Public Safety

  • A first: U.S. Navy shipboard laser operates in Persian Gulf

    The U.S. Navy announced that a laser weapon system (LaWS) — a cutting-edge weapon that brings significant new capabilities to America’s Sailors and Marines — was for the first time successfully deployed and operated aboard a naval vessel in the Persian Gulf. The operational demonstrations, which took place from September to November aboard USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15), were historic not only because they showed a laser weapon working aboard a deployed U.S. Navy ship, but also because LaWS operated seamlessly with existing ship defense systems. During the tests, LaWS hit targets mounted aboard a speeding oncoming small boat, shot a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) out of the sky, and destroyed other moving targets at sea.

  • Firefighters portable radios may fail at elevated temperatures

    Firefighters rely on the radios to report their location and to communicate with other first responders as well as the incident command post or communications center. Performance problems with portable radios have been identified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as contributing factors in some firefighter fatalities. New test results from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) confirm that portable radios used by firefighters can fail to operate properly within fifteen minutes when exposed to temperatures that may be encountered during firefighting activities.

  • Report details brutal interrogation practices, lax supervision

    The long-awaited report on the CIA interrogation practices was release yesterday, causing a political storm. Many congressional Republicans have expressed concern over the release of the Senate report on the CIA’s use of torture on captured al-Qaeda and Islamist militants, claiming it would set off a global backlash, and threaten the security of American troops and diplomatic missions overseas.Obama administration officials agree that the release of the Senate report or its declassified executive summary is a good reason for concern about the security of U.S. facilities and military bases overseas, but they doubt it would lead to the sort of violence that killed four Americans at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

  • FAA caught between commercial pressures, safety concerns in regulating drone use

    Law enforcement agencies in major U.S. cities have expressed concerns about the possible use of drones by terrorists to launch bombs against key U.S. targets, including shopping malls, stadiums, and even banks. The FAA is in a tough spot, says one expert.”If they come out with rules that are not protective enough and then there’s some sort of an accident then they will be criticized for not having been more careful with this technology,” he says. “On the other hand, if they come out with rules that are viewed as overly restrictive in the name of safety then they are going to be criticized as impeding the growth of the industry, so it’s a very difficult balancing act that they have to navigate.”

  • Bionic bra one step closer

    A Bionic Bra which automatically tightens in response to breast movement is one step closer to reality with the development of a new prototype. The development of the bra is the result of findings by researchers that without the right breast support, the movement of women’s breasts during demanding physical activity – in sports, the military, first response, and more – may cause long-term damage, including numbness in the fingers caused by compression of nerves on the shoulders, as well as neck and back pain. “Unfortunately, the most supportive sports bras tend to be the most uncomfortable to wear.” Making matters worse, “research has found that 85 percent of women are wearing bras that do not fit or support their breasts correctly,” one of the researchers said.

  • Israel attacks targets in Syria to prevent advanced arms shipments to Hezbollah

    Israeli jets bombed two military targets in Syria – one near the Damascus International Airport, the other near the town of Dima, north of Damascus and near the Syria-Lebanon border – and as has been the case in previous such attacks, there was no confirmation or elaboration from Jerusalem. Syrian general command sources said that several facilities had been hit, both at the Damascus International Airport and in the area of Dimas. This is the tenth Israeli attack against military depots in Syria since January 2013. The attacks have had a specific goal: to prevent the Assad regime and Iran from transferring advanced weapon systems to Hezbollah. When Israel’s intelligence services notice that such systems are gathered for the purpose of shipping them to Hezbollah, the shipments are destroyed before they are delivered to Hezbollah.

  • Crime data research sheds new light on British Muslim communities

    U.K. Muslim communities may not be as victimized by violent crime, or as dissatisfied with the police as is widely suggested and believed, according to new research. An examination of statistics reveals a surprising counter-narrative to commonly held perceptions of British Muslim communities and their relationships to crime victimization and the criminal justice system. Despite widespread condemnation of police counter-terrorism measures such as stop and search, data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales reveal that a sizeable majority of Muslim respondents not only reported positive attitudes toward a range of subjects such as police fairness, reliability, and relevance to the community but are in many cases more likely to do so than non-Muslim respondents.

  • NIST study argues for RFID forensic evidence management

    Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags— have become increasingly popular for tracking everything from automobiles being manufactured on an assembly line to zoo animals in transit to their new homes. Now, thanks to a new NIST report, the next beneficiaries of RFID technology may soon be law enforcement agencies responsible for the management of forensic evidence. The release notes that the practical question that agencies must consider is whether RFID technology can produce measurable benefits and a positive return on the funds invested in a new system. The NIST report estimates that RFID systems can pay back their initial set-up cost in about two years.

  • Studying the long-term aging of electronics in nuclear weapons

    Sandia National Laboratories is studying how environments, including radiation which originates from a nuclear weapon itself, could affect the performance of electronics in the W76-1 warhead as they age. Researchers have studied radiation effects since the early days of nuclear weapons, but a 30-year program, which begun in 2006, will provide real-time data for the first time on how electronics age within the weapon. Studies in the past used techniques that artificially accelerated the aging process based on a range of assumptions resulting from experiments and previous research.

  • New report, video detail dynamics of deadly Chicago house fire

    A new NIST computer-modeling study of a 2012 Chicago house fire reveals the conditions that unleashed a surge of searing gases, leading to the death of a veteran firefighter. The simulation shows that fire in a covered back porch caused a closed steel-faced, wood-framed door to crumble, releasing pressure and causing hot gases to pour into the adjoining hallway where the victim and another firefighter were advancing a fire hose. The coincidental timing of the responders’ “interior attack” and the door’s failure proved to be deadly. In less than five seconds, the flow of gases caused the hallway temperature to soar, from about 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) to at least 260 degrees Celsius (500 degrees Fahrenheit), the study found.

  • Number of lone-wolf terrorist attacks in U.S. not rising, but police are targeted more often

    Lone wolf terrorist attacks in the United States are not on the rise as popular culture might lead one to believe — but the attacks are changing for the worse, according to new research. The targets, weapons, and motives have changed in recent years. Before 9/11, these terrorists used bombs, but now high-velocity firearms are the weapon of choice, he said. The change might be a result of legislation enacted after the Oklahoma City bombing limiting the public’s access to bomb-making ingredients. Police and military personnel are now the preferred targets of modern lone wolf terrorists. Domestically, attacks on the power grid are the next big threat, the researchers say. Lone wolf terrorist Jason Woodring successfully downed the electric transmission system of rural Arkansas in 2013. His vandalism affected 10,000 people and cost $3 million in repairs.

  • U.S. nuclear arsenal must be upgraded to maintain effective deterrence: Experts

    Former military officers, academic strategists, scientists, and congressional leaders have recently been calling for the development of new nuclear weapons to replace the nation’s older, outdated stockpiles. Twenty-five years since the cold war ended, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been significantly reduced to its current level of 4,804 nuclear weapons — from a peak of 31,000 weapons in 1967.As cooperation with Russia deepened in the 1990s, U.S. weapons complexes deteriorated. A recent “60 Minutes” story on the U.S. nuclear forces found that missileers charged with watching over and controlling Minuteman III ICBMs in Wyoming were still using floppy disks to store critical information. One expert arguing for shoring up and upgrading the U.S. nuclear deterrence says that “one of the reasons deterrence is so valuable is that it provides incentives for self-discipline in the behavior of states that otherwise cannot be trusted to behave peaceably.”

  • New York wants its own weather detection service

    In the face of recent devastating snowfall in some regions, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the state government will remain committed to its plans for the New York Advanced Weather Detective System, a state-run and focused weather service and alert system. Officials said that FEMA funding from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy would pay for the new weather system, and that $15 million was approved in the state budget for 2014-15.

  • USGS awards $2 million grant to Center for Earthquake Research and Information

    The U.S. Geological Survey has awarded the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) at the University of Memphis $2 million over the next three years to continue monitoring earthquakes in the central and southeastern United States. The CERI seismic network includes 140 seismographs in nine states. It integrates data in real-time from an additional 160 stations to process about forty gigabytes of data each day and processes information from about 500 earthquakes each year.

  • Mobile biometric device expedites identity matching

    The Stockton (California) Police Department (SPD) has been quietly testing a state-of-the-art Mobile Biometric Device (MBD) technology for the past four years. Designed quickly to scan fingerprints, irises, and other biological information while officers and evidence technicians are on the field, MBDs can communicate with remote fingerprint databases and confirm matches in as little as three minutes.