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When Dorms Get Too Warm

- College students are many things, but cautious isn’t usually one of them. And when the emotional tinder swirling in young adults mixes with physical tinder, such as paper and cheap furniture, in population-dense dorms, the combination can be highly combustible. That may be one of the reasons why about 1,300 fires occur in U.S. college and university dormitories every year. Unfortunately, in most dorm fires, no automatic sprinkler system is there to douse the flames.As part of a U.S. Fire Administration initiative to improve fire safety in college housing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted fire experiments in abandoned dorm rooms in Arkansas. Link to NIST via SM Online to get the free DVD .

Fighting Diploma Mills By Degrees

- Surely you’ve heard of the University of Berkeley, Hamilton University, St. Regis University, and the American University of London. Or have you? In fact, these schools are suspected “diploma mills”—colleges and universities offering worthless degrees that require no work. They use familiar sounding names intended to make prospective employers mistake them for real institutions, such as the University of California at Berkeley, Hamilton College, Regis University, and the American University in London. The problem came to the fore when it was found that many government workers, including staff in the Department of Homeland Security, had these phony credentials, prompting Congress to hold a series of hearings.

Study Questions CCTV’s Value

- In an expansive 160-page report written for the U.K. Home Office, which is responsible for domestic issues, Professor Martin Gill and Angela Spriggs did not find conclusive proof of CCTV’s beneficial effect on crime in town and city centers, parking areas, hospitals, and residential zones. Read the report.

What is Critical Infrastructure, Anyway?

- Everyone agrees that certain sectors of society—energy, telecommunications, water supply—are critical infrastructures. But what about monuments and icons? Key industry buildings? Sports stadiums and other large gathering places? More and more sectors are being included under the rubric of critical infrastructure, according to a review of presidential orders and directives, federal statutes, and government reports. The various documents mentioned here are on SM Online.

Stun guns

- Nonlethal weapons have been under the microscope since a woman was shot in the eye and killed by a pepper-spray-filled ball after the Boston Red Sox clinched the American League pennant last year. And the once-high-flying stock of Taser International plummeted back to earth at the beginning of this year when it announced that it had received an informal inquiry from the Securities and Exchange Commission about the safety of its products, which helped trigger a spate of lawsuits. The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, an independent research body, has now released a paper concluding that “when stun technology is appropriately applied, it is relatively safe and clearly effective.” Examining the 72 cases identified by Amnesty International in which stun weapons have been associated with deaths, the authors found that “the probability of death after stun device administration to the body is from one in a thousand to one in one hundred thousand.” The report also notes that there is no federal regulatory oversight of nonlethal stun weapons, with the result that there are no widely accepted engineering standards for these weapons. The Potomac Institute, whose paper can be found via SM Online, calls for “industry-driven, government-endorsed standards.”

Agroterrorism

- As in many sectors of the U.S. critical infrastructure, agriculture has made great strides in security since 9-11. A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) documents some of these achievements, such as ongoing vulnerability analyses conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration to determine which agriculture products are most vulnerable to terrorist attacks. But efforts elsewhere are lagging. For instance, many U.S. veterinarians lack training to identify signs of foreign animal diseases, and the USDA does not use “rapid diagnostic tools” to test animals at the site of a disease outbreak. Also, while imports have increased, agricultural inspections at ports of entry have decreased over the last two years. In addition, states aren’t receiving enough technical federal assistance in developing emergency plans to prepare them to deal with terrorism, the GAO auditors write. The auditors recommend 11 courses of action to improve the U.S. preparedness for agroterrorism. For instance, they call for expediting a USDA draft rule that would require veterinarians to be trained to recognize foreign animal diseases. SM Online has the full report.

Bomb threats in school

- If a student says to a gym teacher, “All jocks should be blown up,” should it be taken as a threat? Probably not if the student was laughing or obviously joking, but if the student has a history of making such pronouncements, the school might want to treat it as a legitimate threat. In general, the more specific the threat, the more seriously it should be taken, according to one of the latest entries into the Department of Justice’s Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, called “Bomb Threats in Schools.” The guide discusses the problem of bomb threats in schools, factors contributing to such threats, the right questions for administrators to ask themselves about the problem, and possible initiatives to prevent or respond to threats. Sixteen viable initiatives are presented, 9 involving prevention, 7 involving immediate response. For example, schools can develop a bomb-threat response plan. The guide points to an online tool developed by the Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology for training and refresher courses on response planning. Immediate responses to a bomb threat may include recording the threat, analyzing it, evacuating the school, searching for a bomb, talking to the media, following up after the incident, and placing police officers in schools. The guide is on SM Online.

Drugs

- During a state hearing in Alaska, experts outlined the harm caused by marijuana. The Governor of Illinois has expressed concern that the video game NARC encourages drug use because, for example, game characters who use crack are able to inflict more damage on enemies. And new research suggests that pot use may lead to schizophrenia in young people. These are three recent entries in a new Web log (blog) established by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). John Walters, director of the ONDCP and the President’s “Drug Czar,” says in a statement that the blog is designed to “provide Americans with direct updates and links about the latest efforts to ‘push back’ against drug use in America and abroad.” Go to SM Online to check out the blog.

Aviation security

- Five Fs, 4 Ds, 3 Cs, and 2 Bs. If you brought home a report card like this when you were a kid, you’d be grounded. The U.S. aviation security industry just brought home those grades, but don’t expect planes to be grounded any time soon. The “teacher” handing out these dismal marks is the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA), which brings together the 22,000-pilot-strong union membership of five airlines. The worst grades went to screening cargo, credentialing, crew training in self-defense, missile defense, and employee screening. In comments accompanying the report card, CAPA notes that “near total reliance” on the Known Shippers program for cargo screening is a “serious flaw.” Comments under credentialing note that the Transportation Security Administration has yet to deploy available biometric technology. Here’s the breakdown of grades: Barely receiving a passing grade of D were perimeter security, threat intelligence, federal flight-deck officers on passenger planes, and federal flight-deck officers on cargo planes. Grades of C went to passenger screening, federal air marshals, and classroom training for crew. Faring best, with grades of B, were bag screening and passenger flight-deck doors. “The reinforced doors are installed and appear to be working well,” say the comments accompanying the report card.@ The comments and the report card can be accessed via SM Online.

Secure Flight in Holding Pattern

- A government report, as well as its competing interpretations, has raised questions about when the latest passenger prescreening system for commercial flights will take wing. Secure Flight, the latest iteration of the scuttled Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II (CAPPS II), must overcome several serious challenges, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). @ Link to the GAO report, the ACLU press release, the Leahy statement, and the Schneier blog via SM Online.

Breath of Fresh Air for Building Security

- Protecting the HVAC system from biological, chemical, and radiological weapons can be difficult. A paper by Michael MacDonald of Oak Ridge National Laboratory offers some guidance.The document helps security managers understand the various threats, pointing them to online sources for more detailed information. Also provided is an outline for performing vulnerability and threat assessments. In addition, the author explains how to reduce exposure to harmful agents and introduces readers to mitigation technologies and actions. The paper notes that no real-time biological sensor currently exists. Limited-efficacy chemical detectors and radiological sensors are available, but they are high in price.Also included is a fictitious case study that walks building managers through the process of securing a building’s HVAC system. Although targeted to managers in federal facilities, the guide is equally applicable to the private sector. Find the document online.

Emergency planning

- A wheelchair-bound person with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis was in a Los Angeles building when occupants were asked to evacuate because of a bomb threat. Other occupants scrambled down the stairs to safety, while the disabled youth waited for assistance. No one came, so the person struggled mightily to climb down three flights of stairs to evacuate. Fortunately, the threat was a hoax, but this type of situation is all too common for the disabled in disaster planning. The NCD report, Saving Lives: Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning, can be found on SM Online.

Home on the Page: Port Security

- The Coast Guard and port security.
 




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