Blast-proof CCTV tested by DHS's S&T

Published 1 May 2009

CCTVs help the police identify terrorists who perpetrate an attack; trouble is, the blast set by the terrorists may destroy the camera and its video; there are two solutions: the more expensive one is a real-time streaming-video CCTV which sends images back to HQ until the moment the camera is destroyed; the cheaper alternative is an indestructible video CCTV

Deploying CCTVs in places where people gather helps the police in identifying criminals and terrorists. In cases of terrorist attacks, however, there is a problem: if the explosion the terrorists trigger is large enough, and the CCTV close enough, the cameras is destroyed or damaged so that it can no longer be used to identify the perpetrators. t is thus good to learn that the police is testing a CCTV camera which can reliably survive a large bomb explosion with video recordings intact. DHS did not develop the kit, but it helped test it by blowing up a bus with sixteen of the prototype ruggedized cameras on board. Each camera’s memory chip had been preloaded with video files in order to see how much was retained.

According to DHS, engineers trawling through the wreckage after the bus blast were able to recover fourteen of the chips in working order. On these chips, “every video minute on there was without degradation,” says Stephen Dennis of DHS’s Science & Technology Directorate.

Lewis Page writes that the recovery of video after a bombing is obviously useful in tracing back perpetrators in the subsequent investigation, but Dennis says it also helps with prevention. “The collection of forensic data from tragic events like bombings helps us develop strategies to prevent the crime in the first place,” he says.

The new cameras are not designed for real-time surveillance, having no communications fitted. Their records would only be accessed for forensic purposes after an incident to which the authorities had been alerted by other means. Thus they are much more affordable than normal CCTV, despite being more able to resist blast: around $150-200 a camera, according to Dennis.

DHS also wanted to find out how well the rugged cameras would survive in a burning vehicle, so the department’s researchers intend to bake them in an oven. This last test may be one of the most relevant: “forensically aware” criminals and terrorists often use incendiary bombs specifically to cover their tracks rather than to inflict damage on a target.