which began 1 June, is going to be a busy one: the National Hurricane Center forecasts a 70 percent chance of eight to fourteen storms reaching hurricane strength, and three to seven becoming dangerous “major” hurricanes of category 3 and above

  • Attention to design details will make buildings withstand hurricanes

    One example of design ideas architects in hurricane-prone regions should follow: design buildings with square, hexagonal, or even octagonal floor plans with roofs of multiple slopes such as a four-sloped hip roof; these roofs perform better under wind forces than the gable roofs with two slopes; gable roofs are common only because they are cheaper to build; research and testing demonstrate that a 30-degree roof slope will have the best results

  • Scientists monitor earthquakes in real time

    Better to understand earthquakes like El Mayor-Cucapah, researchers have set up GPS instruments throughout the state of California, as part of the California Real Time Network (CRTN); the CRTN consists of more than 130 continuous GPS receivers run by numerous agencies

  • Public safety networks still can not communicate with each other

    Two decades after the initiation of the effort to bring about communication interoperability among public safety personnel, the lack of standards continues to hobble the campaign; Project 25, launched twenty-one years ago, was supposed to develop standards that would let police, firefighters, and other first responders communicate across departmental and jurisdictional lines using equipment from various manufacturers

  • 2010 hurricane season unusually active

    As if the on-going oil spill were not enough, people who live near the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic should brace themselves for an unusually active hurricane season this year (the hurricane seasons lasts from 1 June to 30 November); FSU researchers say there will be an average of seventeen named storms with ten of those storms developing into hurricanes in the Atlantic this season; the historical seasonal average is eleven tropical storms with six of them becoming hurricanes

  • Oregon town plans first tsunami-resistant building on stilts

    Geological findings in recent years suggest there is a one-in-three chance that in the next half century a mega-earthquake will tear the seafloor apart off the Oregon Coast; huge waves would surge onto coastal communities in as little as fifteen minutes; an Oregon city plans tsunami-resistant buildings on stilts