Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vote YES: Smyrna (DE) Police Building Referendum

Smyrna Police Department
On April 30, 2012 residents of Smyrna, DE have the opportunity to vote for an upgrade to the building utilized by the Smyrna Police Department.  This issue has been added to the referendum of the 2012 Smyrna Town Council Election.  Elections will be held from 1pm-8pm at Citizens' Hose Company.  The referendum does not guarantee that a new police department will be built, but it will show the council what the residents of Smyrna would like to happen.

There is a need for a new police department building.  From the most basic perspective, the town of Smyrna has grown significantly in the past several years.  This creates a larger area the officers must patrol, which has increased the number of officers and vehicles required to keep Smyrna safe.  These increases have made the police officers outgrow their own department.  Currently several officers are actually utilizing offices located in the public works building.  Having officers need to travel back and forth between buildings in order to do simple tasks is a hindering on their ability to efficiently do their jobs and aid the citizens of the community.

Furthermore, due to the age of the current police department building, it does not meet the requirements for accreditation.  Accreditation of the police department makes them eligible for federal grant funding.  Although this might not seem important, federal grant funding significantly decreases funding required by the community for the department.  Through various federal agencies funding can be acquired to cover the costs of new police cruisers, technology equipment (such as their recently awarded Panasonic Toughbook), training, and various other items that assist in the policing abilities of the department.

Chief Wil Bordley
Although the department building is covered under a grandfather clause with the Department of Justice, the holding cells in the current building do not meet current day compliance standards.  The minimal amount of holding facilities in the current building do not allow for the appropriate division of men, women, and juveniles.  When there is an influx of suspects, the officers are sometimes forced to use the processing and interview areas as holding cells.

Proposed Police Department
These are all issues that would be fully addressed in the construction of a new police building.  The new proposed 26,900 square foot facility would be on the existing site of the current police department on Glenwood Avenue but would expand to the old Public Works building, which would be demolished. The new facility, if approved, will include a first floor, sally port, renovation of the existing building, and a basement.  The new building would also be prepared to deal with continued increased growth of the town of Smyrna.

The cost of the new police department is estimated to be up to $4.9 million.  However, that estimate is a worst-case scenario, and it is expected to be built for significantly less. In terms of taxes, taxes could go up 4.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.  Although no resident likes to hear that a tax increase will occur, for the majority of homeowners in the town of Smyrna, that increase equates to only $4-$8/month.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Pitfalls of Social Networking

We've written before about the benefits of Facebook for police departments.  However, private Facebook profiles can have some pretty detrimental consequences for officers (police, fire, and EMS) if they are not careful.

Cases of inappropriate Facebook conduct by officers can be seen throughout Facebook and the news.  One of the most high profile lately is that of (now former) Secret Service Agent David Chaney.  He posted a photo of himself guarding Sarah Palin.  Had it stopped there, there would have been nothing inappropriate about the post.  However, he then proceeded to mention that he was "really checking her out."  Because this photograph was taken of him while he was in the course of performing his duties, it was grossly inappropriate to make a comment like that.  At the time, he probably thought nothing of it and figured it would be humorous to his friends.  However, when combined with the high profile Columbian prostitute scandal, his personal Facebook page has quickly become a national sensation.  It even forced him to resign from the Secret Service.

In 2011, a gang unit officer in Albuquerque, New Mexico got into some hot water for his listed occupation on Facebook.  Again, due to what was probably a lapse in judgement, Officer Trey Economidy listed his profession as "human waste disposal."  Again, no one noticed until something happened.  Officer Economidy was involved in what was ruled to be a clean on duty suspect shooting.  However, reporters found the comment on his Facebook page which forced the department to reprimand him.  He was placed on temporary desk duty and then reassigned to out of the gang unit.

A brief Google search of inappropriate police comments will yield pages of news articles depicting inappropriate pictures, comments, and actions being posted by the officers themselves.  Comments that have nothing to do with work or that are made in a completely joking manner can be completely misread by others, landing the officers in a great deal of trouble.

Mark A. Marshall, chief of police in Smithfield, Va., and the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said, "This is something that all the police chiefs around the country, if you’re not dealing with it, you better deal with it."  The content placed on Facebook (or any other social networking website) has the capacity to not just make the officer involved look bad, but it can place a detrimental view on the entire department.

So, how do you protect both yourself and your department?

  1. Think about what you are posting online.  Might it offend your mother, wife, coworkers, or chief?
  2. Remember that once it is on the internet, there is no getting it back!  It takes only a second for someone to do a screen print and capture an image of your statement or photo.  Even if you realize it was in bad taste and delete it, that screen capture is always there.
  3. Keep comments about officer locations to yourself.  This is particularly important when referring to undercover officers and those wounded/killed in action.  Keeping that information private is vital to the safety of the officer and their family.
  4. If in doubt, pictures of yourself in uniform (or with your cruiser) with scantily clad women is probably a bad idea.  So is making comments about how a suspect 'deserved it' or anything that makes you sound as though you don't follow proper policing procedures.
  5. Have a private Facebook page.  With appropriate Facebook settings, the only people who can view your posts and pictures are your friends.  
  6. Most importantly, know that people are watching!  This is particularly true when you find yourself in the middle of an incident... because if there is something to find, people will find it!
Although these ideas might seem silly and insignificant to you, they probably seem like pretty good advice to officers who have lost their jobs, been forced to resign, been reassigned, or had a case thrown out of court because of something they stupidly posted on the internet.


Friday, April 20, 2012

A Better Bullet Proof Vest

The concept of body armor has been utilized since the Middle Ages.  These days the majority of police officers wear armor.  Their armor is a second-chance vest, more commonly referred to as a bullet-proof or bullet-resistant vest.

These vests utilize multiple layers of a strong fiber to 'catch' and deform a bullet.  Instead of penetrating the vest, the force of the bullet is spread throughout the fibers which deforms the bullet.  Although the wearer will suffer the trauma of the force of the bullet, it will not penetrate the skin.  Although the fabric of the second-chance vest is not designed to withstand impact of sharp instruments (such as knives), many have the options of adding a metal plate to increase protection of vital areas.

There are various types of vests on the market.  Some are lightweight and easy to maneuver in.  Some, such as those made of Kevlar, are heavier and less wearer-friendly.  Vests also only protect the center of the torso, in an effort to protect vital organs.  Do to the force absorbed by the wearer, damage can still occur from the blunt force (similar to being struck with a bat or pipe dependent on the distance of the shot being absorbed).  However, a new technology not yet on the market is looking to change that.

BAE Systems, a major defense and security company, is currently working on what can best be referred to as a super gel.  The gel is formerly referred to as Shear Thickening Liquid.  The liquid has freely suspended particles that bind together when they are disturbed.  Stewart Pinney, head of business development at BAE, described it as, "Imagine slowly stirring a container of Shear Thickening Liquid: You would feel little resistance initially, and the faster you stir the more the resistance would increase."  In a bullet-resistance mode, the fluid would almost instantaneously lock together when it was hit; both deflecting the bullet and absorbing the impact.

It is speculated that this 'super gel' could actually be used between layers of Kevlar vest.  This would give the benefits of Kevlar and the of the super gel.  Only, this merged technology vest would be up to 45% thinner and lighter than today's conventional vests (and significantly lighter than today's Kevlar vests).  The gel also spreads out the area that the bullet force is absorbed, significantly decreasing the natural inward bend of traditional vests.  This significantly reduces the possibility that the wearer will suffer the trauma associated with being hit in a regular vest.

This new technology in body armor is currently still under research.  Although it is being designed and tested for use by warfighters in the US Military, BAE Systems is fully aware of the usefulness it would have for first responders such as police officers and ambulance crews.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Need To Add GPS To Your Computer?

Technology seems to advance at a rate faster than we can keep up with it.  It seems like just yesterday that computers/laptops started to come with built-in wireless cards, allowing you to be connected to the internet at home or work.  Next was Bluetooth, allowing you to sync multiple Bluetooth devices.  Then along came broadband cards, allowing you to be connected to the internet anywhere.  More recently, they have started to come with the option of having GPS installed, allowing you to fully utilize mapping software while on the go.

Being able to have GPS built into your MDT (mobile data terminal) is a great option for first responders, as it decreases the number of technological tools users need to utilize in a response.  But, what do you do if you have older MDT's or Panasonic Toughbooks that didn't come equipped with GPS?  You can add it on!  By utilizing a Garmin USB GPS Receiver and Garmin MapSource Software, you can add GPS to any laptop running Windows XP (or newer) that is connected to the broadband.

The Garmin USB GPS units are an OEM, high-sensitivity GPS sensor for use in automotive, fleet vehicle, and electronics applications that require a small, highly accurate GPS receiver.  This high-sensitivity, puck-like receiver is 2.4" in diameter and weighs just a few ounces, making it an ideal solution for applications where space is at a premium such as in first responder vehicles.

The features of the Garmin USB GPS include:

  • Automatically tracks multiple satellites for fast, accurate positioning
  • Position errors of less than three meters
  • Compact and rugged design
  • 10-day battery life
  • Waterproof design

This option eliminates the need to replacing your MDTs/Toughbooks for ones with a GPS.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

FREE Hands On Domestic Preparedness Training

The Center for Domestic Preparedness is the US Department of Homeland Security's only federally chartered Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) training center.  Unlike most training programs for biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive weapons, the one offered by the Center for Domestic Preparedness is hands-on.  The training programs offered are the best and most advanced programs for first responders.

Different training courses are offered throughout the year.  Some of the types of classes offered include Crime Scene Management for CBRNE Incidents, Law Enforcement Protective Measures for CBRNE Incidents, and Radiological Emergency Response Operations.  A full schedule of courses can be viewed on their website.  Most training courses have a prerequisite of having completed an AWR-160 or FEMA-approved awareness-level training for CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive) response.  Some courses do require additional prerequisites; any additional requirements can be found in the registration packet for the course.

Courses offered through the Center for Domestic Preparedness are available for state, local, and tribal responders that are from the following disciplines:

  • EMA - Emergency Management Agency
  • EMS - Emergency Medical Services
  • Fire Services
  • Government Administrators
  • Hazardous Materials Personnel
  • Healthcare Workers (non-EMS)
  • Law Enforcement
  • Public Health
  • Public Safety Communication
  • Public Works

Previous attendees of these training courses have raved about their formats, education level, and hands-on experiences.  Many departments would like attend additional training or send more members of their department to get the same experience, as they feel that this training has better prepared them for emergency response than any other training they have attended

The best part about this training is that it is fully funded by the Department of Homeland Security.  DHS covers airfare, transportation, meals and lodging.  To register for upcoming training programs, simply visit the Center for Domestic Preparedness website.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Firefighters: How Important Is Physical Fitness?

Firefighting is dangerous work.  Each year, approximately 80,000 firefighters are injured and about 100 firefighters lose their lives in the line of duty.  Firefighters face multiple dangers in the course of their work; they encounter toxic fumes, dangerous products of combustion, high radiant heat loads, and a chaotic work environment. 

Despite the abundance of dangers, the leading cause of line-of-duty death among firefighters is sudden cardiac event.  Sudden cardiac events account for approximately 45% of line-of-duty deaths Firefighting requires high levels of aerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and being in optimal physical condition also significantly decreases the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.  The safety of the public and the health and safety of firefighters would be enhanced if firefighters followed well-designed fitness programs to improve overall health and fitness.

An excellent basic routine for firefighters to begin implementing is as follows:
  • Getups – This functional “get up and down” exercise works your body as one unit, utilizing core muscles and balance throughout the major muscle groups.
  • Crawling – Also called bear crawls, this crawling quad-ped movement improves hip, trunk, and overall body control and is an important element for enhancing physical performance.
  • Cross Chop – This cross lunge motion is a challenging exercise targeting core muscles, thigh muscles, and arm muscles.
  • Pushups – Most people are familiar with the pushup but this simple exercise can be modified with one foot, one hand, cross feet, and serpentine modifications.
  • Deadlift – As part of maintaining back health, the deadlift works lower back, glutials, and hamstrings with use of weights.
  • Power Sled Pulls/Drags – The sled pull or drag perfectly mimics some of the common movements of carrying hose or heavy equipment.
  • Cable/Band Pulls – The use of resistance bands to flex the muscles of the back and arms is an extremely effective upper body movement exercise.
  • Lunges – Another commonly known movement that can be further enhanced with the use of dumbbells.
  • Step ups – An strong lower body routine that mimics aerobic exercise and can be used in conjunction with weights or dumbbells.
  • A Core Series – The core muscles are the nexus of strength and a highly vigorous routine will help improve balance, overall strength, performance, and help prevent injury.
These exercises have a high transfer of effect, are also movement based, and will mimic movements you naturally utilize while in action.  Along with keeping you in good physical condition, these exercises will strengthen the muscles that are heavily taxed when on a fire call, such as your legs and back.

You can also get creative and work out with simple equipment laying around your department.  Check out the following video to see an entire workout series utilizing nothing but department tools and space!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Congratulations To Our Newest Win A Toughbook Winner!

HopeHose Humane Co. #1 in Bordentown, NJ was recently presented with a refurbished Panasonic Toughbook CF-19.  The receipt of this Toughbook was through a need-based program offered on a quarterly basis by Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff in Smyrna, DE.

Chief Pete Sedor submitted a short essay expressing the need of a Toughbook for his department.  Hope Hose Humane Co. #1 was determined as the recipient for this quarter based on the fact that they are a volunteer department that is funded primarily through donations and a yearly allotment from the city of Bordentown These funds are utilized for mandatory purchases such as training, maintenance, and yearly testing of equipment, leaving them little available for additional items to better serve their community.
The addition of this Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 will have a significant impact on their department and their service to the community.  The computer can be utilized to store all of the building preplans and emergency contact information that is necessary to have on hand during an emergency response.  At Hope Hose Humane Co. #1, this information is currently being stored in bulky binders that are taking up valuable space in the cabs of their emergency vehicles.  According to Chief Pete Sedor, “A Toughbook would immensely help with space, organization and expansion of valuable information needed at emergency scenes.”

Upon learning that his department had been determined as the award recipient, Chief Pete Sedor expressed his gratitude for, “providing Hope Hose Humane Co. #1 and emergency services everywhere the valuable opportunity to receive equipment and technology to help better serve our communities.”  Per Jodi Quick, Toughbook Sales Manager at Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff, “This need-based Panasonic Toughbook award program is open to all police, fire, and EMS departments in the U.S.  We look forward to helping other departments better serve their communities.”  For further information on this program, please contact us via email.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Are You Missing Out On Free Grant Money?

We've written before about how to get grant money, however, it seems as though a lot of departments are missing out on the opportunity to add (potentially) a significant amount of equipment to their departments through free funding!  A brief search online will find literally thousands of available opportunities for police grants and fire grants.  The funding opportunities come from federal grant programs, state grant programs, and even corporate grant opportunities.

Tips For Finding Federal/State Funding:

Make Sure Your Grant Gets Reviewed:
  • The product you are looking to purchase and your department must meet the guidelines of the grant.  Be sure to read all of the fine print (product specifications, department size, response area, etc).  If your needs don't completely match the grant, look for a different one.
  • Apply for the high priority items of a grant.  For example, if a federal or state grant is looking to help you upgrade police cruisers, request Toughbooks and automated license plate readers over newer sirens and lights.  It shows you have a greater need and therefore you are more likely to receive funding.
  • Show your need!  If you are looking to replace/upgrade equipment that is below the current safety standards, be sure to express the percentage of your department that is utilizing sub-par equipment.  An entire fire department with outdated turnout gear is more likely to get funded then one that only has 20% outdated gear.
  • Follow the directions!  It sounds simple, but many grants are removed from the review process simply for not following directions.  Fully fill out all forms and attach any and all documentation being requested.
  • Get help!  Utilize grant writing services, attend a seminar/training on grant writing, or simply have someone else in your department assist you.  A second set of eyes reviewing everything can't hurt!
  • Start early!  This allows you to take your time and fully prepare all of the information you need to submit a grant that will secure you funding.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Small Drones for Local Police Departments

For the last forty years, AeroVironment has been committed to creating and delivering power new unmanned aircraft, also referred to as drones.  In the past they have previously been the primary manufacturer for the Department of Defense or the US Military.  These drones have been used in military combat and surveillance situations for decades.

A recent act of legislation opening US skies to unmanned aircraft brings the option of utilizing the drones on our home front as well.  AeroVironment is looking to start producing smaller (and less costly) drones for use by local police departments.  These drones are currently in place (both in field use and in testing) at some police departments in the US.  Departments that have been utilizing them have found them to be quite helpful.

The use of these drones is quite controversial, as some are quite worried about Big Brother watching whatever they want from the sky.  However, these drones can be used to safely navigate crime scenes, track suspects, search for missing persons, and much more.

To learn more about drones, check out our previous blog (showing a drone being flown with a Toughbook) and the following video from CBS's This Morning:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Toughbook Repairs & Instructional Videos

We've previously reviewed the total cost of ownership of Panasonic Toughbooks.  In that review,  discussed that Panasonic Toughbooks have (on average) a 2.42% failure rate, making them significantly more durable that consumer-line laptops that average an 11-19% failure rate.That 2.42% failure rate means that at some point in time, a very small percentage of Panasonic Toughbooks will have some sort of issue that will need repair.  Of course, these issues can be from a hardware issue or from excessively rough usage by the owner.

Did you know that we also produce instructional repair videos which are posted on your YouTube channel, Toughbook Repair How To's?  The videos span across the semi- and fully-rugged Toughbook models that are still running in service.  They include the CF-52, CF-19, CF-30, CF-29, and CF-28.  These videos encompass common basic repair issues such as how to replace a hard drive and how to replace a keyboard.  They also cover more in-depth repairs including repairing or replacing internal components (like system boards WLAN cards) and the touchscreen.  The videos are very detailed and easy to follow, meaning you don't need to be a computer technician in order to complete the repair.

Worried that your computer technician skills aren't quite good enough to attempt an in-depth repair?  We at Bob Johnson's Computer Stuff also offer repairs and refurbishing of Panasonic Toughbooks.  This process can be as simple as cleaning up your unit or replacing defective hardware.  Contact a representative to learn more about our repairs.

Check out one of our most popular videos, How To Replace The Bezel on a CF-18.

Monday, April 2, 2012

REVIEW: The Hooligan

Paratech is a an established manufacturer of a wide array of emergency service products.  The company can be traced back 1963, although at that time it was under a different name.  The bulk of the products are focused on technical rescue, and some of their tools are most utilized in the technical rescue industry.

They are the manufacturers and creators of the Hooligan Tool.  The Paratech Hooligan Tool has set the standard of excellence for Hooligan type tools.  It has been the world's most popular heavy-duty, forcible-entry tool for more than 35 years.

The Hooligan is designed to pry, pound, puncture, twist, remove and cut open all types of barriers.  They come available in lengths of 24", 30", 36", and 42".

With a Hooligan from Paratech, you get:
  • Heat-treated alloy steel head and claw, permanently press fitted to a 1" stress-proof alloy bar
  • Machine-grooved, non-slip grips for a secure hold
  • Gently curved claw maximizes your prying leverage (also doubles as a nail puller and gas shut-off)
  • Duckbill: Long, smooth incline to force windows and interior doors
  • Pike: Super-hardened alloy point punctures almost anything
  • Bright Finish: The standard electroless nickel finish is available for good looks and easy maintenance
  • Parallel opening for gas valve shutoffs, locks and hasps
  • Claw radius offers optimal prying leverage
  • Recessed nail puller
  • Machine sharpened claws
Hooligan Tools are reasonably priced between $99 to $160, and they can be purchased directly from Paratech or through most firefighter gear companies.  Paratech has an entire section of their website dedicated towards user-submitted rescue stories where their tools made a significant impact; check them out to learn more about the versatility of The Hooligan.