• Devastating wildfires in Eastern forests likely to be repeated

    The intense wildfires that swept through the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee late last month were a tragic melding of the past and the future. The fast-moving, wind-whipped blazes that burned more than 150,000 acres, killed fourteen people and damaged 2,400 structures in Gatlinburg and Sevier County may be a portent of things to come.

  • Quake-detection app recorded nearly 400 temblors worldwide

    UC Berkeley’s worldwide network of smartphone earthquake detectors has recorded nearly 400 earthquakes since the MyShake app was made available for download in February, with one of the most active areas of the world the fracking fields of Oklahoma. The Android app harnesses a smartphone’s motion detectors to measure earthquake ground motion, then sends that data back to the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory for analysis. The eventual goal is to send early-warning alerts to users a bit farther from ground zero, giving them seconds to a minute of warning that the ground will start shaking.

  • Thermal sensor provides warning for firefighter safety

    The conditions inside a burning building are perilous and can change rapidly. For firefighters searching for people trapped within a burning building, these risks can be exacerbated in a matter of seconds as exposure to high temperature may cause their personal protective equipment (PPE) to fail. This is particularly true in the presence of infrared radiation, which can rapidly increase the temperature of a firefighter’s environment without warning. DHS S&T  is now working with partners to develop the Burn Saver Thermal Sensor, a battery-powered device that will be carried by firefighters and detects thermal changes in their operating environments.

  • The origins of Tennessee’s recent wildfires

    Wildfires raged recently through the foothills of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, fueled by severe drought and high winds in the eastern part of the state. The fires damaged or destroyed more than 1,400 structures, including homes, chapels, and resort cabins. Fourteen people were killed, and nearly 150 others were injured. Last week, two juveniles were taken into custody and charged with aggravated arson in connection with the deadly wildfires – but sources such as Climate Central suggested that rising temperatures may have played a role in the fires. Does climate change play a role in determining the frequency and intensity of wildfires?

  • Calls in Germany for bolstering surveillance in wake of Berlin attack

    Klaus Bouillon, the interior minister in the German state of Saarland, said that “It is time to eliminate the barriers to monitoring suspects’ telephone conversations.” He also urged the revamping of a law for monitoring popular online encrypted messaging services, such as WhatsApp, and said that next month he would make a formal proposal to that effect. Bouillon, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said, “It cannot be the case that a company can make billions with WhatsApp, while at the same allowing criminals to organize, direct young people and obstruct our authorities by not providing the necessary encryption codes.”

  • Berlin attack: security intelligence has limits in preventing truck-borne terror

    The Christmas market truck assault in Berlin, which has left twelve dead and dozens injured, is a disturbing echo of the truck-borne attack on Bastille Day celebrants on the Nice promenade in July. How could such events be allowed to happen? Why weren’t intelligence agencies in Germany and France able to stay one step ahead of the perpetrators? The role of the security and intelligence agencies to remain vigilant and seek to monitor extremist elements will undoubtedly endure. The secret of their success will continue to be keeping their successes secret. However, this does not absolve the rest of society from remaining engaged in community, by being inclusive, welcoming, and helpful, while also maintaining a level of vigilance many had come to associate with a bygone era.

  • Clear guidelines needed for “Stingray” devices: Congressional panel

    The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the other day released a bipartisan staff report after a yearlong investigation into federal, state, and local law enforcement use of cell-site simulators – devices that transform a cell phone into a real-time tracking device. The report finds these law enforcement agencies have varying policies for the use of these powerful devices. As a result, the report recommends Congress pass legislation to establish a clear, nationwide framework that ensures the privacy of all Americans are adequately protected.

  • New incident management planning tool for first responders

    A suspicious package is found in a public park. An unattended bag is found by a trash can at the metro or a street corner. A person with a weapon is reported at a school or mall or other public location. Unfortunately, these are not uncommon occurrences, and responder agencies – from small towns to big cities – must all know how to respond and work together. That requires training, technology, tools, and time. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Explosives Division (EXD) has a solution.

  • May 2012 North Korean seismic event an earthquake, not nuclear test

    A tiny seismic event that occurred in North Korea on 12 May 2010 appears to have been an earthquake rather than a small underground nuclear explosion, according to a new analysis. The new study contradicts the findings of a 2015 report which concluded that the magnitude 1.5 seismic 12 May event was a small nuclear explosion.

  • Is Iran cooperating with North Korea on a nuclear weapon?

    Spurred by a letter written by Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) to three senior Obama administration officials, investigative journalist Claudia Rosett on Thursday examined the possibility that Iran and North Korea are collaborating on nuclear weapons research in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal. Rosset explained that the two nations have a history of collaborating on weapons development. Usually, North Korea undertakes much of the development while Iran that foots the bill, with technicians traveling back and forth between the countries.

  • With proliferation of small arms, absence of war does not equal peace

    The proliferation of small arms across many regions of Africa affected by conflict – or adjacent to chronic conflicts – have brought misery, but it has also provided a means for lawless groups to supplement the meagre rewards of nomadic pastoralism through raiding or other forms of violence. Governments in conflict or former conflict zones often have vested interests in maintaining informal armed groups beyond the army and other state security forces — for the entrenchment of political elites, the garnering of rents through armed extortion, or as potential weapons against hostile neighbors. The over-arching problem, according to one researcher, is that “Ending the war is not enough. The issue is to escape the inter-war situation maintained and reproduced by the state.”

  • 1,900 arrest-related deaths in U.S. between June 2015-May 2016: Study

    The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Arrest-Related Deaths program estimates that there were 1,900 arrest-related deaths in the United States between June 2015-May 2016. These deaths include all persons who died during the process of arrest or while in police custody, including deaths due to homicide, justifiable homicide by a law enforcement officer, suicide, accidental injury, and natural causes.

  • Firefighters to have bushfire predictions at the fingertips

    Researchers at the University of Western Australia are developing a new touchscreen device that can be mounted in a fire truck to help firefighters predict where and when a bushfire will spread. The researchers are modifying bushfire simulation software Australis into a high-end tablet to provide accurate predictions of fire behavior more rapidly than current methods.

  • Syrian opposition: Israeli airstrike hit chemical weapons intended for Hezbollah

    An Israeli air raid on a depot controlled by the Syrian regime two weeks ago hit a supply of chemical weapons being transferred to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, a spokesperson for a Syrian opposition group said Sunday. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman obliquely suggested last week that Israel was responsible for the strike and that the target had been Hezbollah-bound chemical weapons; other Israeli leaders have made it clear in public statements and conversations with foreign leaders that they will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring “game-changing” weapons or strengthening its positions on Israel’s borders.

  • Identifying, fast-tracking development of first responders technology

    First responders face challenging conditions while often carrying heavy and outdated equipment. Wearable technology is on the rise, estimated at a $10 billion dollar commercial market, and advances are happening in the health and fitness area every day. The first responder community stands to benefit from integrating some of this otherwise heavy and outdated equipment into wearable technology, improving both upon efficiencies and responsiveness as well as continuing to prioritize their own safety on the frontlines of often dangerous situations.