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From Battlefield to Homefront: Mobile Laboratories Are Changing the Way We Respond to Crisis

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2009
2 pages
Publication Series
This article describes the features and potential functions of mobile forensics laboratories.
Mobile forensics laboratories are created from a standard shipping container and can be delivered by truck, transport plane, train, ship, or helicopter, which makes laboratory support available to even the most remote areas. Each laboratory measures 8' x 20' x 8.5' and rests on a standard transport trailer. Once folded out, the laboratory provides a maximum of 400 square feet of usable space, complete with lighting, wrap-around power access and open floor space. Multiple laboratories can be connected in order to provide for various disciplines, contamination prevention, administrative areas, or other uses. Each section is self-supporting and can be used separately for smaller projects. A diesel-powered generator provides a minimum of 33 hours of power on a single tank. This enables the provision of air conditioning or heat, light, satellite communications, and sensitive forensic equipment. Interior separators can provide dust-proof and light-proof work areas within each unit. A small team can set up the laboratory in less than 1 hour, not including equipment startup. Each lab has full data sharing and an access-controlled entrance. These mobile forensics laboratories were developed by the National Forensic Science Technology Center in partnership with the Department of Defense, which has used similar laboratories in Iraq and Afghanistan to study improvised explosive devices. In addition to helping agencies respond to natural disasters, the mobile forensics laboratory can be used for security training exercises. This article describes how a mobile crime lab enabled the Cedar Rapids Police Department to continue its forensic investigative work after its crime lab was totally ruined in a flood. 1 figure

Date Published: November 1, 2009