Public Safety

  • Los Angeles revises rule requiring flat rooftops for skyscrapers

    For more than forty years, the building code in Los Angeles required skyscrapers to have flat roofs in order to facilitate helicopter landing in cases of emergency. Now, however, with newer technological advances and techniques that enable Angelinos to be safe during an emergency, the flat-roof code is seen as outdated, and it was changed on Monday. Instead of helicopter pads, skyscraper designers will now focus on other safety features, including special elevators for fire fighters, special exit stairwells, advanced sprinkler systems, and video surveillance technologies.

  • Storm-surge app improves public and administration responses to flooding

    An environmental group called Wetlands Watch in Virginia has integrated crowd-sourcing into the Sea Level Rise app, allowing users to issue and receive alerts in real-time regarding waterlogged streets and improve public safety.The newest evolution of the app is expected to be launched within the next few weeks and the information provided and distributed to users will also be tracked by scientists and emergency planners to better grasp the flood patterns in the region and how to prepare for them.

  • Flying robots will go where humans cannot

    There are many situations in which it is impossible, complicated, or too time-consuming for humans to enter and carry out operations. Think of contaminated areas following a nuclear accident, or the need to erect structures such as antennae on mountain tops. These are examples of where flying robots could be used.

  • Investigative genetics technology helps nab criminals

    Every year, investigators collect tens of thousands of biological samples from crime scenes that may hold valuable clues to solving criminal cases. Unlocking those clues now is easier thanks to a new software solution unveiled last week by Battelle researchers who have applied advanced bioinformatics to next-generation sequencing data. ExactID analyzes biomarkers that can predict physical appearance, ancestry, clinical traits, and familial relationships among people. This information can be invaluable to forensic analyses and case work.

  • New DOJ pilot program aims to deter Americans from joining terrorist groups

    Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives.

  • A second drum at nuke waste repository poses radiation leak danger

    At a recent meeting of the New Mexico Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee in Carlsbad, officials were informed that a second waste drum containing nuclear materials, could also contain the same mix of ingredients as the waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) which caused a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in February.

  • More police departments adopt predictive policing

    More police departments have adopted data analytics as a way to combat urban crime. Supporters of the approach, also referred to as predictive policing, say that if it is used in conjunction with existing policing techniques, such as community policing, it could have a drastic impact on crime. Some note, however, that the predictive policing methodology is more useful for its general tactical utility rather than the accuracy of its predictions.

  • Emergency notifications will soon be issued through The Weather Channel

    The Weather Companywill soon issue emergency notifications to millions of U.S. residents before, during, and after disasters occur via a large-scale distribution network linked to its media properties and weather expertise. The company is forming partnerships with city and state emergency managers to build a localized alerting platform for state, local, and private emergency agencies to manage and distribute alerts via The Weather Channel, weather.com, and existing local distribution points.

  • Requiring background checks for all gun sales would improve safety: Expert

    Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority stance against efforts to regulate gun availability and ownership, many policies aimed at lessening gun violence have had at best a minimal impact, according to a new study by a University of Virginia criminologist. One policy not used in Virginia and thirty-three other states, however, would clearly make it more difficult for criminals or unqualified users to obtain guns: requiring a background check for anyone buying from an unlicensed private seller, including those at gun shows and flea markets.

  • Detecting horse-meat fraud in the wake of a recent food scandal

    As the United Kingdom forms a new crime unit designed to fight food fraud — in response to an uproar last year over horse meat being passed off as beef — scientists from Germany are reporting a technique for detecting meat adulteration.

  • French jets attack ISIS targets in Iraq

    French military jets earlier this morning (Friday) have carried out the first strikes by a U.S. ally against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq. A statement from the office of President Francois Hollande said the planes had attacked an ISIS depot in north-east Iraq, and that the coming days will see additional French attacks on the Islamist group. The United States has carried out more than 170 air strikes against the Jihadist group in Iraq since 8 August. President Francois Hollande’s office said Rafale planes had carried out the attack and “the objective was hit and completely destroyed.” The statement added that “Other operations will follow in the coming days.”

  • W.Va. dealing with a growing threat from sovereign citizen movement members

    The FBI classifies some sovereign citizens as terrorists. U.S. law enforcement officials are being warned about members of the sovereign citizen movement — the number one potential terrorist threat in the United States according to a 2014 study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism(START). Law enforcement agencies estimate that there are about 100,000 hard-core members of various sovereign citizens groups around the country, with another 200,000 sympathizers. West Virginia police

  • Deficiencies in U.S. nuclear labs’ emergency preparedness plans: Report

    A recently released study of seventeen U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board(DNFSB), which examined operations at the labs over the last three years, found deficiencies in emergency preparedness plans. Three New Mexico labs — the Los Alamos National Laboratory(LANL), the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP) near Carlsbad, and Sandia National Laboratoriesin Albuquerque — exemplify various gaps in disaster preparedness throughout the nation’s nuclear defense system.

  • U.S. launches campaign to combat recruitment of young Americans by militant groups

    The White House, Justice Department (DOJ), DHS, and the National Counterterrorism Center have formed an alliance to combat the recruitment of young Americans to join militant groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Somali-based al-Shabaab.Officials have not released details on the network of community partnerships but local law enforcement officials, religious leaders, teachers, mental health professionals, and parents are expected to help monitor at-risk youths.

  • Preparing the next generation of nuclear emergency responders

    The catastrophic failure of Japan’s Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 was a turning point in how the scientific community viewed nuclear emergencies. Up to then, the emphasis had been on prevention, not response. Virginia Tech’s Sonja Schmid has won a 2014 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Development (CAREER) Award to study the prospects and problems of creating a global nuclear emergency response plan. Key issues to be addressed in her research are how to convince the world that any nuclear accident is everybody’s problem and how to mobilize an effective international response.