Working directly with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial first responders and other DHS components and agencies, S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG) identifies capability gaps and technology needs and then develops solutions to address them. By developing technologies and tools responders can use daily, FRG directly supports the response to and recovery from emergencies. Whether it’s lighter but more fire-resistant clothing, a system for locating survivors under rubble or a wireless vital signs monitor, FRG takes user input and feedback to develop tools and then works with responders across the nation to test them in real-life scenarios.
First Responder Resource Group (FRRG)
Comprised of 120 active and retired first responders from across the nation, the FRRG is an all-volunteer working group that helps guide S&T’s research and development efforts by advising on the top-priority needs of responders in the field. Watch a video about the FRRG.
PR4 is the fourth in a series of plans intended to help FRG pinpoint challenges that today’s first responders face and prioritize solutions for them. More than 150 federal, state and local responders from 34 states and the District of Columbia contributed feedback on capability gaps to the PR4 plan, which was released summer 2014.
While live field exercises provide hands-on training to keep skills sharp, they are often costly and time consuming—particularly when they involve coordination among various response agencies. FRG leveraged U.S. Army technology to develop a virtual environment that provides realistic, customized training scenarios and allows online cross-jurisdiction and cross-agency training. Watch the Virtual Training video.
Precision Outdoor and Indoor Navigation and Tracking for Emergency Response (POINTER)
POINTER is a precision positioning sensor system that uses low-frequency magnetic fields to locate first responders’ positions and orientation, even in the most diverse and complex environments. In situations with heavy smoke, debris or line-of-sight obstructions, maintaining awareness of responder locations not only enhances real-time response efforts, but also saves precious seconds when a responder is injured or lost.
In the aftermath of a disaster, first responders often refer to the window of time where a victim's rescue greatly increases their chance of survival as the golden hour. The ability to rapidly assess whether live victims are trapped in rubble can save precious time and search and rescue resources. FINDER uses low-power microwave radar to detect breathing and the heartbeats of buried victims, quickly directing rescuers and increasing victims’ survivability. Watch the FINDER video.
Mobile biometrics devices save lives and assist agents and first responders in solving crimes by providing accurate, fast identification of individuals.
For those responsible for testing firearms, constant recoil from repetitive firing can lead to stress injuries and debilitating pain. To address this concern and reduce physical strain on the testers, FRG develop a mechanical gun holder device—the Virtual Shooter—to mimic the movements and reactions of a human firing a gun. Watch the Virtual Shooter video.
As improvised explosive devices are becoming more sophisticated, so does the need for a stand-off detection device. FRG is developing and testing equally sophisticated diagnostic tools, such as the XSR, so responders can quickly determine whether suspicious objects contain explosives without putting lives at risk.
When responding to structural fires, firefighters wear protective gloves—known as structure gloves—to shield their hands from burns and other injuries. Because these gloves can be bulky and limit dexterity, firefighters often need to remove them to complete routine tasks such as handling tools or using communications equipment. FRG worked with industry partners to construct a next-generation glove that will provide the full range of protection firefighters need along with greater dexterity.
Firefighters must often hike to remote and sometimes distant locations to respond to wildland fires. Wildland firefighters’ heavy personal protective gear increased the number of heat stress injuries. In partnership with the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center; the U.S. Forest Service; and California firefighters, FRG designed a new garment ensemble for wildland firefighters that improves radiant thermal protection; reduces heat stress; and improves the form, fit and function of the garments.
FRG, along with partners at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and representatives from the emergency medical services and manufacturing communities are developing ambulance compartment design and safety standards in several areas, including:
- Seat and restraint standards
- Patient cot and restraint standards
- Equipment mounting requirements
- Supply/drug cabinet retention requirements
- Patient compartment integrity
FRG is developing a device that can monitor vital signs without connecting wired sensors from the patient to other equipment. The device will monitor blood pressure, 12-lead electrocardiograms, temperature and respiration. The system will work with existing devices, including the use of traditional sensor patches attached to a patient that transmit data feeds wirelessly back to a central monitor. Watch the Wireless Vital Signs Monitoring video.