Public Safety

  • Improving safety in the presence of chemical hazards

    A new kind of sensor could warn emergency workers when carbon filters in the respirators they wear to avoid inhaling toxic fumes have become dangerously saturated; first responders protect themselves from such vapors, whose composition is often unknown, by breathing through a canister filled with activated charcoal — a gas mask; airborne toxins stick to the carbon in the filter, trapping the dangerous materials, and as the filters become saturated, chemicals will begin to pass through; the respirator can then do more harm than good by providing an illusion of safety

  • 247 on U.S. terror watch list bought guns, explosives in 2010

    There are eleven reasons why an individual may not be able to buy firearms or explosives in the United States — for example, being a convicted felon or an illegal immigrant; those on the U.S. terror watch list, however, are free to buy firearms and explosives; according to the FBI, in 2010 247 of them did — a similar number to that of 2009; some lawmakers want the attorney general to be able to prevent an individual on the watch list to buy a gun, but the counterargument is that the list is not always accurate, and that the attorney general is a political appointee; moreover, the list is secret, and letting people know they are on it may complicate the ability of law enforcement to track them and their associates

  • DHS IG criticizes FEMA's IT systems

    DHS Inspector General says that FEMA’s IT systems “do not support disaster response activities effectively”; the IG recommends that FEMA develop a comprehensive IT strategic plan with clearly defines goals and objectives to support program IT initiatives, and that FEMA establish an agency-wide IT budget planning process to include all FEMA program technology initiatives and requirements

  • Car-based IED attacks an emerging threat in Mexico

    Intelligence analysts worry that Mexican drug cartels will increasingly turn to deadly car bombs in the escalating drug wars; drug cartels have already assassinated several government officials using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted in cars; in Mexico IEDs are easy to construct due to easy access to powerful commercial explosives that are widely used in the country’s mining and petroleum industry; due to strict gun laws, it is actually cheaper and easier to obtain explosives than guns; to defend against this emerging threat the U.S. consulate in Monterrey erected concrete barriers

  • From 2,700-year old mummy to today's infants

    A Vermont radiologist with a passion for archeology thought it would be a good idea to use a CT scan to find the cause of death of a 2,700-year old mummy in a Vermont museum; the Vermont medical examiner thought the same technique could be used to determine the cause of death of infants who die under suspicious circumstances, and other medical examiners across the country agree

  • Virtual Imaging: versatile detection at low radiation dosage

    Virtual Imaging, a Canon U.S.A. Company, is offering its RadPRO SecurPASS, a full body security screening system that detects and recognizes a range of objects and materials in about eight seconds per person; it uses transmission imaging with an exceptionally low dose of X-rays to scan for dangerous or illegal substances such as liquid explosives, drugs, copper wires, plastic, etc.; its applications range from civil security, that is, airports, seaports, railways, bus stations, to border security, prison security, and high level security as necessitated by nuclear power plants, military premises, and embassies

  • Missouri pounded by rains and tornadoes, thousands evacuate

    This week heavy rain storms are raging across the mid-west and south forcing thousands of residents in Missouri to flee as swollen rivers threaten to flood their homes; in some areas emergency responders do not have many options and can do nothing but hope that the levees hold; the mid-west will not see any respite from the storms until Thursday as another major storm system is about to hit; officials are bracing for substantial flooding; the region is still struggling to recover from major storms that spawned tornadoes in six states killing forty-five people and damaging structures; Missouri has requested aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency

  • Japanese app helps spread earthquake warning

    After the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan, hundreds of thousands of people have signed up for a new emergency warning app for their iPhones; when an earthquake is predicted to hit, the iPhone app, called Yure Kuru, will send out an alert and let subscribers know when the quake is coming, where the epicenter is located, and how bad the shaking will be; the app was developed by Tokyo based RC Solution Co., which specializes in mass alert systems and spreading information in the event of an emergency; since the 11 March earthquake, the company’s subscribers have sky rocketed from 100,000 to more than 1.5 million

  • Japan quake reconstruction could take ten years

    Yesterday an advisory panel to the Japanese government announced that it could take a decade to rebuild Japan after the 11 March earthquake and tsunami wiped out much of north-eastern Japan; the council said that the first three years alone would be devoted to building roads and erecting temporary housing for the thousands of families that have been displaced; rebuilding towns could take another four years and a full recovery might take even longer; the damage from the recent quake was far greater than the large quake that struck Japan in 1995; Prime Minister Kan’s cabinet has approved almost $50 billion in spending for post-earthquake rebuilding

  • Indian explosives detection technology comes to U.S.

    A south Carolina-based company signs a memorandum of understanding with India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to enhance the DRDO-developed Explosives Detection Kit (EDK) so it meets standards that will allowed it to be used by the U.S. military and homeland security

  • U.S. Army picks Android

    Need artillery support? Android has an app for that; or will have, soon enough; while Apple scrambles, Google’s Android is picked as the operating system for the U.S. Army’s and Marine Corps’ smartphones; third-party developers will receive kits in July, with testing scheduled for October

  • AT&T shows mobile cell towers for disaster communication

    A new family of solutions from AT&T will make business, government, and public safety agencies better prepared for natural or man-made disasters; one of the new offerings, the “Fly-away” solution, packs a small cell site into a suitcase, offering first responders an easy-to-use, transportable system that can bring voice and data coverage to an area where disaster has knocked out communication channels

  • Insider threats in Afghanistan increase need for explosive detectors

    In Afghanistan suicide bombers are increasingly disguising themselves as friendly forces to successfully infiltrate secure allied bases and wreak havoc; April has been a deadly month for allied troops in Afghanistan with at least four attacks taking place where suicide bombers disguised themselves as police officers or members of the army; to protect against this threat, Thermal Matrix specializes in person-borne improvised explosive device (PBIED) detection devices; the firm has been working with the U.S military for the past several years to develop the Thermal Matrix ACT system which is capable of detecting suicide bombers from long distances; the system uses infrared imagery to analyze the heat signature of approaching individuals to determine if they are carrying any explosives

  • U.S. deploys UAVs to Libya

    In response to NATO’s air dominance over Libya, the Libyan military and the foreign militias Gaddafi has recruited from other African countries have changed their tactics; they now ride around in pick-up trucks dressed in civilian cloths, thus making it difficult to identify them from a high-flying aircraft; also, in addition to shelling cities and other locations where the anti-Gaddafi forces congregate, the pro-Gaddafi forces have engaged in urban warfare; they place snipers on balconies and roof-tops to terrorize the pro-rebel population at the same time that small units, operating in the streets, ambush and engage the disorganized rebel forces; the UAVs are meant to provide NATO commanders with better information on what is going on streets and between buildings; Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the use of drones will give the edge to the international forces in crowded urban areas, where they are struggling “to pick friend from foe”

  • Experts call for rules of the road for drone use in the Americas

    More and more Latin and Central American countries are using UAVs for domestic policing missions; these drones are employed as a high-tech answer by government to problems such as drug trafficking, gang violence, deforestation, and other illegal activities; experts say that Latin American countries should collaborate in developing a code of conduct that will prevent the arming of drones and assuage civilian concerns