Imagine a hot, balmy day in August as fans gather for the University of Alabama football game day opener at the packed Legion Field Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama. Two minutes into the second quarter, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake causes portions of the stadium to crumble. Chaos ensues as thousands of people rush to nearby exits or fall victim to crashing debris.
Within minutes, amidst the pandemonium, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), firefighters and law enforcement respond –searching and rescuing victims underneath the rubble, triaging patients, putting out fires and tending to a HAZMAT gaseous leak from an overturned trailer truck just outside the venue. Now imagine this hypothetical situation isn’t hypothetical. If this really happened, would all the responder agencies be ready? Would they have the tools they need? These are the types of scenarios and questions the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) hoped to reconcile for first responders during a recent operational exercise in Birmingham, Alabama.
The DHS S&T’s Next Generation First Responder Program recently partnered with public safety agencies from the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama, for the NGFR – Birmingham Shaken Fury Operational Experimentation (OpEx). The OpEx assessed first responder technology that addressed the city’s public safety agencies’ capability gaps to help augment their capabilities for the World Games 2021 and unexpected natural disasters. S&T also partnered with industry to provide vendors the opportunity to receive operational feedback about their technology from first responder.