Browsing: Public Safety

The May 22, 2011, tornado in Joplin, Mo., rated an EF-5—the most powerful ranking—on the Enhanced Fujita tornado intensity scale. It caused 161 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries, making it the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since we began keeping official records in 1950. With losses approaching $3 billion, it was also the costliest tornado on record. All told, the tornado damaged 553 business structures and nearly 7,500 residential structures. Over 3,000 of those residences were heavily damaged or completely destroyed. I was among a small, but highly skilled team of engineers and a sociologist dispatched to the scene two days later to collect data on how well the buildings and emergency communications systems had performed during the storm.…

For as long as we have had automobiles, we have had traffic accidents. Even the vehicles that we depend on to take care of us in the event of an accident — ambulances — get into accidents nearly every day. Because ambulances are basically a small emergency room on wheels, the occupants in the back are at perhaps even more serious risk of being injured or killed during an accident than those in other vehicles. This is especially true when you consider that ambulances are often weaving through traffic at high speed on the way to the hospital. According to a 20-year National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study (PDF), there is an average of 4,500 crashes involving ambulances every…

Nancy Drew and Kay Scarpetta — two names that will always put a smile on my face. I spent much of my youth reading about these two strong female characters. What do they have in common? They are fictional detectives that had an early influence on the career in DNA forensics that I have today at NIST. As a young, avid reader, I remember always being at the bookstore when the latest Nancy Drew book was released, and I would devour it as fast as I could. These mysteries made me think, solve analytical problems, and simply want the “bad guys” to be caught and punished. I wanted to figure it out and actually be Nancy Drew. If I really…

Today in Taking Measure we asked Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipient Tara Lovestead a few questions about her life and work. Tara was recognized for her extensive application of new methods to rapidly and inexpensively detect trace levels of chemicals in vapors, enabling advances in homeland security, forensics, and food safety. What brought you to NIST? After I finished my bachelor’s in nutrition at Virginia Tech, I attended The University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder for both my master’s and Ph.D. in chemical engineering. My research focused on ultraviolet (UV) light-curable cross-linking polymer kinetics — a fancy way of saying I studied things like how dental fillings harden under UV light. Upon finishing my Ph.D.,…

Earlier this week at NIST, we brought together a diverse group of people who will have a profound influence on the future of our cities and the services provided to their citizens. These 300 leaders from government, industry, and academia came to attend an event called the Global City Team Challenge (GCTC) Tech Jam. The GCTC program, launched in 2014 by NIST with a number of partners from the federal government and industry, is one way that NIST is supporting the Administration’s Smart City Initiative announced last September. Two of the questions I get most often when I mention this topic are: What is a “smart city”? And why is NIST involved? I’ll offer my perspective, and I encourage you…