Zombie Homeland Security Training 101

Unbelievable. The Halo Counter-terrorism Summit (Oct 29-Nov. 2, 2012) is hosting a mock Zombie Invasion as part of its emergency response training for about a 1,000 special ops, military, police, medical, firefighter, and other homeland security professionals. 

The Zombie Apocalypse training exercise is occurring mid-summit on October 31, Halloween–so it is quite timely for other ghoulish activities that day. 

There are two sessions–#1 at 4:30 PM and #2 at 7:00 PM.

Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have posted the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness guidance–saying that “if you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.”

I guess this is very good news with Hurricane Sandy or “Frakenstorm” bearing down on the East Coast this evening.  Zombies, you ain’t got nothing on Frakenstorm! 

In Yahoo News, Brad Barker, the President of Halo Corp., explained why Zombies are good for training, especially in asymmetric warfare: “No one knows what zombies will do in our scenario, but quite frankly no one knows what a terrorist will do.”

Barker also jested that “No doubt when a zombie apocalypse occurs, it’s going to be a federal incident, so we’re making it happen.”

Frankly, I love to see this type of creativity brought to national and homeland security and believe that this makes it less likely that we’ll be perpetually fighting yesterday’s war, instead of tomorrow’s. 

The key is that we think out of the box in terms of what will the adversary do next–from cyberwar to weapons of mass destruction, we can’t afford to be blindsighted. 

So do I think that aliens or zombies are coming for us some day–let’s just say, never say never. 😉

Robots: More Than A Technical Challenge


This is the DARPA Pet-Proto Robot (a predecessor to the Atlas model) showing some pretty cool initial operating capabilities for navigating around obstacles.

– Climbing over a wall
– Straddling a pit
– Going up a staircase
– Walking a plank

These things may seem simple to you and I, but for these robots, we are talking about their autonomously sensing what’s around them, identifying and evaluating alternatives to overcome them, deciding on what to actually do, and then successfully executing on it.

Not bad for a machine (even if we are spoiled by the the great science fiction writers and special effects of Hollywood)!

We will be seeing a lot more progress in this area in the 27 months in response to the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), where robots are being looked to “execute complex tasks” for “humanitarian, disaster relief, and related activities” in potentially “dangerous and degraded, and human-engineered” environments.

I’d say only another 15-20 more years and the robots will walking among us–but are we prepared for the significant shift about to occur.

Think about it–these robots will be able to do a lot more of the physical work (construction, manufacturing, service, care-taking, even warfighting, and more), and while we will benefit from the help, jobs are going to continue to get a lot tougher to find if you are not in fields such as engineering, science, technology, design, and so on.

This is going to lead to continued, significant social, educational, and economic disruptions.

What is now a robotics challenge to meet certain performance benchmarks, may in the future become a human challenge to shift from a human-dominated world to one which is instead shared or commingled with machines.

This means that we need to define the boundaries between man and machine–will we be working and playing side-by-side, how about loving or fighting each other, and is there the possibility that the machine will some day transcend the inventor altogether.

I believe that we need significant more study and research into how robotics are going to transform the way we live, work, and interact, and how humanity will adapt and survive this new monumental opportunity, but also looming threat.

What is just an obstacle to overcome in a simulation chamber may one day become an urban battlefield where humans are not necessarily the clear winners.

While I love robotics and where it can take us, this cannot be a field limited to the study of hardware and software alone.

The iFirefighter


This the the first fire fighting robot and is built by Howe and Howe called the Thermite. Key features:– Moves steadily on treads instead of wheels– 1 ton of fire fighting power

– Fits through most doorways

– Douses fires with 600 gallons per minutes

– Doesn’t tire like a human firefighter 

– Costs about $96,000 per unit

– Useful in chemical, radiological and other hazardous incidents

While I generally like these fire fighting robots, there are a number of  thoughts that come to mind about these:

– If someone is caught in a burning building or otherwise needs to be rescued, I believe that for now we are still going to be on the lookout  for the real human hero to come through the door and save the day. 

– The next advance will be autonomous firefighting robots (firefighting drones that can identify the fire, encircle it, and put the right suppressants to work to put it out quickly and safely.

– Soon it will be drones, drones everywhere–fighting everything from fires to the enemy and we will no longer be just people, performing alone, but surrounded by our little assistants–perhaps pulling the majority of the weight, leaving higher value activities to us humans.

The Heat Is On But Something Is Off

Mall

The Huffington Post (28 June 2012) ran an article this weekend called “Land of the Free, Home of the Unprepared.”

This at a time, when the United States East Coast is battling a heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees for days running.

Emergencies have been declared in many states, including Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, as well as in Washington, D.C.

On top of that, an early weekend storm with hurricane-force winds took out the power for millions!

Utilities described the damage to the power grid as “catastrophic” with restoration taking up to a week for some.

People were seeking refuge from the heat with no power at home for airconditioning, refrigeration, or telecommunications.

Everywhere–at Starbucks (the garbage was piled high), Barnes and Nobles, the Mall, people were sprawled out in chairs and even on the floors, and were powering up their devices wherever they could find an outlet.

Moreover, there were long lines at gas stations and supermarkets, where power was working for some.

Many street lights were out at intersections and many other stores were either closed or only taking cash.

While catastrophes do happen including natural disasters, the frequency, duration, and impact in the Washington, D.C. area–the Capital of the United States–is ridiculously high.

I could not help thinking that if something more serious struck–whether terrorism, pandemic flu, a serious earthquake, or whatever, 11 years after 9/11, we seem really ill prepared.

We need to get our game on, not only when the heat is up, but for disaster preparedness in general.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The H2O Coat

Awesome coat called the Raincatchthat catches/stores rainwater and purifies it for drinking.

Designed by students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID).

The collar of the coat catches the rainwater.

The water passes through a charcoal and chemical filtration system.

Purified water is then stored around the hips of the coat where it can be distributed and easily carried.

A straw is built in and provided for easy drinking.

I like this for its functionality as survival gear and its practicality as a user-centric product.

One thing I would add is a place to put the Coca-Cola syrup to give it a little extra pick me up. 😉

Very cool–good job!