Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cooling Vests for K-9s

It is unseasonably hot and humid in the mid-Atlantic region of the US this week.  And quite frankly, all I can do is sit here and think of ways to get cool....and how much I wish I had a cooling vest to cool me off.  If it's this hot now, I can only imagine what summer is going to bring.

For those of us who spend a great deal of time outdoors, officers who wear heavy uniforms or those who wear second chance vests, your core temperature can get quite warm.  We have the option of locating a cooler place or utilizing cooling vest.  It got me thinking about K-9 working dogs.  They're ability to function is affected just as much as ours when they are suffering from heat exposure.  They are obviously kept in specialized transport vehicles, but how do they stay cool when they are being utilized outside or in excessive heat?

There is actually an option for your K-9!  GlacierTek has developed a vest for dogs.  It is called the RPCM Chilly Dog Cooling Vest.  What is RPCM?  RPCM (Renewable Phase Change Material) is made from high-technology processed fats and oils - it's classified as "food grade" by the FDA. Think of it as "second generation" phase change material for the 21st century. All other phase change material (PCM) cooling vests use old-style petroleum byproducts like hexadecane, which contain hazardous chemicals. If it doesn't say RPCM®, it's just not safe!  

RPCM Cooling Vests maintain a comfortable 59°F (15°C), while ice or gel based systems are too cold at 32°F (0°C) or less. RPCM Cool Packs quickly recharge in only 20 minutes in ice water. They can also be recharged in a fridge or freezer.

GlacierTek has an entire line of cooling vests for people as well....both adults and children.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Brief History of Memorial Day

We all know that Memorial Day is one of those much appreciated holidays that guarantee us a long weekend the week of May.  It comes at a perfect time when the weather is just starting to really get nice all around the country.  But, do you know why we get that day off?

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day.  It was actually first celebrated on May 30th, 1868.  General James Garfield made a memorable speech at Arlington National Cemetery honoring both the Union and Confederate soldiers who gave their lives during the Civil War.  Following his speech, nearly 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves the 20,000 fallen soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  The holiday was not officially immediately recognized by all of the states, as the Southern states refused to honor their dead on the same day as the Northern States.  That changed after World War I when the day changed from honoring those who died in the Civil War to those who died in any war.

Over time, many people have forgotten the reason behind Memorial Day.  It is a day to honor those who sacrificed their life to uphold the freedoms of their country.  In an effort to remind (and re-educate) Americans of the meaning, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act in 2000.  It asks that at 3pm (local time) all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps."

We hope you all have a safe and enjoyable long holiday weekend, but we also hope you take a moment to remember that it is to remember those who gave their life to protect your country.

A little Memorial Day trivia...
Do you know why they sell the little red flowers on the side of the road during Memorial weekend?
The selling of poppies during Memorial Day by members of the VFW was actually inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields (below).  Funds raised through the selling of these flowers is used to help maintain and fund state and national veteran's rehabilitation programs.  It also helps to support the VFW National Home, which supports the orphans and widows of our nation's veterans.

In Flanders Fields - Lt. Col. John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields were valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
that blood of heroes never dies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thinking of Adding A K9 Unit: What You Should Know

The are multiple benefits to having a K9 unit in any police department.  K9s are more agile and have a significantly better sense of smell than humans.  This makes them more efficient at clearing buildings, tracking suspects or missing persons, seeking out drugs or explosives, and even locate accelerants in arson investigations.  However, there is a lot more to starting a K9 unit than having a large police vehicle and getting a dog.

There is a significant start up cost involved in starting a K9 unit.  Initial start up costs include purchasing a dog, equipment, proper transportation, food, vets, and training.  So, what can you look to spend?

  • The Dog - Purchase of a pre-trained adult dog will range between $4500-$15,000.  Reputable vendors will have warranties with their dogs, such as replacement if the dog develops a health issue or is deemed not to be a good fit within a few months of purchase.
  • The Vehicle - You can either purchase a vehicle specifically built for K9 units (which are going to cost slightly more than standard SUVs or cruisers).  These vehicles come with installed kennels, rear cooling systems, spill proof water dishes, heat alarms, and automatic door openers.  These items are essential for keeping your dog safe while in the vehicle (both with an officer and without), and allows the dog to be released from the vehicle in an officer distress.
  • The Vet - K9s are exposed to many more dangers than a common household pet.  They can be exposed to excessive heat/cold and they can be injured in the line of duty (such as through stabbings or gun shot wounds).  It is important that a 24-hour veterinarian who has experience in police dogs is a necessity.
  • The Training - Most K9s will come pre-trained by the company you purchase them from.  However, it is necessary at purchase to train your handler.  This makes sure that the dog and the handler are a good match and that all training the dog has previously received is understood.  K9s also require continuous training, similar to that of officers, to keep their skills fresh.
  • The Handler - Although this officer will still perform regular duties, they will also be required to take full responsibility for the K9.  Many departments have K9s live with their handlers (which is also recommended by many trainers).  If you do not currently have a member of your department who can devote both their on-duty and off-duty time to a K9, you will need to bring on an additional member as a K9 Handler.
It is also important to remember that there are going to be significant costs in maintaining a K9 unit as well. There are obvious expenses such as vehicle maintenance and well-check vet visits.  Often overlooked costs include the extra pay for the handler (as they are working a 24/7/365 job) and dog replacement.  Police dogs are generally around 2 years of age at the time of purchase; on average they are retired around 7-10 years of age.  This means approximately every five years you will need to replace your K9s.  Also, as they age, they are more likely to be prone to health issues (because of the breeds often used, they are prone to hip and knee issues as they age).

However, there are grant opportunities available for the purchase of K9s.  Grants vary on a state-by-state basis, but can significantly off-set the initial and follow-up costs.

If you are willing to dedicated the finances, time, and training to a K9, more information regarding K9 programs can be found through the US Police Canine Association and the North American Police Work Dog Association.  You should also talk with a local department about their experiences as well.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

VirTra Systems: Judgmental Use-Of-Force & Firearms Simulator

VirTra Systems is one of the leading manufacturers of firearms simulators.  They specialize in both military and law enforcement training, however, this blog will focus on the law enforcement training simulators.

The world can be a very dangerous place. Law enforcement officers are expected to make the correct decision, with excellent marksmanship, in split-second life-and-death situations. The better and more realistic the training, the greater the chance the trainee will succeed when lives hang in the balance and threats are real! Customers throughout the world buy our simulators for realistic training so that trainees have better chances to succeed in their missions and survive lethal encounters.

VirTra Systems simulators are one of the best when it comes to training for judgemental-use-of-force and marksmanship.  The simulators start as (highly portable) single-screen units, such as the VirTra 100 LE.  This unit is small enough that it can be placed into a classroom setting.  It comes with various scenarios that were created by veteran law enforcement officials.  Training is supported for pistols, rifles, shotguns, TASER, OC sprays, and impact devices.  An optional CO2 upgrade can be utilized to simulate the recoil of the weapons, making for a more accurate training experience.

The VirTra 100 LE is able to be upgraded, either at time of purchase or as financial budgets allow, to either the VirTra 180 LE or the VirTra 300 LE.  The VirTra 180 LE consists of three connected screens for the simulation. The highest standard for training is the VirTra 300 LE, which consists of five screens and give the trainees a 300 degree fully immersive surround of the training environment.  Combined with the optional Threat-Fire device (that simulates return fire), this simulator creates a highly realistic and intense training simulation.

There is currently a grant opportunity for VirTra Systems simulators being offered through PoliceOne.com.

To learn more about these simulators you can request information from VirTra Systems and/or check out the following video:

Monday, May 7, 2012

FAAC Inc. Offering Grants for Driving Simulators

FAAC Incorporated is one of the most well-recognized software and systems engineering companies.  The majority of their products are for the US Government.  They include products such as avionics training, weapon guidance, sensors, electronic warfare, training ranges, and threat air defenses (such as surface-to-air missiles).  However, they have more recently begun developing products for the public sector, such as driving simulators.

FAAC Incorporated has driving simulators for all the major aspects of public safety: fire, police, and EMS.  All simulators are comprised of true-to-life controls and components, allowing for full reproduction of curb jumps, road vibration, creating a "real" driving sensation.  With the five high-resolution viewing screens, the driver has an accurate and realistic driving view.  The system also allows for the integration of your MDT (mobile data terminal).

Each simulator comes equipped with multiple driving simulations.  This diminishes the possibility of officers learning the simulations, and forces them to continuously test their skills.  Simulations can be paused and/or replayed by the instructor to correct any issues with the decisions or actions of the driver.  This creates one of the best teaching environments, as any issues are corrected immediately.

To find out how you can assist your department in getting grant assistance to obtain a driving simulator, check out this press release from FAAC Incorporated:

FAAC Incorporated is pleased to announce its participation in a program to link emergency response and public safety departments with grant funding opportunities.

In today’s tough economic environment, dollars are scarce and many city and county budgets are being cut and large capital expenditures are being postponed or eliminated. The amount of grant dollars and stimulus funding – both federal and private – available for police, fire, and EMS, has remained strong, yet many departments are unfamiliar with the grant process and lack the knowledge or resources to successfully apply for grants.

“The assistance program takes the mystery out of matching the correct grant funding source with the specific need of the department,” said Bill Martin, FAAC’s Public Safety Business Manager. “Sometimes the biggest hurdle when purchasing a driver training simulation system is to find that single funding source that will match your need from all the grant information out there – that is why this grant assistance program is so important these public safety departments.”

To assist the effort of matching the needs of the industry with the proper funding avenues, FAAC is underwriting a grant assistance program managed by FireRescue1, PoliceOne, and EMS1 websites to assist those interested in purchasing driver training simulation. This financial initiative is part of the FAAC Customer for Life Philosophy to give back and be a partner in the industry that serves us all so well.

“The grant assistance program is our way to reach out and support the hard-working folks who want to improve their driver training programs,” said Mike McLelland, customer experience manager. “This assistance gives departments who otherwise would not be able to fund a simulator system the ability to get into the running for grant dollars to support safe driving initiatives.

Law enforcement agencies interested in obtaining grant location assistance can visit the website here: http://www.policegrantshelp.com/company-page/FAAC/

Fire departments interested in obtaining grant location assistance can visit the website here: http://www.firegrantshelp.com/company-page/FAAC/

EMS departments interested in obtaining grant location assistance can visit the website here: http://www.emsgrantshelp.com/company-page/FAAC/

Those interested in receiving assistance locating appropriate grant sources simply can go to the websites above and fill out a form that asks for basic information plus how you intend to use the driver training simulator, amount of grant assistance requested, and staffing profile

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fire Dog Services Program

Today I stumbled upon an amazing company that works to help fire departments and their communities.  Fire Dog Services Program donates turnout gear to departments that are in need.

There aren't many departments around who haven't felt the budgetary cutbacks in our current economy.  For some, these cutbacks have been detrimental...leaving departments with gear that is not only outdated but often times non-compliant with current NFPA standards.  For departments dealing with these types of financial difficulties, getting new NFPA compliant gear would be a dream.  However, many of them would more than happily take in any gear that would be safe enough to use in the field.

This is where your department can help!  If your department has recently upgraded (or is looking to upgrade) turnout gear, you can donate your old (or simply unneeded) gear to Fire Dog Services Program.  They accept gear in any condition.  They have a rigorous screening process that separates the gear into serviceable and recyclable categories.  Serviceable gear is donated for day to day fire fighting operations.  Recyclable gear is donated for Junior/Explorer programs and for training purposes.

There is a use for all of your old and unneeded turnout gear!  Fire Dog Services Program receives 34+ requests per month for gear (gear required for departments to adequately service their communities).  Keeping up with that kind of demand is very challenging, as many departments need full gear for five or more members.  Support others in the fire service community, and please consider recycling your old, worn out turnout gear!  There is also a need for helmets, boots, serviceable quality equipment (such as nozzles, even nonworking ones), and promotional gear.  To make a donation contact Fire Dog Services via their website or email.

 To learn more about how this program affects the departments in need, check out their testimonial page!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Philadelphia PD Launches Real-Time Crime Center

The Philadelphia Police Department has recently made a major technological change in their policing.  They are now one of the ten police departments in the United States with a Real-Time Crime Center.  The Real-Time Crime Center is a 24-hour hub of video surveillance, databases and various other resources.

The center has been in the works for nearly four years, and has been in the planning stages for the last two.  As of last month, it is now up and running 24-hours a day.  The center collects surveillance camera data from throughout the city.  Officers in the center can see all of the video as well as are alerted to any 911 calls that are placed.  This gives them the ability to pull up camera images in real-time during the crime (or emergency).  This allows them to give officers in the field immediate pertinent information regarding the suspects' location and description.  

Along with using the city's surveillance system, the Real-Time Crime Center also has access to all of the SEPTA cameras.  Private residents are able to register their cameras as well through a program called SafeCam.  By registering your private surveillance cameras (of your home or business), the Philadelphia Police Department is aware that you may have captured evidence of a crime based on the location of your cameras.  According to the SafeCam website, you will only be contacted by the police department for footage in the event that it is likely you captured evidence.  Private citizens have the right to terminate their registration in this program at any time.

The center is also running automated license plate software.  Utilizing infrared light, the scanners are able to scan upwards of 400,000 plates per week.  Scanners work on vehicles traveling at speeds upwards of 140mph.  In the month that these scanners have been operational, the department has been able to recover 50 vehicles that had been reported stolen.

The center is still not 100% operational.  They are still in the process of developing a major database that will contain information on incidents, criminal complaints, arrest records and photographs, parole and probation databases, national crime databases, and crime mapping systems. Currently, navigating all of those databases can take officers 30 minutes or more.  Once the crime center's combined database is up and running, a thorough search of those databases should take online minutes.

To see how the Real-Time Crime Center works, check out this video from the NYPD.  They were the first city to develop a Real-Time Crime Center, and it made a significant impact on the crime rates in their city.