Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Safety Tips

It is Beggar's night tonight in our neighborhood. I wanted to share some suggestions for you and your trick-or-treaters to remain safe.

For Kids;
Carry a flashlight (check the batteries before setting out)
Walk, don't run.
Stay on Sidewalks
Obey traffic signals
Stay in familiar neighborhoods
Don't cut across yards or driveways.
Wear a watch you can read in the dark.
Make sure costumes don't drag on the ground.
Shoes should fit (even if they don't go with your costume)
Avoid wearing masks while walking from house to house.
Carry only flexible knives, swords or other props.
(If no sidewalk) walk on the left side of the road facing traffic
Wear clothing with reflective markings or tape.
Approach only houses that are lit.
Stay away from and don't pet animals you don't know.

For Homeowners;
Make sure your yard is clear of clutter or trip hazards (ladders, hoses, etc).
Remember to keep your pets in to prevent them from accidently biting a child.
Battery powered Jack O'Lantern candles are preferable to a real flame.
If you do use candles, keep you pumpkin away from where they may get knocked-over.
Make sure paper or cloth yard decorations won't get blown into a flaming candle.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eternal Vigliance

In preparing my lecture the other night, I was reviewing the concepts of security for mass transit. When people think of transportation related security issues, for the most part they tend to think of air travel. The events of 9-11 focused most of our homeland security efforts at airports. The other focus has been the inspection of shipping containers but unless you are directly involved with the shipping industry you probably only experience security at airports.

Those readers living in cities with major mass transit systems have a different understanding of transportation related security. New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC all have mass transit systems that move millions of commuters around the metropolitan area. As commuters gather to get board the transit system, they are easy targets for a terrorist attack. The Aum Shin Rikyo attack in 1995 used sarin gas in the Japanese subway systems. Seven people were killed in the attack and over 500 required medical attention.

Cincinnati has the Metro bus system, an AMTRAK station and a Greyhound bus station. AMTRAK has very limited service so there just is the mass of travelers necessary to make it an attractive target. The majority of commuters use the Metro but there are never more than a handful of commuters getting on or off the bus at one time. I began to think Cincinnati really didn’t have a challenge in regard to an attack on a mass transit system. But then I remembered that an attack usually is against your weakest spot. The Greyhound bus station may be one of those areas.

Air travel has become quite expensive so many people who need to travel great distances rely on Greyhound buses. I ask my students the other night if they had ever heard of Greyhound and they all looked at me like I’d grown three heads. I had thought Greyhound would be commonly understood, that’s why faculty shouldn’t make assumptions. In addition to carrying passengers, Greyhound also moves parcels (Greyhound PackageXpress) offering same day service or early next day service. Suddenly the lowly Greyhound station on Gilbert Avenue become a very intriguing topic. A bomb scare at the station could impact traffic on I-71 creating gridlock for the morning or evening commute. Sometimes it isn’t just about destroying a target as much as creating panic or confusion.

The Department of Homeland Security has spent millions on training and equipping the Transportation Security Administration to detect threats at airports. Major metropolitan areas have spent huge sums of local taxpayer dollars to protect their subways and light rail systems. How much though has been spent on the lowly bus terminal? Strategists regardless of their field will always target the weakest link in any system. While fewer travelers go by bus, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for a terrorist (who doesn’t have to hail from a foreign national or subscribe to a particular theology) to create trouble. A bomb or a chemical weapon could be smuggled into a bus terminal much more easily than an airport. While the total number effected may be less, the response from law enforcement and fire could tie-up resources for hours. Attacking multiple targets in this manner could overcome several hurdles with attack airports or shipping containers.

It doesn’t take Tom Clancy type scenario to create a catastrophe, just an opportunity. To use a quote most often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Issue 6

It is hard to avoid hearing political ads on TV or radio during this time of year. A presidential election increases the flow of ads ten fold. I’ve tuned out most of the presidential ads, each one candidate trying to eek out an additional percentage point or two over his opponent. Ohio elections have already dug up voter fraud skeletons from previous elections and guarantee that the Buckeye state will be front-page news.

For me, the interesting issue this year is not who becomes the next President as much as whether casino gambling comes to Clinton County. Clinton County’s major employer, for those readers outside the Cincinnati area, is DHL. Recently DHL decided to sell off its routes to UPS and in effect shut down operations in Clinton County. Estimates are 6,000 jobs will be lost at the airpark and as many another 4-6,000 other jobs from related businesses will be lost. The casino promises to bring 5,000 new jobs. Opponents of the casino argue it will bring crime and increase addictions to gambling and substance abuse. Those in favor point out that Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have legalized gambling and thus Ohio is losing revenues.

Critics of casino gambling are concerned loopholes in Issue 6 can either allow more casinos to be built or does an inadequate job of insuring casino tax revenues are appropriately distributed. Issue 6 proponents claims these concerns are without merit and the casino will help offset the job losses created by DHL.

The casino will undoubtedly generate jobs for Clinton County, however how many of these jobs will be the higher paying dealer or manager positions? Often casinos bring in dealers who have learned their trade at the casinos in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Managers and pit bosses are also imported from other casinos owned by the parent corporation. Nothing on the website discusses jobs other than in round numbers. I’m for new jobs for the region but I would like to see more detail about how these jobs will be filled.

Distribution of tax revenues is another matter that still is vague. Yes, the casino will pay taxes and yes a percentage of those revenues will go to the state and counties. How much this will be remains to be seen as the casino has yet to be built. What interests me is how much of the tax revenue, if any, will be set aside for the increased fire, EMS and police runs. The location for the proposed casino means Harveysburg and Wilmington fire and EMS along with Clinton County Sheriff’f Office will be dealing with overtime issues. Will these departments received increased funding through these tax revenues to offset the increased number of runs?

Clinton Memorial Hospital will be seeing an increased number of emergencies as stressed out patrons collapse from too much alcohol and gambling. How many of these patients will have health insurance? Will Clinton County Memorial receive any compensation for having additional physicians and nurses on duty to handle long weekends filled with out of town gamblers?

If Issue 6 passes, I hope there are more discussions that addresses the safety and security of our community regarding the casino.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Visiting downtown

The other day I read where Mayor Mallory was asking Cincinnatians to keep supporting the Bengals. Is this the state of professional football in Cincinnati that we have the mayor pleading with citizens not to give up? The Bengals organization is the beneficiary of a one-half percent sales tax passed in 1996 to build their stadium. Seems like a lot of support to me.

But what got me thinking about all of this was when I took the picture of Union Terminal during my sojourn on Monday. There is no cheap parking downtown (I know, this isn’t a news flash to those who work downtown). Even on a holiday, parking fees are ridiculous and whenever a sports event is going on prices rise to exorbitant. I do not begrudge the owners of parking garages and lots to make a profit but these prices are one more disincentive for visitors.

Instead of pleading for fans to bear witness to a team going from 0-6 to 0-7, perhaps working on some type of plan for reducing parking fees would be more productive. For example, in Columbus the parking at City Center used to be $1 for three hours (I’m not sure if this is still the case). The low parking fee encouraged people going to the state government to park in City Center. The increased traffic helped business (although ultimately the increased traffic could not overcome other economic factors).

The Bengals aren’t going to present much incentive for visitors this year. Even if they had a better season, they play roughly 8 home games? Incentives need to be longer than a football or baseball season. The city could help broker something so that the proprietors of the parking lots could still make profit yet visitors to the downtown would find it affordable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Carew Tower

The Carew Tower is one of Cincinnat's great monuments to art deco. We spent most of yesterday enjoying some time re-discovering this great treasure. The above photo is of the Orchids at the Omni Netherland. If you haven't been to the Omni Netherland before, or haven't been in a while, take a friend and enjoy the beauty of the architecture. Cincinanti may be getting a new and taller skyscraper but nothing will rival the artwork and skill that can be found throughout the Carew Tower. They truly don't make them like this no more!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Smart Cars and the economy

According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ohio’s unemployment rate is 7.4 ranking the state at 46 out of 51. The Cincinnati-Middletown metropolitan area (which includes adjacent parts of Kentucky and Indiana) rate is slightly better at 6.3 ranking the area at 226 out of 369. These figures do not include the impending losses from DHL and associated businesses. Over the last 7 years Ohio lost 236,000 manufacturing positions (according to Workers Some African-American neighborhoods in Cleveland have adult unemployment at well over 50 percent. These are some of the same areas most severely impacted by the foreclosure crisis.

I see the current economic situation creating a very unsafe situation for our communities. As more and more people lose jobs and their homes, desperation and hopelessness could become rampant. Violent crimes will likely rise as more people become frustrated and take out their emotions in violent acts. Others will resort to robbery in order to survive. Worse, others may feel their communities are becoming too unsafe and will leave. An exodus of the disenfranchised could further deteriorate an already weakened economic situation here in the Cincinnati area.

A surprising glimmer of hope comes from the energy crisis. Smart cars are becoming more popular and rumors are that Toyota may locate their plant here in Ohio. Pursuing alternative fuel and transportation is good both for environmental reasons as well as reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources. Now if they could only make a Smart Car that someone 6’3” or taller can fit into. Oh well, maybe its time to take up yoga!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Roberts Centre

Went to the Palin rally last night mainly because it was close. The logistics of the event almost made me want to stay home. The Roberts Trucking center is on the east side of I-71 and the convention center is on the west side. All westbound traffic was reduced down to one lane to allow Highway Patrol and Clinton County deputies to alternate the flow of traffic. Once you made it through this obstacle course, the Robert Centre security routed traffic all the way around the parking nowhere! It appears parking space had run out and the security people I saw didn't have a good solution. We ended-up parking at the new Clinton County motorcycle dealership. Then began the big snaking line to the doors. The only people providing any guidance were some volunteers that kept reminding everyone to fill in the back of their tickets. It was a pleasant day outside so it wasn't too bad milling around outside like some lost lemmings looking for the ledge. Around 6:30 some hotel staff herded those of us still meandering to the overflow area. Now this was really odd given the need to run everyone through security screening, those of us in the overflow area weren't screened at all. The Roberts Centre grand ball room was opened up completely and I would guess we filled about 80 to 90 percent of it. One thing that did impress me is rather than park the Straight Talk Express bus and escort the governor in, they chose to drive the bus into the convention center. This kept positive control of Governor Palin and got her right to the podium without delay.

Her speech wasn't anything new, you've heard it all on the news already. The one thing that did strike me was something just not covered on any of the news. We've heard about her lack of experience, her gaffs on interviews, and her seeming lack of experience in foreign policy. We've also heard about her charisma and being the first female VP candidate since Geraldine Ferraro. What all of these observations failed to mention, and what jumped out at me last night, was this lady is young and vibrant compared to McCain. Just as Barack Obama needs Joe Biden's age to balance his perceived lack of experience, McCain needs Palin's youth to balance concerns about his age. In that, she does bring an energy level and enthusiasm that I just don't see in McCain. The crowd was especially enthusiastic given Governor Palin's mention of the DHL situation. Even so, I can't really predict how the elections will go here in Ohio. It should be an interesting election.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Republican VP

Well we are off to hear Gov Palin speak at the Roberts Centre. Supposedly 8,000 tickets were sold and it is standing room only! It should be an interesting time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Book Review

When I’m not teaching, grading assignments or advising students my remaining time focuses on reading new textbooks. Emergency management and homeland security are still fairly new fields so staying current on changes is a must for any faculty member in this field. Community colleges, unlike universities, don’t pursue research projects but the faculty are still expected to contribute the body of work for their particular field. Over the summer I was approached byClaire B. Rubin of the Journal for Homeland Security and Emergency Management to review a Shock Doctrine, the Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Kline. My review was accepted and is now available on-line here. I’m hoping to have another title reviewed for the journal in another few weeks

Monday, October 6, 2008

Liquid Explosives

Over on the TSA blog there is a piece about liquid explosives and the agency’s effort to deploy better technology to detect these chemicals. Emotions and hyperbole run rampant on any discussions concerning liquid explosives. One camp believes the threat posed from binary liquid explosives (two chemicals carried separately when combined create a powerful explosive) is legion. This camp is made up of government officials and security experts that believe binary liquid explosives offer terrorists an effective and easy means of creating a bomb in mid-flight. The other camp tends to be scientists or skeptics who point out the principle of combining two liquids may seem simple but the actual execution cannot be easily achieved in-flight. The chemicals required are volatile and can be spilled before ever being employed.

Both sides quote various to reinforce their points. In trying to ascertain the validity of one side or the other, I was unable to find case studies of attempted smuggling of binary chemicals. The London case has not released details so we still are unaware of if binary liquids were truly used. Some would argue the lack of case studies is because of the success of chemical detection technology. I find that argument weak when you consider that most countries DON’T have bans on bringing liquids on board. Others may say the scientist and skeptics are right, liquid explosives are too difficult to mix on-board. Perhaps but I think the whole liquid explosives discussion misses a much more basic point; it isn’t the weapon that the terrorists are concerned about but the target. The target of course in all of these discussions is the aircraft. Trying to mix volatile chemicals on-board an airliner has a low probability of success. If attacking the aircraft is the ultimate aim, there are other means of attack with higher probabilities of success. Aircraft are most vulnerable to attack during take-off and landing. Different weapons could be employed against airliners under such circumstances. These weapons don’t rely on clumsy terrorists trying to mix the wrong chemicals or spilling the contents before they can be used to blow-up the aircraft.

For instance, there have been random reports since 9-11 of lasers being focused on the cockpit of airliners while in flight. The lasers would need to be aimed with some type of targeting system which in-turn implies high cost and sophistication. Such lasers are most likely vehicle-mounted making it easier to conceal and relocate for multiple attempts. The weapon would only have to temporarily blind pilots to create the potential for a crash. Certain lasers operate in a spectrum that does not emit a visible beam. Using sophisticated laser weapon may seem like something out of a novel but if previous reports are correct, certain groups may already possess the technology.

Of course this assumes the group wants to target the aircraft while in flight. Aircraft could be sabotaged while on the ground. Passengers can be attacked while still in the terminal. Chemical or biological agents could be introduced into the terminal air handling systems. Food supplies, as we now know, are extremely vulnerable to contamination. Navigation systems can be jammed or incorrect data can be sent. Navigational aids are airports could be destroyed or compromised. I’m not saying steps have not been taken to reduce these threats as well. My concern by focusing almost exclusively on one type of weapon (liquid explosives), we may be exposing ourselves to a completely different type of attack.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Go Bearcats!

Here’s a plug for my alma mater. After what many called a sub-par performance against Akron, the Bearcats (4-1) won decisively against Marshall (3-3). What makes the victory over Marshall impressive to me was the Bearcats had to turn to their third quarterback (Grutza and Pike were hurt in previous games) for the win. The team hasn’t gotten much recognition because they still are to face their first Big East team. Rutgers arrives next week with a record of 1-3 which means if the Bearcats win, the victory will considered unimpressive. Of course losing would be reason for naysayers to point out the Bearcats aren’t for real. I’m not a sports expert, it just gives me joy to be able to root for a Cincinnati team that is doing well in football. Of course many local high school teams are doing well this year as well. Get out and support one of the local high school games (if you haven’t already) or go see at game at Nippert.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Travel Scares

I’m a believer in effective mass transit as a means of reducing our energy needs and creating more jobs. Airlines continue to face troubling times with increasing fuel costs and decreasing profit margins. Compound the lack of free amenities on-board flights with ever increasing security restrictions and I just don’t see many airlines being able to remain viable.
Trains and buses afford a cost-effective means of transporting both commuters and travelers alike. By running trains on electricity reduces the reliance on foreign oil. More and more busses now run on either biodiesel or electricity as well. Trolley cars are becoming quite the norm to run local travelers and commuters around (Cincinnati is still pursuing trolleys for the Over-The-Rhine area). A comprehensive mass transportation approach just makes good sense.
Well I just read an article that makes me wonder if trains and buses aren’t going to become the next industry invaded by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). Ontario health officials are searching for 27 people who may have been exposed to tuberculosis while travelling on a Greyhound bus from Toronto to Windsor on Aug. 31. There's a "moderate risk" they contracted the disease, public health officials said Thursday. You read the entire article here.

People need to take more responsibility for their actions. If someone knows they have, or suspects they may have, a highly communicable disease like tuberculosis they need to stay home! Last year a US citizen flew from Atlanta on an overseas flight knowing he had TB but felt his need to travel outweighed the safety of others. Apparently the same thing happened on the Greyhound bus in Ontario. TB is contagious and with strains that are resistant to antibiotics, this case is very disconcerting. However, we can’t overreact and start adding even more restrictions to travel. Hopefully the Center for Disease Control (CDC) will team with the TSA to develop some reasonable safeguards for travelers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Three Weeks Later

The financial bailout plan has taken center stage in the news. You can’t help but wonder if Congress would have had the same reaction in a non-election year. The whole issue has eclipsed the relief efforts from Hurricane Ike. The news is no longer following Duke or DP&L reactions to the blackout. The lackluster Bengals who couldn’t even win against the equally hapless Browns are getting more press than any attempts to improve our power infrastructure. Ohio really doesn’t get snow as much as sleet and freezing rain. The weight of the ice on power lines could create another large scale blackout. What will seniors and those with medical conditions do without electricity for heat? Has Duke and DP&L improved their ability to identify and respond to those without power?

In Ohio, before we get snow and sleet though we must go through rain. The risk for flooding in Ohio is greatest in the spring and autumn months. In the event you experience a flood basement or house, the following regarding mold from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) should be followed:

When returning to a home that has been flooded, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family.

• People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.

• If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.

• Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.

• If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy an N95 mask at your local home supply store and wear it while in the building.