Public Safety

  • Medical registry systems are becoming part of emergency preparedness plans

    Communities across the country are exploring medical registry systems as part of their emergency preparedness plans. Using medical registries for emergency planning has been critical for New Orleans city officials, especially after Hurricane Katrina.St. Louis deployed its Functional Needs Registry after a power outage occurred in 2006. Experts note, though, that just because residents are listed in the city’s registry does not mean that help and services will always be delivered during emergencies.

  • Officials increasingly worried about 3-D-printed gun technology

    State and local government officials are debating how to address the growing accessibility of 3-D-printed gun technology. Recent actions by government agencies have signaled that officials are concerned about the increasing availability of printed guns. In December of last year, the U.S. Senate extended the Undetectable Firearms Act for an additional ten years. Additionally, municipalities such as Philadelphia have also moved to ban 3-D-printed guns on the local level. Yet, despite these measures, the technology continues to proliferate.

  • Napa earthquake may persuade lawmakers to fund earthquake warning system

    Last Sunday’s Napa earthquake may push Congress to increase funding for an earthquake warning system. Building out the West Coast earthquake warning system, called ShakeAlert, would cost $120 million over five years, and an additional $16 million a year to operate. Today, ShakeAlert operates in a testing phase, and sensors notify researchers and volunteer participants when an earthquake has been detected.

  • NYC tracks firefighters to scene with radio tags, automated display

    Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York City has been pursuing ways better to coordinate the 14,000 firefighters and emergency response it employs. Prior to 9/11, the Fire Department New York (FDNY) used a paper/carbon-copy ride list to account for who’s present). Now, on fifteen of its vehicles, FDNY can automatically see which firefighters are nearby from the onboard computer, and relay that information to the city’s Operations Center.

  • Obama orders review of transferring military gear to local police

    President Barack Obama has announced a review of federal programs that transfer surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. The review will decide whether the programs are needed, if agencies are properly trained to work with the military grade equipment they receive, and whether the federal government is effectively keeping track of the equipment and their use.

  • New 3D technology helps in identifying long-distance threats

    At present, surveillance systems have difficulty capturing even 2D images at long range under normal sunlight conditions. The ability to extract high-resolution 3D video information up to hundreds of meters away, particularly in bright sunshine, would be a major advance. It would have immediate applications in the security and defense industries, for example for long-distance face-recognition, improved identification of left luggage, or the detection of concealed weapons.

  • Smartphones can save life in health emergencies

    MAs more Americans adopt smartphones for communicating, managing calendars, and storing contacts, but these all-in-one devices could also be used to save lives in health emergencies. Companies are developing apps that allow users to store health data which can then be accessed by emergency services personnel or physicians.

  • Sunday tremor may accelerate deployment of West Coast early warning system

    Researchers and individuals working with California’s ShakeAlertsystem received a 10-second warning before last Sunday’s earthquake struck the San FranciscoBay Area at 3.20 a.m. “Earthquake! Earthquake!” the warning system cautioned, followed by “Light shaking expected in three seconds.” Mexico and Japan already have a public earthquake warning system, but a collaboration in California among several institutions to create a similar system is still in an experimental phase. The project needs about $80 million for equipment, software, and other seismic infrastructure upgrades to launch the warning system throughout the West Coast.

  • NIST to establish Center of Excellence for Forensic Science

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced a competition to create a Forensic Science Center of Excellence dedicated to collaborative, interdisciplinary research. The center’s mission will be to establish a firm scientific foundation for the analytic techniques used in two important branches of forensic science, pattern evidence and digital evidence. The new NIST-sponsored center will focus on developing probabilistic methods for dealing with pattern evidence and digital evidence. Pattern evidence encompasses much of what is typically thought of as forensic evidence: fingerprints, shoeprints, tire marks, tool marks, shell casing, or bullet striations — anything that relies on comparing two sets of markings. Digital evidence includes such things as the data on cellphones or personal computers.

  • U.S. military seeks to break the “more armor” paradigm for protection

    For the past 100 years of mechanized warfare, protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: More armor equals more protection. The trend of increasingly heavy, less mobile, and more expensive combat platforms has limited soldiers’ ability rapidly to deploy and maneuver in theater and accomplish their missions in varied and evolving threat environments. The U.S. military is now at a point where — considering tactical mobility, strategic mobility, survivability, and cost — innovative and disruptive solutions are necessary to ensure the operational viability of the next generation of armored fighting vehicles.

  • Changes to Pentagon equipment transfers to local police not likely

    Some lawmakers and their constituents are calling for restrictions on the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which transfers excess military equipment to law-enforcement agencies through the Defense Logistics AgencyLaw Enforcement Support Office. Congressional insiders say, however, that little will be done in the short-term.

  • Drawing lessons from “perfect heists” for national security

    In 2003, the unthinkable happened at Belgium’s Antwerp Diamond Center. Thieves broke into its reputedly impenetrable vault and made off with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds, gold, cash and other valuables. The Antwerp Diamond Center theft and other sophisticated, high-value heists show that motivated criminals can find ways to overcome every obstacle between them and their targets. Can the Energy and Defense departments, responsible for analyzing, designing, and implementing complex systems to protect vital national security assets, learn from security failures in the banking, art, and jewelry worlds?

  • Bullets database to help match bullets, cartridge cases to specific firearms

    Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are working to improve ballistics matching methods with assistance from the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department Crime Laboratory. Their work together will contribute to a collection of topographic data from thousands of fired bullets and cartridge cases. The collection, which they ultimately plan to issue as an open research database, will improve the scientific basis of forensic techniques used to match bullets and cartridge cases to specific firearms.

  • Lawmakers reconsider transfer of military gear to local police

    Federal officials are considering placing restrictions on the 1990 Department of Defense Excess Property (1033) Program which authorized the Pentagon to give surplus military equipment to local law enforcement units to fight the war on drugs. The program was later explained as also heling in the fight against terrorism. Though violent crime nationwide is at its lowest levels in decades, the transfers of military equipment to police forces have surged.

  • Smart-gun design met with suspicion by gun rights advocates

    Ernst Mauch, a mainstay of the weapons industry and a long-term gunmaker at Heckler & Koch, has recently upset gun rights advocates, who used to praise his work, with his new computer-assisted smart gun design. The new gun incorporates twenty-first century computing and intelligence features to eliminate the potential for danger in the wrong hands: it will only operate if the owner is wearing a special wrist watch.