Public Safety

  • Early warning system helped save lives in Japanese quake

    Japan has spent millions of dollars to build a sophisticated early warning system for earthquakes and experts say that it helped save millions of lives and mitigated the damage from the 11 March earthquake and tsunami; while the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami flattened much of northeastern Japan, the damage would have been far worse had Japan not had its early warning system in place; the system can provide anywhere from ten to thirty seconds of advance notice before an earthquake strikes giving Japan’s residents just enough time to slow down trains so they do not derail, shut off dangerous machinery, and send people to find cover

  • Sophisticated new gadgets helped Navy SEALs take down bin Laden

    In the daring raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Navy Seals were likely outfitted with latest in high-tech weapons and gadgets; Fox News speculates on five key technologies that could have helped the highly trained members of Navy SEAL Team 6 successfully complete their mission including bomb sniffing dogs, satellite-linked helmet cameras, and modified stealth Black Hawk helicopter

  • New York first in nation to deploy PLAN emergency alert system

    New Yorkers will be the first in the United States to have a new emergency alert notification system available to them; the program is called PLAN, for Personal Localized Alerting Network; PLAN is a new public safety system that allows customers who own an enabled mobile device to receive geographically targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area; users should expect several kinds of alerts: warnings directly from President Obama, messages about immediate safety threats, and Amber Alerts about missing kids

  • DHS official: Muslims will not be profiled following bin Laden's death

    In a recent meeting with local Muslims in Detroit, a senior DHS official assured Muslim-Americans that they would not be subject to racial profiling following the death of Osama bin Laden; last week in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, federal officials met with Arab-American and Muslim community leaders to answer any questions and address their concerns; local Muslims were particularly worried that they would be profiled as authorities were on a heightened state of awareness for fear of a retaliatory attack; to help ease fears, Margo Schlanger, the national head of the office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at DHS, assured Muslims that the government was not giving special scrutiny to any ethnic groups at this time, including Muslims

  • Students develop better security system for retailers

    Northeastern University student-researchers have created technology designed to gather more meaningful information on customer habits, inventory, and fire safety in retail stores such as CVS, Stop & Shop, and The Home Depot; the students used the university library as a mock retail store; the technology they developed displays all of the information — including the location of books, computers, and fire alarms — on digitized heat maps with geographic coordinates; the system could make for a strong fire safety application

  • Denying foreign aid to countries with outstanding NYC parking tickets

    New York City is home to 289 foreign missions and consulates, and their foreign diplomats have incurred more than $17.2 million in parking fines; these fines were issued due to safety violations, including the blocking of fire hydrants, which put the safety of NYC residents at risk; there is already a law on the books stating that 110 percent of the total unpaid parking fines owed to NYC and the District of Columbia are to be withheld from foreign aid and obligations to the countries at fault, but so far this law has not been enforced; three New York House representatives want to change that, telling other countries: pay your NYC parking tickets or forget about foreign aid

  • Quadrotor micro UAVs go mainstream

    A Canadian company develops small quadrotor micro UAVs for use by law enforcement, first responders, and the military; the company’s Scout has a range of three kilometers and maximum speed of 50 kilometers per hour; it can fly through wind gusts of up to 80 km/h, and can cope with harsh weather conditions; the Scout is light — it weighs about one kilogram — and can be carried disassembled in a case and be assembled quickly by snapping its rotors into the main body

  • Emergency alert system now reaches cell phones

    The Federal Communications Commission is working with cell phone providers to expand its emergency alert system to include mobile phones; under the new program, dubbed the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), individuals will receive cell phone alerts from the government about emergencies occurring where they live; subscribers will receive alerts even when cell towers are jammed with traffic; the program will first be rolled out in New York City by the end of the year and officials expect to have nationwide coverage in 2012

  • Tiltable-head robots adept at navigating disaster debris

    Search and rescue missions have made the headlines in the last eighteen months, following the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the floods in Pakistan and New Zealand, and the tsunami in Japan; machines able to navigate through complex dirt and rubble environments could have helped rescuers after these natural disasters, but building such machines is challenging; Georgia Tech researchers have now built a robot that can penetrate and “swim” through granular material

  • ATF cracks down on bombs used to scare seals

    Much to the frustration of California fishermen, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is starting to regulate the firecrackers used to scare away seals from fishing lines; beginning 1 May, ATF officials will begin enforcing a federal law that mandates anyone who purchases the seal “bombs” to obtain a special permit and clear a background check in order to prevent terrorists or criminals from using them; the bombs resemble M-80 firecrackers and are shot from a gun; fishermen and farmers use them to scare away animals like hungry birds or seals

  • Arizona police deploy iris scanners and facial biometrics to identify inmates

    Local police departments in Arizona have begun using facial biometrics and iris scanning technology to identify inmates and registered sex offenders; officers with the Pinal County Sheriff’s department have entered roughly 1,500 inmates and 700 sex offenders into a national database to better identify, register, and track inmates; the scans come as part of a broader effort led by the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) and the U.S. Justice Department; beginning in 2009, the Justice Department awarded $500,000 to help roughly forty-five law enforcement agencies throughout the United States to purchase iris scanners from BI2 Technologies

  • Surveillance cams removed from Muslim neighborhood in U.K.

    Local law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom have begun to uninstall more than 200 surveillance cameras from a predominately Muslim neighborhood in Birmingham; the installation of the cameras was met with fierce criticism, especially after residents had learned that some cameras were hidden; residents were particularly incensed because they were not consulted during the planning process; in October Chief Constable Chris Sims agreed to remove the cameras in order to regain the trust of the community

  • Growth of adolescent fingerprints can be predicted

    One difficulty law enforcement faces is recognizing whether the fingerprints taken during adolescence and in adulthood were those of the same individual; German researchers have developed a new procedure enabling the growth of fingerprints to be predicted

  • 7/7 attacks could not have been prevented: report

    An inquest into the 7 July 2005 attack on London transportation concluded that any suggestion MI5 could have stopped the attacks was “based to a considerable extent on hindsight”; there were failures in the response by emergency workers — confusion, a shortage of first aid supplies, and radios that did not work underground, but the report concludes that government errors had not increased the death toll

  • Search-and-rescue robot operators get better with practice

    Urban search and rescue (USAR) task forces are essential for locating, stabilizing, and extricating people who become trapped in confined spaces following a catastrophic event; sometimes the search area is too unstable for a live rescue team, so rescuers have turned to robots carrying video cameras; trouble is, research shows that more often than not, the human beings who remotely operate the robots have a view of their robot-control skills which is at variance with reality, causing robots to get stuck