State / Local

  • Disaster recoveryComplaints grow about New Mexico’s handling of emergencies, disaster relief

    New Mexico’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM)wasformed in 2007 by consolidating the state’s Office of Homeland Security and the Emergency Management Division. It is responsible for coordinating emergency and disaster relief efforts with all levels of government, providing training to emergency managers, and analyzing security threats. DHSEM, however, has a history of failing to respond swiftly to disaster related requests, according to internal reports, e-mails, audits, and interviews with current and former employees.

  • Urban security grantsCalifornia Hasidic group must refund misused DHS security grant money

    The California branch of the Hasidic Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitchhas been ordered to pay $844,985 for misappropriating federal funds.In 2008, Chabad applied for a DHS grant as part of the Urban Areas Security Initiative: Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funding for security upgrades to nonprofits that are at high risk of terrorist attacks.Chabad spent $272,495 of grant money on payroll, utility, and other expenses, but now has to pay penalties and damages triple the grant amount under a mandatory provision of the False Claims Act.

  • Earthquake early warningCongressional funding allows partial roll-out of Calif. seismic early warning system

    California officials applauded the U.S. Senate approval of the $1.1-trillion spending package, which allocated $5 million to fund expansion of the state’s earthquake early-warning system dubbed ShakeAlert.In 2015, a select number of schools will receive earthquake alerts to warn students and teachers to drop and cover before shaking begins, fire stations will be alerted to open their garage doors before electricity goes out and prevents doors from opening, and some hospitals will receive notice to suspend surgeries.

  • Coastal infrastructurePower grids in coastal U.S. cities increasingly vulnerable as a result of climate change

    Cities such as Miami are all too familiar with hurricane-related power outages. A new analysis finds, however, that climate change will give other major metropolitan areas a lot to worry about in the future. Johns Hopkins University engineers created a computer model to predict the increasing vulnerability of power grids in major coastal cities during hurricanes. By factoring historic hurricane information with plausible scenarios for future storm behavior, the team determined which of twenty-seven cities, from Texas to Maine, will become more susceptible to blackouts from future hurricanes. The team’s analysis could help metropolitan areas better plan for climate change.

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  • EbolaTexas Ebola task force calls for revamping state’s preparations for epidemics

    The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Responsehas called for the establishment of two specialized Ebola treatment centers in Texas, and for new methods to monitor vulnerable health care workers, especially those returning from West Africa.The state acknowledges that it alone is unable to handle an infectious disease outbreak like Ebola. The task force wants federal health and disease authorities to provide actionable information during disease outbreaks.

  • Nuclear wasteWashington State supports new Hanford project, but worries about cost

    The state of Washington is supporting a new facility which would lessen the load on the Hanford vitrification (vit) plant to process nuclear waste, but has expressed concerns about how the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will pay for the project. Only rough estimates of the cost of the project – called LAWPS, or the Low-Activity Waste Pretreatment System — have been made, but these estimates run between $243 million and $375 million, though that number does not include infrastructure costs such as the addition of roadways and utility services.

  • ImmigrationUndocumented immigrants can now practice law in Florida

    On 20 November, Jose Godinez-Samperio took the oath of admission to the Florida Bar, but unlike many lawyers before him, Godinez-Samperio was not a U.S. citizen.The state legislature amended an existing family law bill to allow would-be lawyers like Godinez-Samperio to practice law in Florida.

  • RadicalizationCampaigning against radicalization in Minnesota’s Somali community

    Between 2007 and 2008, roughly two dozen Somali young adults left their homes in Minnesota to join al-Shabaab, a Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliate. In the past year alone, at least fifteen Somali men have traveled overseas to join the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. Attorney in Minnesota, Andy Luger, met with Somali community leaders on Monday to outline a campaign that includes job creation and after school programs to combat the root causes of extremism.

  • Law-enforcement technologyWashington State police overwhelmed by public requests for dash- and body-cam footage

    Police departments in Washington State are reviewing their dash- and body-cam programs as they see significant increase in public requests for video footage under the state’s Public Records Act, which puts no limit on the number of records which may be requested nor requires that the person requesting records have any connection to the information being requested.

  • WaterSan Francisco to add local groundwater to reservoir supply

    The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has begun digging in the area around Golden Gate Park with the intention of adding local underground water flows to the traditionally sourced water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite. The change is expected to take place over the next two years and will replace between 10 to 15 percent of the water supply. Despite the fact that the water is less pure, city officials expect that difference will be negligible.

  • WaterAs drought continues, more Californians turn to greywater

    California’s rainy season tends to run from October to late March, but for the third year in a row rain has been relatively absent, meaning that the state is currently suffering from a severe, unprecedented drought. With increasing water rates, a growing number of homeowners in Southern California are relying on greywater systems to support their landscapes and toilet flushing. “If the drought continues, honestly, I could see all new construction will have greywater systems of some kind because it really doesn’t make sense to put usable water in the sewer system,” says one expert.

  • DisastersNew Jersey voting measures in the wake of Hurricane Sandy violated law: Report

    A new study found that key emergency measures that were meant to allow voters to participate digitally in the days after 2012 Hurricane Sandy may have violated state law. Some of those steps, such as allowing people to request their mail-in ballots by fax and e-mail, led to confusion in many county precincts on Election Day.

  • Hurricane SandyMany victims of Hurricane Sandy are still waiting for government aid

    It has been two years since Hurricane Sandy destroyed thousands of homes and businesses along the Jersey Shore yet many affected homeowners are still waiting for federal and state aid to rebuild. Of the $3.26 billion the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided to New Jersey, only $802 million has been paid out as of 30 September. The federal government’s first allocation of Sandy funds to New Jersey came seven months after the storm. The state has yet to issue any of the $1.46 billion approved by HUD in May, and New Jersey officials expect a final round of $880 million next spring.

  • 911 systemsConnecticut and Kansas implement next-gen 911 system

    Connecticut and Kansas are both currently installing the next generation of 911 telephone systems (NG911) in different cycles, but both are seeing the added benefits of the evolved system.NG911 will allow both states to offer the services of up-to-the-second multimedia information, including cell phone texts and video, as responders rush to an emergency site.

  • First responseLos Angeles mayor says fire response times are too slow

    Citing new research and statistics, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed that previous fire station response times “stunk” and that with a new program in place, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) would be able to cut those responses considerably. The new FireStat program had revealed that the responses were considerably slower than what former Fire Chief Brian Cummings had been reporting.