November is Critical Infrastructure Month, and each week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is highlighting our work in a specific sector.
There are 16 sectors within the United States that have been designated as “Critical Infrastructure” due to their extreme significance to daily life. Their disruption or destruction would represent a severe national security threat, so steps must be taken to ensure each sector is secure and can survive a natural or manmade disaster.
Week 3: Emergency Services
Week 3 focuses on Emergency Services: the organizations and individuals, equipment and technology, deployed to save lives and property through prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.
In the Emergency Services sector, S&T supports the first responders and emergency managers who are the first line of defense within our communities—we help to protect our protectors. They are essential to safety of our nation, our communities, our citizens, and our property—first responders are a major part of our critical infrastructure.
Terrorist attacks, active shooter incidents and increasingly destructive natural disasters have become an all-too-common and disturbing fact of life. S&T proactively collaborates with Federal Emergency Management Agency and Transportation Security Administration, and other operational components to assist first responders prepare for and mitigate damage and loss of life from these incidents.
S&T at Work
1. Preparing and protecting responders
The Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) is a virtual training platform we developed with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. A complex video game-based training tool, EDGE allows single agencies or responders from multiple disciplines (ex. law enforcement, fire, EMS, unified command, dispatch) to train for critical incident response. Free for first responder agencies, EDGE improves coordination and communication before an active shooter or other catastrophic event happens in order to mitigate injuries and loss of lives during a live response.
In addition to training, S&T develops personal protective garments to shield first responders of all disciplines from hazards in the field—whether relief from extreme thermal conditions of wildland fires; increased heat protection, water/chemical repellency, and puncture resistance of everyday responder dutyuniforms; or protecting firefighters from exposure to cancerous vapors and particulates through enhanced turnout gear.
2. Evaluating today’s equipment and envisioning technology of the future
Our System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) program helps agencies make smart purchasing decisions by evaluating and validating commercially-available equipment and systems, and providing results to the emergency response community. This allows agencies to better select, use, and maintain their tools of the trade.
S&T works directly with state and local first responders to identify capability gaps and assist with the operational assessment of prototypes or commercial technologies. Looking to the future, our Next Generation First Responder Apex Program leverages stakeholder feedback to design new capabilities, adapt existing technology, and stimulate private sector innovation to ensure the next generation of first responders has enhanced protection, communication tools, and situational awareness so they are better able to save lives and make it home safely.
3. Reducing loss of life and protecting property
When a disaster strikes (either manmade or natural) it can sometimes overwhelm a community’s ability to properly respond to and rebound from it. This is especially true of small, rural, coastal or isolated populations. Without enough preparation for these major incidents, emergency managers are left scrambling to request aid from surrounding communities and cobble together the assets they need—while lives are hanging in the balance. To streamline, expedite and enhance the process of planning an emergency response, S&T developed the Mutual Aid Resource Planning Tool (MARP). MARP can aid in the planning and operation response, helping develop Mission Ready Packages (MRPs).MRPs will help improve cross-community collaboration to save the lives of residents, as well as to ensure the best trained first responders and technology are available to respond to the escalating severity of critical incidents.
The Flood Apex Program brings new technologies and new thinking to help communities cope with our nation’s number one natural disaster — floods. S&T is developing low-cost sensors that will send smartphone alerts and warnings to agencies and citizens in affected areas. We are also implementing data analysis tools to help better anticipate where and when floods will strike and better understand the damage potential.
S&T and the Emergency Services sector:
This is small sampling of S&T’s projects focused on supporting our emergency services partners.