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Calif. Firm Tests Runway Debris Detector

CARLSBAD, Calif., June 12 (UPI) — A San Diego company says it has begun field testing a system that will detect potentially dangerous rocks and other debris on airport runways.

Trex Enterprises’ FOD (foreign object debris) Finder uses radio waves to find foreign objects that could potentially damage a fast-moving plane.

Airports currently rely on human observers to spot debris on often-busy runways. FOD Finder is mounted on a truck that also includes a vacuum system that quickly collects the litter.

FAA officials were at the McClellan-Palomar Airport north of San Diego to observe the tests, the North County Times reported Saturday.

Runway debris is no joke. A loose piece of junk was blamed for the fatal crippling a Concorde airliner in Paris in 2000, causing it to crash with all aboard.

Similar systems have been developed in Europe and Asia and use fixed sensors mounted on control towers and other buildings.

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New Fire Code Based on World Trade Center

GAITHERSBURG, Md., June 11 (UPI) — World Trade Center recommendations for emergency evacuations from buildings are the basis for a new set of fire codes, U.S. officials said.

Shyam Sunder, World Trade Center lead investigator, said 17 major building and fire code changes approved recently by the International Code Council are based on recommendations from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s investigation of the collapses of World Trade Center twin towers and World Trade Center 7 in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

The code changes include safety improvement requirements for elevators in tall buildings used during an emergency by occupants evacuating and firefighters entering, and provisions to ensure that emergency radio communications will work among first responders.

The changes will be incorporated into the 2012 edition of the International Building Code and the International Fire Code, a state-of-the-art model code used as the basis for building and fire regulations promulgated and enforced by U.S. state and local jurisdictions. Jurisdictions have the option of incorporating some or all of the code’s provisions, Sunder said.

“With their adoption and reaffirmation over two code cycles, we believe that the safety improvements stimulated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s World Trade Center investigation are now well integrated within the mainstream of U.S. building and fire codes,” Sunder said.

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Revised Emergency Building Codes Approved

WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) — Faster and more efficient emergency building evacuations are among the improvements expected from 17 U.S. building and fire code changes.

The changes were approved recently by the International Code Council based on recommendations from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST said the recommendations came from its investigation of the collapse of New York’s World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

The changes will be incorporated into the 2012 edition of the International Building Code and the International Fire Code — both models used as the basis for building and fire regulations across the United States.

“The 17 new code changes include important safety improvements to the existing requirements for elevators in tall buildings used during an emergency by occupants evacuating and firefighters entering, and provisions to ensure that emergency radio communications will effectively serve first responders throughout their local communities,” NIST officials said.

“With their adoption and reaffirmation over two code cycles, we believe that the safety improvements stimulated by the NIST … investigation are now well integrated within the mainstream of U.S. building and fire codes,” said World Trade Center Lead Investigator Shyam Sunder.

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UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

EPA to impose permits on large polluters

WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) — Coal-fired power plants and other major U.S. emitters of greenhouse gases will need to seek pollution permits starting in 2011, federal regulators said.

The rule released Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency covers new sources of at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year and existing plants that increase emissions by 75,000 tons.

In its first two years, the rule is expected to affect about 15,550 coal-fired plants, refineries, cement makers, solid waste landfills and other big polluters, EPA spokeswoman Gina McCarthy told The New York Times in a story published Friday.

The rule would affect about 70 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

The EPA set its sights on larger polluters after scrapping a plan to require emitters of 25,000 tons of gases a year to seek permits. That plan would have imposed permits on family farms and large apartment buildings.

“What we realized at the 25,000 level was that we were going to be actually reaching sources that we did not intend to reach,” McCarthy said.

More cars vulnerable to computer hackers

SAN DIEGO, May 14 (UPI) — Increasingly sophisticated cars need to be protected from hackers who could tamper with computerized systems, U.S. scientists said.

As more cars become connected to the Internet through wireless systems, hackers could remotely sabotage the vehicles, The New York Times reported Friday.

In tests, computer security experts at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, said they were able to remotely control braking, stop the engine and activate dozens of other functions, almost all of them while a car was in motion.

The researchers tested two versions of a late-model car in laboratory and field settings. The researchers did not publicly identify the manufacturer or model, but said they believed the cars were representative of the computer network systems found in many late-model cars today.

“You should expect that various entry points in the automotive environment are no more secure in the automotive environment than they are in your PC,” said Stefan Savage, a computer scientist in San Diego.

Dirty keyboards a health hazard

LONDON, May 14 (UPI) — Computer keyboards can be breeding grounds for E. coli and other hazardous organisms, scientists in Britain said.

Some keyboards in London offices showed traces of E. coli, coliforms and enterobacteria, which most likely were transmitted by mice and other vermin attracted to food morsels trapped between keys, the Royal Society of Chemistry said.

Office workers eat over their keyboards and drop crumbs by day and the vermin move in at night, leaving feces and disease, researchers said.

Workers can get sick by typing on a fouled keyboard and then picking up food or touching their faces with unwashed hands, the New York Daily News reported Friday.

Graphic designer Jean-Pierre Chery, 27, of New York, said he eats at his keyboard a lot and has never cleaned the crumbs that fall between the keys.

“I’ve got a whole ecosystem going on at the bottom of my keyboard right now,” Chery told the News.

Climate change killing lizards worldwide

SANTA CRUZ, Calif., May 14 (UPI) — Twenty percent of all lizard species could be extinct by 2080 because of rising temperatures involved in climate change, a California researcher said.

Lizards worldwide are far more susceptible to climate-warming extinction than previously thought because many species already live at the edge of their thermal limits, said Barry Sinervo of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Sinervo and colleagues from around the world said they reached their conclusions after comparing field studies of lizards in Mexico to lizard studies from other countries.

Rising temperatures already have driven an estimated 12 percent of Mexico’s Sceloporus lizard population to extinction, the scientists wrote in a recent issue of the journal Science.

“We are actually seeing lowland species moving upward in elevation, slowly driving upland species extinct, and if the upland species can’t evolve fast enough then they’re going to continue to go extinct,” Sinervo said in a release from the university Thursday.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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EPA to Impose Permits on Large Polluters

WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) — Coal-fired power plants and other major U.S. emitters of greenhouse gases will need to seek pollution permits starting in 2011, federal regulators said.

The rule released Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency covers new sources of at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year and existing plants that increase emissions by 75,000 tons.

In its first two years, the rule is expected to affect about 15,550 coal-fired plants, refineries, cement makers, solid waste landfills and other big polluters, EPA spokeswoman Gina McCarthy told The New York Times in a story published Friday.

The rule would affect about 70 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

The EPA set its sights on larger polluters after scrapping a plan to require emitters of 25,000 tons of gases a year to seek permits. That plan would have imposed permits on family farms and large apartment buildings.

“What we realized at the 25,000 level was that we were going to be actually reaching sources that we did not intend to reach,” McCarthy said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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USGS to Fund Earthquake Monitoring

WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) — The U.S. Geological Survey says it plans to award more than $7 million this year in cooperative agreements for earthquake monitoring.

USGS officials said the funding will contribute to the development and operation of its Advanced National Seismic System.

“Earthquake monitoring is absolutely critical to providing fast information to emergency-response personnel in areas affected by earthquakes, so by building and repairing those monitoring systems, these cooperative agreements literally save lives and property,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.

USGS officials said the funding will help provide continuous, real-time monitoring of earthquake activity and the collection of critical information about how earthquake shaking affects buildings and structures. Funds are also being provided for the operation of geodetic monitoring networks that detect minute changes in the Earth’s crust caused by faulting in earthquake-prone regions, officials said.

Institutions receiving funding are the California Institute of Technology; the Universities of Washington, Utah, California-Berkeley, Memphis, Alaska-Fairbanks, Nevada-Reno, California-San Diego, South Carolina, Oregon, and Colorado; Columbia University; St. Louis University; Boston College; the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Montana; Central Washington University; and San Francisco State University.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Dormitory Fire Safety, Students Can Flee

GAITHERSBURG, Md., April 13 (UPI) — Fire sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and closed doors provide the time for dormitory residents safely to escape a fire, U.S. researchers said.

Fire researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology compared room fires in dormitory buildings with and without sprinklers.

For the study, researchers used a dormitory that included clothing, books and furniture typically found in student housing at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., which was scheduled to be replaced.

Dan Madrzykowski, an NIST fire protection engineer, said fires create hazards of high heat, loss of visibility and toxic gases.

The smoke alarms activated within 30 seconds after a trash container in a dorm room began burning.

Experiments 1 and 2 were conducted with the dorm room door and windows closed, while rooms for experiments 2 and 3 had automatic fire sprinklers. Experiments 4 and 5 were conducted with the door of the dorm room open and no sprinklers.

The researchers found smoke alarms, closed doors and automatic fire sprinkler systems the most effective in allowing students to leave safely.

The studies are at the Web sites: nist.gov/cgi-bin//get_pdf.cgi?pub_id=904640 and nist.gov/cgi-bin//get_pdf.cgi?pub_id=101409.

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Thirty States to Observe Earth Hour

WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) — Thirty U.S. states have agreed to darken public buildings for an hour Saturday to draw attention to global warming, officials said.

The states, up from eight last year, plan to darken governors’ mansions and other buildings and monuments as part of Earth Hour, the World Wildlife Fund’s call to action on climate change.

“It reflects the conviction of people around the world that climate change is real, and we need to do something about it,” said Carter Roberts, head of the fund.

Earth Hour has spread globally to 87 countries since starting in Australia in 2007, USA Today reported Friday. This year, 2,200 businesses, including Walgreens, and millions of homes are expected to shut off all but essential lights at 8:30 p.m. local time, Roberts said.

Monuments taking part were to include New York’s Empire State Building, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Seattle’s Space Needle, the Las Vegas Strip, Niagara Falls and the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, in Chicago.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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6.0-magnitude Quake Rattles Philippines

MANILA, Philippines, March 25 (UPI) — A 6.0-magnitude earthquake rattled Manila and nearby areas in the northern Philippines on Thursday, officials said.

No reports of damage had been received several hours after the quake, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. Glenn Rabonza, executive director of the Natural Disaster Coordinating Council, said buildings on Lubang Island in Mindoro, near the epicenter, were still being inspected.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake struck at 1:29 p.m. local time. The epicenter was about 80 miles southwest of Manila.

A 6.0-magnitude quake is classified as strong and can cause significant damage within about 50 miles of the epicenter.

“The initial report we have received is that no structural damage has been spotted so far,” Rabonza said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Chickens Die in Ohio Egg Farm Fire

COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 24 (UPI) — An overnight fire destroyed a huge warehouse and killed some of the 3 million chickens at an egg farm northwest of Columbus, Ohio, firefighters said.

No one was hurt in the fire that engulfed the warehouse that housed refrigerated eggs, egg cartons, packing materials and wooden pallets, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.

Firefighters had to shut off electricity to the buildings and rip away walkways that led from the warehouse to nine chicken barns, Marseilles Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Dickinson said. The lack of electricity appears to have caused some chickens in at least two buildings to die, he said.

The Dispatch reported the blaze could be seen burning Wednesday at the facility in Harpster, about 55 miles from the Ohio capital.

Officials did not indicate what caused the fire. The state fire marshal’s office was at the scene and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has been called.

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