Planning Tool Helps Agencies Pool Disaster Resources

Planning Tool Helps Agencies Pool Disaster Resources

By understanding the hazards to their communities and the resources needed to respond, emergency managers can better prepare and plan for catastrophic events. An online planning tool is available that can help agencies improve preparedness and share resources across jurisdictions.

Developed through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate First Responders Group (FRG), the Mutual Aid Resource Planner (MARP) is an online collaboration emergency planning tool that helps emergency managers create shareable plans for hazard-based scenarios such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires.

Ron Langhelm is the FRG program manager for MARP, which became available to agencies and communities in late 2016.

“Using MARP, agencies can identify a potential disaster or scenario to plan for, work through requirements, identify resources and resource shortfalls, and work with neighboring jurisdictions to fill those voids. If an agency does not have the resources, it can work to meet those requirements by collaborating with other jurisdictions,” Langhelm says.

The National Information Sharing Consortium ( hosts the free MARP tool, which is an ArcGIS Online configurable template. ArcGIS is mapping and analytic software on a cloud-based platform. Users can create and share information such as maps and data.

Users can track the resources necessary to meet desired capability in the event of a disaster. As a geospatial-based online system, MARP can ease information sharing and collaboration. Participating communities can enter their resources into MARP.

While other mutual aid planning tools may use geospatial technology to develop a plan, the plan is frequently a paper document, Langhelm says. Not so with MARP.

“MARP uses geospatial technology and so is visual by nature. It is good for spurring additional discussion and collaboration because of the nature of the tool. It is more interactive and leads to better overall planning. At the end of the process you have better documentation, better discussions and a more solid plan,” Langhelm says.

“You consider transportation corridors, and ingress and egress for an area,” he adds. “For example, if there is an earthquake and resources are on the other side of a large river with four bridges, those resources may not be able to help out, so you look to identify resources in a different direction.”

During the pilot phase of the project, emergency planners in Michigan and Ontario, Canada, used MARP to develop mutual aid resource sharing plans in a cross-border environment. In New Orleans, the program was tested as part of the DHS Flood Apex program.

To access MARP, see For more information, contact John Verrico of DHS Science and Technology Directorate Office of Media Relations at john.verrico@HQ.DHS.GOV.

Article photo: Background Image Shutterstock/Website Screenshot MARP

Firearms Training and Prevention of Hearing Loss

Firearms Training and Prevention of Hearing Loss

Ryan Lee Scott, Deputy Sheriff with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office in Gainesville, Fla., and adjunct faculty at the Santa Fe College police academy, noticed several years ago that a number of the longtime firearms instructors had significant hearing loss and were wearing hearing aids. His concern for his colleagues hearing health led him on a journey to quantify the problem and package sound mitigation strategies officers could immediately implement.

Law enforcement officers undergo qualification training during the year in the use of firearms. In general, Scott says firearms training probably occurs about four times a year for a typical law enforcement patrol officer, monthly or more frequently for SWAT and special operations members, and a firearms instructor could be on the firearms range up to 20 times a month.

Concerned about adequate protection against potential hearing loss for himself and others, Scott contacted audiology experts at the University of Florida a few years ago to learn about the high-level impulse sounds produced by firearms and ways to minimize risk. In one subsequent study, researchers evaluated the sound pressure level effects of suppression, ammunition and barrel length on AR-15 rifles. Suppressors (silencers) were found to be helpful in mitigating noise, but Scott says it is still necessary to use hearing protection devices such as earmuffs and earplugs during training as well. No one device provides an adequate amount of protection, but by using all three categories of hearing protection devices together, a sufficient hearing protection strategy can result.

To bridge the information gap between science and law enforcement and help agencies and officers understand the issues, Scott developed an educational workshop, Firearms Training and Hearing Loss, a 90-minute presentation he has been providing free to law enforcement agencies around the state of Florida, traveling to about 30 agencies thus far, along with organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police and Police Benevolent Association.

The workshop covers audiology research studies and the potential for unprotected exposure to firearms sounds to damage hearing, and the importance of use and proper fit of hearing protection devices such as earplugs and earmuffs, along with firearms suppressors, to reduce sound levels during training.

“It is largely a training issue to properly fit the devices, and use the devices in the proper combinations, not a problem with the devices themselves,” Scott says. “Most of the hearing loss is occurring in a training context. It is very preventable and relatively inexpensive to address. Agencies need to be aware of and have a good hearing conservation program to get the information out to officers on how to protect their hearing.”

Scott says most agencies are using either earplugs or earmuffs, rather than both, and not providing training on fitting.

“Agencies should use both earplugs and earmuffs at the same time and properly fit them. Most agencies I have seen are using earmuffs, which is a good start, but they need to use earplugs too. You have to spend 20 to 30 minutes to train officers to fit them so they get the proper level of attenuation for the device, and agencies need to create a hearing conservation plan to address these issues.


“In a training context using all three — suppression, earmuffs and earplugs — is the best strategy. In Alachua, the SWAT team uses suppressors in the field, which reduces noise while these firearms are deployed in real-world events. In training they use suppressors in combination with their typical earmuffs/earplugs.”

Scott provides the workshop in a classroom setting, but if an agency has the time he will go out to a firearms range and use the protection devices with the type of firearms the officers are using. By integrating the agency’s equipment with the various types of hearing protection devices, he says a balanced approach can result in adequate protection, reasonable price and a practical training environment.

Scott’s efforts led to his receipt earlier this year of a Safe-in-Sound 2017 Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention award: Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention in the Public Safety Sector. The Safe-in-Sound awards were created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in partnership with the National Hearing Conservation Association.

Future activities include Scott’s plans to write hearing protection sections for the law enforcement recruit textbook in Florida. He also hopes to expand his hearing protection training outreach program to every state.

For more information, contact Deputy Sheriff Ryan Lee Scott at or For information on NIOSH research regarding firing ranges, click here.

Video Highlights Technology to Provide Information on Suspicious Prepaid Money Cards

Video Highlights Technology to Provide Information on Suspicious Prepaid Money Cards

A recent video highlights technology designed to help law enforcement obtain information on suspicious prepaid money cards.

Large amounts of money can be programmed onto prepaid cards and used for illicit purposes. Cards with magnetic stripes such as bank credit and debit cards, gift cards and hotel card keys can be turned into prepaid cards.

The Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) Prepaid Card Reader is a small, handheld device that wirelessly allows law enforcement officers in the field to identify and check the balance of suspicious cards, and to put a temporary hold on the linked funds until a full investigation can be completed.

Available since 2015, ERAD is used by state and local law enforcement in 48 states, as well as by federal and international law enforcement agencies, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, (DHS S&T), which coordinated development of the technology.

Previously, law enforcement had to contact each bank to determine whether a card was lost, stolen, bogus or cloned. In the recent video, Alan Walker, certified fraud examiner, Maricopa County (AZ) Attorney’s Office, describes a case for which ERAD would have been helpful.

“We had a situation from the city of Scottsdale involving 6,000 cards which were obviously cloned cards or bogus cards,” Walker said. “As we began to assist in the investigation, we realized that going through each card one at a time, contacting the banks individually, doesn’t work. It took nine months to conclude that. We began to look for a better method, a better way. What we found was ERAD.”

In the video, Det. Vince Porter, Financial Crimes Unit, Fairfax County (VA) Police Department, notes that patrol officers making a stop for some other kind of incident can come across a number of cards in the driver’s possession that have different names embossed on them or no names at all.

Using the portable ERAD device attached to a smart phone, the officer can run the card through the device onsite. The device sends a signal to ERAD, which will identify the card and information about it, and email it back to the law enforcement officer.

“We are trying to verify that the information that comes up on the mag strip, is the same information that is on the face of the card,” Porter said. “If we run a card and the card comes back not to match, we are able to freeze those assets that are on the card using ERAD itself.”

The system also includes a USB-enabled scanner that users can connect to a desktop computer, so an investigator with a large number of cards can scan them at his or her computer. ERAD produces a detailed report on the status of each card and associated data.

The system has been a valuable asset for linking the suspicious cards to crimes. In the video, Walker notes that, “For every seizure we’ve had, we have seen 20 separate, unrelated criminal cases investigated, instigated or created because of the card identifying identity theft, drug trafficking, money laundering, child prostitution, sex trafficking, human trafficking.”

To read more about the technology and view the video, go to this link. Also, email for information.

Article photo: U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Science and Technology Directorate

Girl looking at phone with other kids laughing behind her

Cyberbullying and Law Enforcement

Cyberbullying and Law Enforcement

Protecting youths from cyberbullying and exploitation requires a concerted effort by parents, law enforcement, schools and the community. That was a message conveyed by law enforcement presenters during a webinar held in the fall of 2018.

The webinar, Cyberbullying: The Law Enforcement Perspective, was hosted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a program of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Presenters from the OJJDP-funded Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICACTF) program discussed strategies for addressing and preventing cyberbullying. They discussed internet safety, the effects of social media and cyberbullying on a youth’s brain, and the impact of sexting and sextortion on youth. ICACTF helps state and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to technology facilitated child exploitation and internet crimes against children.

Supervisory Senior Special Agent Johnny Hall. Hall is with the Virginia State Police and Northern Virginia/Washington, DC ICACTF. He noted that some bullying occurs in the digital world, which presents challenges for law enforcement.

He said most states have laws related to bullying, but can lack policy addressing some of the cyber component. Schools and law enforcement work together to reduce the number of cyberbullying incidents, but they need more resources. School resource officer programs can educate and monitor cyberbullying, but those resources are often strained.

Concerns include:

  • Digital devices offer the ability to communicate 24 hours day, making it difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.
  • Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public because of the way it is stored and kept. If not reported in time it can be difficult to remove.
  • Cyberbullying is hard to notice because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place.
  • Common places where cyberbullying occurs include social media, which offers excellent ways to communicate, but can also be easily abused and used for harassment (e.g., WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Skype).

He cited the following community outreach program challenges:

  • 39 percent of children or teenagers have given their personal information (e.g., name, sex, age) over the digital world.
  • 11 percent have met someone face to face they previously met through the digital world.
  • 29 percent say their parents would disapprove if they knew what they did, where they went or with whom they chatted online.
  • 36 percent do not discuss online safety with their parents.


During a question and answer session, Hall agreed that schools and educators should incorporate social media and understanding of the use of social media and digital citizenship as part of an educational curriculum, but noted it may take time to accomplish that.

“It is critical for all of the community to have a participation and understanding of the interactions with social media. They are a part of everyday life and are not going away anytime soon, and it’s better that parents and school systems along with law enforcement take a more proactive role and a more collaborative effort to continue to educate ourselves and at the same time to guide our children,” Hall said.

Lt. John Pizzuro. Pizzuro is with the New Jersey State police and is the New Jersey ICAC Task Force commander. He discussed the effects of social media and cyberbullying on a youth’s brain, and the importance of providing guidance to young people on use of digital tools. Too much time online can disconnect and isolate youth from traditional social interaction.

“When children are called something on social media and everyone is talking about them with a certain term, it has severe impact on them,” Pizzuro said. “When children are being cyberbullied, and being told they are not popular or a nerd, that story becomes their personal story and that is what they believe, and it is difficult for them to get out of that. You have to teach children to reframe and give them the ability to not leave it in that context, because kids can be cruel, and online, that information is there forever. Conversely, if you tell yourself that you are not subject to that in a story, it has a more positive impact.”

He said adults need to be more proactive and spend more time educating youth and developing policies. Suggested proactive programs to equip children in navigating the online environment:

  • Teach them how to handle cyberbullying and self-care options.
  • Focus equal feeling – reframe and don’t engage.
  • Unplug – focus on other feelings and neurotransmitters.
  • Social media and school cellphone policies.
  • Be proactive – educators should look for students who are isolated.
  • Employ a social media monitor.

Lt. Brian Spears. Spears is with the San Jose Police Department and the Silicon Valley ICAC Task Force. He discussed sexting and sextortion.

Sexting. Sexting typically refers to the sharing of nude or semi-nude and sexually provocative photos or sexually explicit text messages via electronic devices.


  • Young people who receive nude/semi-nude sexually suggestive images and sexually suggestive texts and emails are sharing them with other people for whom they were never intended.
  • Teens are sending sexually explicit messages and images, even though they know such content often gets shared with those other than the intended recipient.
  • Although most teens who send sexually suggestive content are sending it to boyfriends and girlfriends, others say they are sending such materials to those they want to hook up with or even to someone they only know online.


Some teens worry about body image. He noted that on YouTube, kids ask the internet audience to tell them if they are pretty or ugly. They rate each other on Instagram.

Digital dating abuse is a form of domestic violence in which youths track others’ movements.

“We have junior high and high school students tracking one another’s passwords, checking text messages and sending constant messages,” Spears said. “The constant control and manipulation, the pressure and coercion is huge, and this has to be recognized now.”

Child sex offenders are utilizing technology to further victimize youth. They are capitalizing on the anonymity the internet offers to make direct contact.

Sextortion. Sextortion is the practice of forcing someone to do something, particularly to perform sexual acts, by threatening to publish naked pictures of them or sexual information about them.

Who are the child victims? [National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline sextortion reports, October 2013 through April 2016]

  • 78 percent of the reports involved female children and 15 percent involved male children (in 8 percent of the reports, child gender could not be determined).
  • Male and female children each ranged in age from 8-17 and had an average age of 15; however, compared to female children, it was less common for male children to be on the younger end of the spectrum.
  • In 24 percent of the reports, reporters mentioned that they suspected or knew that additional children were targeted by the same offender.


The most common tactic by offenders were the offender threatening to post previously acquired sexual content online (67 percent), and often specifically threatening to post it in a place for family and friends to see (29 percent) if the child did not comply.

Sextortion most commonly occurred via phone/tablet messaging apps, social networking sites and video chats. In a typical incident involving multiple platforms, the offender approached the child on a social networking site where they learn personal information about the child such as who their family and friends are, or where they go to school. The offender then attempted to move the communication to an anonymous messaging app or live stream video chat where they obtained sexually explicit content from the child.

As a result of sextortion, child victims commonly experience negative outcomes, including hopelessness, fear, anxiety and depression. Overall it was indicated in 13 percent of CyberTipline sextortion reports received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the child victim had experienced some type of negative outcome. Of those reports with some type of negative outcome, it was indicated that about 1 in 3 children (31 percent; 4 percent of all sextortion reports) had engaged in self harm, threatened suicide or attempted suicide as a result of the victimization.


During a question and answer session, a listener asked how police handle sexting in schools. Lt. Spears said it often depends on which agency is handling it and in which state. He tells his school resource officers to first determine whether the other sexting recipient is an adult or a known juvenile.

“If it is a known juvenile, I encourage the school resource officer to reach out to the parent and bring this information to the forefront at home,” Spears said. “The reason I say that is the parent is the one who furnished the device; usually it is a smartphone. And all too often, parents, I find, constantly want to depend on the school system to provide sex education, and that is a parent’s job. I truly believe it is a parent’s job to talk about sex and the birds and the bees, and the school does facilitate training. We encourage parents and have them respond to the school; that way the phone can be turned over to the parents, and prior to that we erase or factory reset the information. We also tell the parent that the images may be stored on their cloud system at home, and depending on those images, we notify them that they may be in possession of child pornography if they do not take a proactive approach on erasing this. Usually that really grabs the parents’ attention and they respond to the school. We try to keep the parents involved.”

Although apps are available to parents to limit what children can see on their phones, presenters said parents need to be vigilant and involved.

“It goes back to, is this child old enough to be given a smartphone? They still make regular phones that you can dial out for safety reasons,” Spears said. “I would not just leave it up to an app to monitor and be the virtual parent. It has to be a collaborative effort between the parent and the app and constant communication with the child even on these difficult subjects.”

In response to a suggestion that youth/peer leaders (such as older siblings) could educate other children on limiting use of electronic devices, Hall said it could be a good approach to get children to reduce their online activity because youth will listen to their peers.

“Without boundaries, we are not helping the children. We need to work on how that works from within the home, and then include those other resources that are available to us to reinforce that, because the more that children become aware that not only does it start from the home but is also out there in our community and our world around us, they are more accepting to take that approach and eventually those peers will help educate their own, which is really a healthy approach. Community peer groups with other teenagers and kids is a huge benefit because obviously they’re going to listen to them.”

Resources. Sample resources cited by presenters:

Common Sense,

Childnet International,


Cyberbullying Research Center,

Family Online Safety Institute,

International Association of Chiefs of Police,

Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force,

Internet safety 101,

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,


Violence Prevention Works!,

Local and federal law enforcement

For additional information, view the webinar here.

Article photo:

Police cars at night

Using Shotguns as Less-Lethal Weapons

Using Shotguns as Less-Lethal Weapons

Shotguns, long a staple of law enforcement departments, can be used to fire less-lethal rounds. When the Corvallis Police Department moved away from everyday use of shotguns in favor of patrol rifles, it decided to repurpose shotguns for use solely as less-lethal weapons.

In 2017, the department repurposed its 12-guage pump action shotguns for use as less-lethal weapons by fitting them with orange stocks labeled “less-lethal,” and orange fore-ends, according to Lt. Dan Duncan, public information officer for the department.

Officer holding shotgun and shell

The department uses a less-lethal shotgun round made of a polymer material that is designed to “pancake,” or flatten on impact. The shells of the ammunition are transparent with an orange band and label for high visibility.

The shotguns are still able to fire standard lethal ammunition. To guard against accidental use of live rounds, the department was careful to remove all standard live shotgun ammunition from the police department building and vehicles.

“We had to go through our department and basically scour every desk and locker and nook and cranny to ensure we did not have any live shotgun ammunition anywhere,” Duncan says. “The shotgun loads and functions the same with less-lethal rounds, which is why we had to be diligent on gathering up the lethal rounds and ensure there was no access to them in the building or patrol cars.

“The less-lethal rounds have a transparent casing and the internal part is orange so they are blatantly marked that they are a less-lethal round, very distinct, which is another safety measure we wanted.”

Located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Corvallis encompasses about 14 square miles. The department has 60 sworn police officers that serve a population of about 57,000.

In patrol vehicles, Corvallis officers carry patrol rifles and their assigned handguns, as well as the less-lethal shotguns. Other less-lethal options used by the department include Tasers and pepper spray.

“The conversion took away a long-standing lethal option that we were not deploying or using and gave us one more less-lethal option when we come into a situation,” Duncan says. “The more tools we can provide of a less-lethal nature to our staff, the better off we are going to be. A Taser or pepper spray may not be an effective tool given a particular scenario. The shotgun with the less-lethal rounds we use can reach up to about 25 yards.”

The department trains officers regularly on use of standard and less-lethal weapons.

For more information, contact Lt. Dan Duncan at

Article photo: Corvallis Police Department

Ambulance in traffic

Pennsylvania System Tracks and Centralizes Drug Overdose Information

Pennsylvania System Tracks and Centralizes Drug Overdose Information

Pennsylvania has established a statewide online system to track and share information on drug overdoses, administration of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, and investigative leads and markings for street drugs.

The Pennsylvania Overdose Information Network (ODIN), implemented in March 2018, was developed by the Pennsylvania State Police in coordination with the Liberty Mid-Atlantic High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HITDA). It serves as a centralized information repository available to criminal justice agencies across the state, and supplements information being collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health for other first responders and noncriminal justice agencies. Ability to enter and access data in ODIN varies with the type of user.

Bag of drugs

ODIN data includes location of naloxone administration, how many doses were administered and what happened to victims after they received naloxone.

Illegal drugs come in different kinds of packaging. For example, stamp bags are small wax-coated bags commonly used to hold heroin, and are sometimes stamped with an emblem or symbol by drug dealers. These identifiable markings can possibly indicate who the drug was purchased from or the area from which it was obtained.

“The markings can be entered into ODIN, and criminal justice agencies can search the system to determine if any other agency has drug investigations with similar characteristics and if those incidents can be connected,” says Karina Reed, intelligence analyst supervisor for the Drug Analysis Unit in the State Police’s Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center. “It is basically a pointer index to provide the capability to reach out to investigators in another jurisdiction who also have overdose incidents with similar characteristics to see if the cases are related.”

The information in ODIN can be used by both law enforcement and health care agencies to identify areas with high levels of drug activity, and inform efforts for drug enforcement, prevention and treatment.

ODIN is available to agencies through the Pennsylvania Justice Network (JNET), the state’s primary public safety and criminal justice information portal. ODIN is accessible through personal computers housed at an agency, not from mobile devices such as smartphones.

In 2016, Pennsylvania was among the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose (37.9 per 100,000), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( Preliminary numbers from the CDC indicate in the 12 months that ended with September 2017, the number of drug overdose deaths in the state was 5,577, an increase of 38.4 percent from the 4,030 that occurred in the previous 12-month period (

Naloxone ToolikitPhase 2 of the ODIN project will include mapping of overdose incidents and administration of naloxone, and creating a bridge to various existing individual county systems to eliminate duplicate data entry and share information across platforms.

According to Reed, data on overdoses and naloxone administrations will be shared with the Pennsylvania Opioid Data Dashboard, a public facing website that includes information on various aspects of the opioid problem including treatment and prevention (

Pennsylvania has about 1,117 law enforcement agencies in the state. As of mid-May, 231 agencies had entered data on at least one incident into ODIN, according to Reed, and more than 3,400 users had logged in and used the system. There were 1,403 overdose incidents reported by system users, with 765 law enforcement naloxone administrations, of which there were 50 fatalities. Data goes back to Jan. 1, 2018, because some agencies retroactively entered information into ODIN after it became available in March.

“Our goal is not to just collect the incidents of overdoses but also collect information such as victim demographics, the details about what happened after the victim received naloxone, how many doses of naloxone were administered and the suspected drug that caused the overdose,” Reed says. “The system is designed primarily to fill the strategic void to help inform policy and decision making by law enforcement administrators and leaders in public health and safety at both the state and local levels and be able to share details about what is happening in their communities.”

For more information, contact Karina Reed at

Article photo:Couperfield/, PureRadiancePhoto/

senior with doctor

Safe Seniors Camera Program Seeks to Protect the Elderly

Safe Seniors Camera Program Seeks to Protect the Elderly

Wisconsin has started a pilot program to help people who suspect that an elderly family member is being abused at home by a caretaker.

Under the Safe Seniors Camera Program, the state Department of Justice will provide covert cameras and memory cards to citizens for 30 days through local partner law enforcement agencies. Participants in the program are interviewed, sign a contract and are required to save recordings daily and report misconduct to a local law enforcement agency or the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation.

close up of micro camera

Seven law enforcement agencies in eastern Wisconsin are participating in the pilot program (Appleton Police Department, Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Fond du Lac Police Department, Grand Chute Police Department, Oshkosh Police Department, Outagami County Sheriff’s Office and Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office).

“If people suspect their senior loved one is being victimized by abuse or neglect, we can set them up with covert cameras with memory cards in the home, and they have to download video from the card daily and if see anything suspicious is happening and if so, notify us,” says Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. “With the cameras, they can either gather proof that what they suspect is happening, or get peace of mind that something is not happening.”

The cameras do not capture audio on the recording, only video. The program does not apply to nursing homes and other care facilities with multiple patients.

“The numbers gathered by groups that provide professional services to seniors tell us that one in nine seniors has been a victim of abuse, neglect or some type of exploitation in the last 12 months, which is unacceptable,” Schimel says.

In an annual report, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services breaks down primary reasons for calls to agencies regarding abuse, neglect or exploitation of older adults into financial exploitation, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, unreasonable confinement/restraint, neglect by others and self-neglect. The latest report, Wisconsin’s Annual Elder Abuse and Neglect Report: 2016, is available at

The state announced the camera program in February 2018, and received a warm reception from organizations that serve the elderly. As of late March, no citizens had signed up for the program, and the state may need to promote the program more to make people aware it is available, according to Schimel.

For more information, contact John Koremenos, director of communications and public affairs for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, at

Article photo: BravissimoS/Shutterstock

inmate with virtual reality headset

Using Virtual Reality to Prepare Inmates for Release

Using Virtual Reality to Prepare Inmates for Release

Colorado is using virtual reality technology as part of a new program to help some longtime inmates prepare for possible release and life outside of prison.

The Juveniles Convicted as Adults Program (JCAP) began in fall 2017 at the medium security Fremont Correctional Facility in Cañon City. The three-year program targets felony juvenile offenders, convicted and sentenced as adults for serious crimes, who have served at least 20 years of their sentences. Currently there are nine male inmates in the program.inmate using virtual reality headset

The program includes classroom instruction on a range of topics, from job skills training to health care concepts and time management to dealing with confrontational situations. Virtual reality is being used as part of the program to immerse inmates in a lifelike environment and familiarize them with modern ways of doing activities such as grocery shopping with automated checkout, laundry, and how to conduct themselves during a job interview. Inmates must complete the three-year program to be considered for early release by a review panel.

“This program was created to help this group of offenders build skills or use tools that they did not get to use because they have been incarcerated while they were young and in the majority of their adulthood,” says Melissa Smith, education program administrator for the Colorado Department of Corrections. “This program is to deliver training and allow them to build life skills, coping skills, daily life functioning skills, technology skills, cognitive education, business and career technology, college aptitude — everything and anything that we could possibly create in an environment for them to learn and practice. It was truly developed to help provide these offenders with the opportunity to gain real-world knowledge of what today’s environment and society is like and how to interact in that environment.”

The virtual reality portion of the program includes, for example, interactive scenarios on interviewing for a job, how to deal with a difficult individual, conflict with an angry customer, how to clean an apartment, how to order from a full-service restaurant, conflict with an angry boss, refusing drugs on a street corner, how to use a cellphone, and avoiding a fight with an angry man.

The program is continually accepting applications from inmates, which are reviewed through a committee and the director of prisons. Applicants must meet certain qualifications to be accepted into the program.

As far as reaction from initial program participants, Smith says, “They are very excited about it. I think in the beginning they were nervous about whether this was something they could grasp or could learn, and so with their comfort of knowing that they can be successful utilizing these new technologies and these new tools, we’ve seen a lot more ease and excitement for learning.”

In the spring, the department plans to establish the same program for women at the La Vista Correctional Facility, a medium security facility in Pueblo. Corrections agencies in several states have also inquired about the program.

For more information, contact Melissa Smith at

Article photo: The Pueblo Chieftain

Officer flying drone

Loudoun County Using Project Lifesaver sUAS

Loudoun County Using Project Lifesaver sUAS

A Virginia sheriff’s office is using a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) with a Project Lifesaver antenna, which provides enhanced ability to track people with certain medical conditions that may wander away from home.

The Project Lifesaver program is an electronic-based locating system for people with medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s or autism. Clients are fitted with a wristband transmitter that emits a unique frequency so they can be located if they wander away and become lost.

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office has been active in the Project Lifesaver program, using ground-based antennas, since 2009. It began using an sUAS equipped with a Project Lifesaver antenna in September 2017. The signal can be acquired by the sUAS at a distance of seven to nine miles.

The sUAS carries infrared and thermal cameras to assist with search and rescue operations, and can be used to search for anyone, not just those registered with the lifesaver program. Loudoun has six pilots certified to fly sUAS under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The office also has approval to fly at night.

“We have a strong Project Lifesaver program in the county and obviously in the past have provided ground support with deputies using the devices,” says Master Deputy Matt Devaney, rescue team lead and UAS coordinator. “Using ground antennas is good but there are limitations of using it strictly from the ground. The sUAS carries the Project Lifesaver payload, and using it we can limit the number of people out on the ground and cover a larger area to help locate people even quicker.”

In December 2017, the sUAS was used to locate a lost 92-year-old hunter in a wooded area of Shenandoah County. Seven members of the search and rescue team responded and used the sUAS to search the area. Devaney was the pilot for that search. “We found him within 20 minutes of liftoff.”

The county’s sUAS was the first in Virginia to be equipped with a Project Lifesaver antenna. The sUAS Loudoun uses has a battery duration of 45 to 50 minutes. The technology allows a search of a larger area quickly and mapping to a grid.

“For the Project Lifesaver side of it, we have tested it on the ground, and with the handheld antenna, our average range is about three-quarters of a mile, whereas with the drone up in the air, we are averaging seven to nine miles in being able to get a signal and directionality as to where the lost or missing person is located,” Devaney says.

Project Lifesaver is a nationwide program, but each jurisdiction maintains clients within its jurisdiction. Currently, Loudoun has 118 Project Lifesaver clients signed up. The county has used the sUAS to conduct search and rescue missions since September, but as of early March had not had to use it to locate a client in the lifesaver program.

Loudoun participates in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and provides mutual aid to jurisdictions in northern Virginia and southern Maryland. Over the years the Loudoun team has traveled to Montgomery County in Maryland and Prince William and Fairfax counties in Virginia to assist with ground searchers for lost persons or evidence searches.

Loudoun County has a population of about 380,000 residents in 520 square miles. The sheriff’s office provides a range of support (e.g., patrol, court security, corrections, special operations, traffic reconstruction, search and rescue, criminal investigation and school security) and has a jail with 600 beds. The department has about 600 sworn personnel.

For more information, contact Kraig Troxell, sheriff’s office media relations and communications manager, and at

Article photo: drial7m1/iStock

New Facility Adds to University’s Research Capability on Unmanned Aircraft Systems

New Facility Adds to University’s Research Capability on Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The University of Maryland has added an outdoor, netted facility near its main campus in College Park for researching and testing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The 100-foot wide, 300-foot long, 50-foot high Fearless Flight Facility (F3) opened in the fall and is enclosed by durable black netting of the same type of material used on golf driving ranges, which enables the flying of UAS within restricted airspace, according to Don Woodbury, director of innovation partnerships at the university.

The airspace around Washington, D.C., is more restricted than in any other part of the country. The university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering is within the flight restriction zone, but because of the netting, the F3 is considered indoors, and the restrictions do not apply. The university talked to the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure there would not be issues with flying UAS in the netted area.

“The goal of the netted area is to enable researchers and students to fly outdoors in the restricted airspace area for the Washington area. We also wanted to be able to fly safely because when people are experimenting they sometimes might lose control of the aircraft,” Woodbury says.

Prior to F3, UAS research was limited to indoor labs on campus, and for outdoor testing, to the university’s UAS Test Site in California, Md., about 70 miles from College Park or at other outdoor sites outside of the restricted flight area. F3 allows researchers and students to conduct experiments in close proximity to campus in a real-world environment exposed to wind and other weather conditions, without having to travel.

“We wanted to add to capabilities on campus for unmanned aircraft systems. We can fly indoors and have a wind tunnel to test UAS, and now we have this outdoor area adjacent to campus. It allows ready access to fly, convenient to students, faculty and researchers who can walk out of their labs and fly instead of figuring out where to go off campus outside of the restricted flight area,” Woodbury says.

F3 was built for less than $300,000 using university funds. The facility will be used by researchers and by students enrolled in courses about unmanned aircraft and by UAS-related clubs on campus for racing and other activities. The university also is planning on offering an engineering camp for high school students to learn how to build an unmanned aircraft from a kit and how to fly it.

“We have a broad set of objectives focused on research, education and recreation,” Woodbury says. Ongoing research projects at the university include an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to track and take down an adversary UAV.

“We have a UAV designed to track an adversary UAV — track, hone in on it, and launch a net to drag it to the ground,” Woodbury says. “Other people are doing similar research, but Maryland is using a biomimetic approach, which is different, designing the device to actually track the adversary the same way as biological systems, in this case like a dragonfly tracks an adversary.”

For more information, contact Anjanette Riley, communication coordinator, University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering, at

Article photo: University of Maryland