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S&T Impact: Aviation Security

November 25, 2019
9:01 am

November comes with colder temperatures, stretchy pants for turkey dinners with all the fixings, and the start of the busy holiday travel season. As you make your final packing checklists and prepare to visit with family and friends, I ask that you take a moment to learn more about how the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) work tirelessly to increase the security of our aviation industry. 

William N. Bryan; Senior OFficial Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.Earlier this month, S&T launched our latest S&T Impact Series case study that highlights the numerous detection, mitigation, and prevention efforts we are taking to strengthen our nation’s aviation security. This three-pronged approach helps all of us (and our belongings) get to our destinations safely and securely.

Detection

S&T works tirelessly through its research and development (R&D) efforts to leverage the brightest minds and power of technology to detect potential hazards before they become true threats. Whether it is through enhanced screening of luggage and air cargo, working with detection canines or hosting forums on the future of aviation security, a large part of our efforts include collaborating with other federal agencies, as well as state and local law enforcement.

When it comes to aviation security, working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is key. Our TSA colleagues are on the front lines every day, protecting our travelers, crews, and baggage, but did you also know that every commercial passenger flight also transports air cargo? All the cargo needs to be screened to the same level as checked passenger baggage. S&T is collaborating with TSA to address the challenges associated with breaking down cargo skids to screen items. S&T has funded the development of the Opacity and Complexity Analysis Software Tool, a powerful image processing software, to support x-ray operators in determining possible threats in cargo.

Mitigation

To mitigate something is to lessen the severity. Part of S&T’s work is to assess technologies and provide training to better identify and mitigate potential threats. One of our programs, the Commercial Aircraft Vulnerability and Mitigation program, supports the testing and evaluation efforts to assess potential vulnerabilities and evaluate countermeasures that can diminish the impact of explosives on commercial aircraft. Every day millions of passengers flow through TSA security lines nationwide; if you have traveled via air before, chances are you may have received a pat-down while going through security. S&T worked with TSA to develop the Pat-down Accuracy Training Tool to ensure TSA officers receive the best training possible and to standardize the pat-down procedure for consistency and effectiveness. This is one example of how S&T aims not only to bolster, but also to streamline, processes for agents and civilians alike.

Prevention

Apart from just detecting threats or mitigating a potential attack, S&T works to prevent future attacks. We began studying and collecting data on homemade explosives (HMEs) after the 2005 London mass transit system attacks.  The data is used by the HME Rapid Response Team to characterize explosive threats against transit systems, develop countermeasures, and strengthen our detection and response capabilities to prevent an attack. Part of preventing future attacks is looking at current security screening measures being used in airports and asking the question: how can we make airport security screenings better and more efficient? The Apex Screening at Speed program is looking to answer those questions. Whether it’s a shoe scanner that would allow travelers to keep their shoes on or an upgraded x-ray scanner for carry-on bags that would provide greater security without the need to remove restrictions like liquids and electronic devices, S&T is looking to R&D activities that advance the future of aviation security.

The aviation security case study is one piece of an overall strategy for ensuring our homeland remains strong and all who serve and inhabit it remain safe. As you pass through your local airports this holiday season, I hope you will take a moment to appreciate all of the advanced security measures and thank our TSA colleagues who help you on your way.

Have a safe, happy, healthy (and filling) Thanksgiving! If you need some travel reading, visit our website for more about S&T’s Explosives Detection and Aviation Screening mission, as well as the other case studies in the impact series that focus on border security, cybersecurity, critical incidents, and disaster response. Also, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube for more S&T Impact Series updates!

Critical Infrastructure and Turkey Dinners: Bringing Americans Together

November 4, 2019
11:03 am

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and although friends and family are rightfully at the top of many of our lists of what we’re thankful for, there is something else that is often taken for granted but is well-deserving of appreciation—our nation’s critical infrastructure.

William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and TechnologyIn fact, Thanksgiving would be difficult to even celebrate without the farms that grow and raise our food, electricity, and transportation and communication systems to bring us all together. And in addition to making the turkey dinner possible, infrastructure also supports another beloved Thanksgiving tradition: football!

That’s why it’s particularly fitting that November, in addition to being a time of national festivity, is also Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) helps fortify our nation through numerous innovative solutions that make keeping our roads, bridges, power lines, and so much more, safe and reliable.  S&T works with industry, responders, and other stakeholders, before, during and after events happen to make sure the nation and critical infrastructure sectors are prepared. Below are a just a few of the way S&T impacts the security of our nation.

SAFETY Act

DHS S&T’s Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act (SAFETY Act) minimizes the risk of liability to new solutions. The SAFETY Act provides incentives for companies that have developed technologies to protect public venues from terror attacks. The National Football League, Major League Baseball, and National Basketball Association have all played a key role in significantly upgrading and strengthening security at stadiums and arenas throughout the country with the help of the SAFETY Act.

With more than 1,000 qualified anti-terrorism technologies – from metal detectors visitors walk through to risk mitigation modeling – SAFETY Act certification covers a broad range of layered security solutions to help stay ahead of evolving threats and ultimately save lives.

NGFR – Birmingham Shaken Fury Operational Experimentation

DHS S&T’s Next Generation First Responder Program (NGFR) recently partnered with public safety agencies from the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama, for the NGFR – Birmingham Shaken Fury Operational Experimentation as part of preparations for the World Games 2021.

The training event was aimed at ensuring local emergency medical services, firefighters, and law enforcement would be ready if something terrible like a major earthquake happened at Legion Field Stadium. It addressed capability gaps through cutting-edge technologies such as wearable sensors that can monitor the vitals and location of individual responders or can identify potentially hazardous materials.

Flood Apex Program

Flooding is the most common type of natural disaster in the United States. DHS S&T developed the Flood Apex Program, in partnership with FEMA, to bring new technologies and new thinking to how we cope with America’s costliest disaster. The program aims to reduce fatalities and property losses, increase community resilience, and develop better investment strategies to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against flood hazards.

The Emerging Private Residential Flood Insurance Market in the United States report, funded by the program, documented the current state of the private, residential flood insurance market across the U.S.—determining the main factors that influence the number and form of flood insurance policies offered by the private market and identifying policy options to ensure coverage for those who need it.

The program is also exploring smarter remote sensing capabilities for situational awareness, employing high-performance computing and artificial intelligence to analyze satellite data, and realigned economic incentives to bolster resiliency preparations.

Give Thanks

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to DHS S&T impacts on our critical infrastructure security and resiliency. This ongoing effort requires nationwide cooperation and collaboration every month of the year, with public and private partners working together toward a common goal. Learn more about S&T’s impact in this area.

S&T’s Latest Impact Series Takes on Scary Cyber Threats

October 15, 2019
1:02 pm

October is a spooky month. The buildup to Halloween leaves us with creatures, critters, and goblins on our brains. We take all sorts of precautions: we stock up on candy, we surround our homes and yards with creepy jack-o-lanterns, and then we dress ourselves as witches and wizards (or the occasional dinosaur) and stand guard as trick-o-treaters approach our front doors.

William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and TechnologyIn all seriousness, though, October is also the time to highlight some very real spooky threats—to our networks, our critical infrastructure, our mobile devices, vehicles, medical devices, and more. In this ever-connected world we live in, we must do our best to remain vigilant.

At the mid-point of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is launching our latest S&T Impact Series case study, one that highlights many of precautions and actions we are taking to strengthen our nation’s cyber capabilities.

S&T supports the full spectrum of cybersecurity research and development, and the new Cybersecurity Impact Series focuses on specific efforts in three main areas: resilience, solutions development, and mitigation. For instance, how we bring together the best and brightest from academia, industry and government to identify new tools and tactics that can overcome emerging threats. Or, how we dive deep into the legal, economic, and behavioral aspects of cyber-threats to improve decision-making and share resources across the global community. And how we build models, trainings, and platforms to assess vulnerabilities and prepare action plans prior to an attack.

It’s all there, along with a brand-new video and links to several of our ongoing cybersecurity programs that you’ve heard about before, like the Software Assurance Marketplace (SWAMP), the Distribute Environment for Critical Infrastructure Decision-making Exercises (DECIDE), and the Mobile Application Security and Mobile Device Security projects. We even have an actual IMPACT—the Information Marketplace for Policy and Analysis of Cyber-risk and Trust.

We hope you will spend some time lurking (in a good way) around our new Impact Series and learning more about S&T’s cybersecurity mission. While you’re there, take a look at the other case studies in the series that focus on border security, critical incidents, and disaster response. You can also find some tips on how to strengthen your own personal cybersecurity in my last blog post

Have a safe and spooky Halloween, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube for more S&T Impact Series updates!

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October 1, 2019
8:58 am

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This year’s overarching message for the month – Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT. – focuses on personal privacy, consumer devices, and e-commerce security. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) understands how important it is to keep your data private and your mobile technology secure and much of our research and development (R&D) efforts focus on these topics.   

William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and TechnologyS&T supports a full spectrum of cybersecurity R&D to assist DHS component operations, critical infrastructure protections including the finance, energy, public utility sectors, and first responders. What does that mean for you?  It means that our R&D efforts are finding new and better ways to keep data secure from hackers. By passing this information and technology on to groups like first responders, banks, DHS Components, or utility companies, they are better equipped to keep your information secure. Here are some tips for everyday things you can do to aid in this effort.

Passwords

Consider changing your password (PDF, 409 KB, 1 page) to something longer and more random.  Every account and device you have should have a different password. One great option is using a random password generator to create a truly random password. We recommend using multi-factor authentication for all accounts to ensure you are the only person that has access. S&T worked with mobility working groups and federal interagency working groups to create the Mobile Device Security project to address this topic. One of the R&D initiatives that came from this group is continuous multi-factor authentication (PDF, 527 KB, 1 page).

Social Media

Limit your personal information on social media (PDF, 416 KB, 1 page) and watch out for bots (PDF, 399 KB, 1 page).  Addresses, your favorite coffee shop, and when you will be out of town are all things a hacker can use to try and target you or your loved ones. It goes without saying that putting your account numbers and social security number on social media is a big no-no. S&T’s Data Privacy project works to develop, test, and evaluate technical and knowledge solutions for the management of privacy threats.

Applications

Do you know what apps (PDF, 313 KB, 1 page) are running in the background of your device? Some could be gathering your personal information without your knowledge. It only takes a couple of minutes to look through your app permissions. Disable, give the least amount of privilege or delete what you don’t need or are not currently using. It is okay to say “no” when an app requests a privilege that doesn’t make sense. The amount of data and personal information stored in apps make them a prime target for hackers. S&T has started the Mobile Application Security R&D project that seeks to automate and incorporate-security-by-design into a series of security tools for mobile apps.

This October S&T will be focusing our social media efforts to bringing awareness and tips on keeping you and your families, communities, and businesses cyber secure. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to follow along on our social media channels.

S&T Technologies: Supporting Hurricane Dorian Response

September 23, 2019
8:01 am

Hurricanes are an unfortunate and often tragic fact of life and helping provide rescue and response efforts with life-saving technologies is an important and visible way the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) contributes to the protection and safety of the nation and the first responder community. 

William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and TechnologThe advent of Hurricane Dorian called for a whole-of-government response to help our neighbors in the hard-hit Bahamas and to fortify coastal communities from Florida to North Carolina against the ravages of a massive, slow moving and deadly storm.  S&T-developed technology deployed during the storm ran the gamut from tools for projecting the hurricane’s path, storm surge, inland flooding and dam failures, to tools for coordinating response teams on the ground, locating survivors trapped in debris, and more.

A few examples:

Team Awareness Kit (TAK), an S&T and Department of Defense-funded tactical situational awareness tool that operates off mobile devices, helped enable a collaborative federal response to Hurricane Dorian. TAK allowed responders to visually track team members in real time and shared encrypted data across jurisdictions, disciplines, and components.

 Web Based HURREVAC, a hurricane evacuation planning and decision support system for emergency managers, enabled planning, training and execution of critical decision making before, during and after the hurricane made landfall. The tool helped decision makers avoid unnecessary and costly “over” evacuations, as well as potential “under” evacuations that could put lives at risk. Several hundred new users, from the Bahamas, the U.S. and other foreign countries, were added to the system during the hurricane.

More than 100 S&T-funded beta Internet of Things low cost flood sensors were leveraged by state and local stakeholders participating in the field pilots in North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland to provide timely alerts regarding the potential for flooding when hurricanes like Dorian sweep up the east coast.

The S&T- and FEMA-funded Decision Support System for Water Infrastructural Security (DSS-WISE) platform provided dam-break/levee-breach flood modeling, mapping and analysis tools to help inform communities at risk for dam failures as part of the Flood Apex program.

The Advanced Circulation (ADCIRC) Prediction System, a web-based platform that S&T funded, provided U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, and emergency managers early and accurate predictions about storm surge and coastal flooding to enable better decisions on pre-positioning of response and recovery resources and post-storm damage assessments.

Single Automated Business Exchange for Reporting (SABER) provided a hub for sharing real-time business disruption and restoration information. SABER monitored 3,900 business locations from South Florida to the North Carolina/Virginia border that were forecasted to have wind and storm surge impact from the hurricane.

The list above doesn’t include all the support S&T provided, but it goes to show the real-world applications of the research and development S&T tackles. Hurricanes are devastating, and S&T takes great pride in the fact that we were able to impact the preparedness and response efforts in some small measure.

For more information on how S&T’s work has benefited the nation during disasters, visit our S&T Impact Series and explore the Disaster Resilience page.

National Preparedness Month

September 3, 2019
9:00 am

September is National Preparedness Month in the U.S., but we, at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), focus on preparedness all year long. While the month-long campaign focuses on preparing individual Americans for disasters, a large portion of S&T’s work centers around preparing first responders for threats they face today and may face tomorrow. 

William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and TechnologyS&T works together with first responders from all disciplines – fire services, law enforcement, emergency medical services, and emergency managers –  to develop tools and capabilities that meet their needs, keep them safe, and help to improve communications. In fact, the emergency management tools discussed below are currently being used to support preparedness efforts for Hurricane Dorian.

While the challenges first responders and emergency managers face day in and day out are ever evolving, so too is the rapid pace of innovation. S&T aims to recognize first responders’ needs, look at existing technology, and work with industry partners to fill gaps to make sure responders are prepared for whatever comes their way. Many of our tools are field-tested and commercially available.

Here is a sample of some of the technologies and tools S&T has funded to better prepare our nation’s first responders:
 

Law Enforcement

Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) is a game-based software training application being used by first responders and schools staff to train and prepare responders in a safe, virtual-reality environment on different scenarios ranging from active shooter to arson to parental custody disputes to bomb threats.

Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK) is a government-off-the-shelf app for Android smartphones that uses GPS and maps to provide the user a real-time view of an area of operations. It enables multiple types of encrypted data communication such as text and file sharing (including photos and video). These communications can be set for user-to-user, user-to-select teams, user-to-command post or user-to-entire force (even if they are from different agencies).

Fire Services

Burn Saver is a wearable technology developed for fire fighters to alert them when a fire is rising to a temperature that is hotter than the protective capabilities of their Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can handle. Once the alert sounds, fire fighters have 45 seconds to move to a different location or retreat.

Respiration Protection for Overhaul is a light-weight respirator system designed specifically to be used during overhaul operations – when the fire is mostly out, and firefighters must check for hot spots or where the fire is smoldering – to protect against both chemical vapors and particulate hazards.  This respirator is lighter than a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), lasts longer and is safer than a dust mask.

Emergency Medical Services

QuickRoute is a routing system for emergency vehicles that accounts for more challenges than a typical GPS application does. These challenges include: inclement weather, road conditions, size of the vehicle, alternative routes, as well as downed power lines and other hazards. Designed to get first responders to the location of an emergency safely and as fast as possible.

Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction and Synthesis (AUDREY) is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program that uses human-like reasoning to sift through the vast amount of data from various tools and sensors an emergency medical technician (EMT) is using, analyze the information in real time and provide insight to the EMT.

Emergency Managers

Advanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) Storm Surge Model is a web-based platform that combines rain, atmospheric pressure, and wind forecasts to predict when, where, and to what extent flooding will inundate a coastal community. This enables decision-makers to identify which locations will become unsafe and plan for mitigation and response before severe storms occur.

Hurricane Evacuation (HURREVAC) system is a web-based platform that integrates forecast and planning data to provide emergency managers with support tools before, during, and after a tropical event to assist in the decision-making process.

Throughout the month of September, S&T will be highlighting each of the first responder disciplines and ways we are preparing them for whatever challenges come their way on the job.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to follow along on our social media channels.

Facing the Inevitable Storm

June 3, 2019
9:53 am

Natural disasters, like hurricanes, are unpreventable; however, the havoc they leave behind can, at least, be lessened.

William N. Bryan. Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology

Over the years, S&T has developed a host of tools in preparation for the Atlantic hurricane season; the 2019 season officially began June 1. These tools prepare our communities, protect our nation’s critical infrastructure, and help us rebound from hurricane strikes. We worked with partners across federal, state, and local governments throughout the development lifecycle of these tools. We spent time with emergency managers and first responders as they prepared for hurricanes forecasted to make landfall, and learned from academic institutions, businesses, and local communities about the true costs of these seasonal threats. Many of our tools are field-tested and available now.

  • The ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) storm surge model, which combines rain, atmospheric pressure, and wind forecasts to predict when, where, and to what extent flooding will inundate a coastal community with greater precision than other available models. This enables decision-makers to identify which locations to evacuate as a storm approaches and to plan for mitigation and response before severe storms occur.
  • The Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK), which supports the complex communication and coordination needs of multi-jurisdictional responders. ATAK was deployed during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
  • The HURREVAC-eXtended (HV-X) platform, which integrates forecast and planning data to provide emergency managers with decision support tools for use in advance of and during tropical weather.

The ideas for these tools  -- and many more -- came from seeing how those braving these storms operate, hearing what those suffering the aftermath needed – and then attempting to bridge this gap between established operational models and the resulting damage. We learned that – although preparation was still paramount to lessening the damage a storm causes – real-time and accurate information was the thread that tied together emergency response effectiveness from forecast to impact. Yet information alone is useless if it’s not conveyed quickly, precisely, and concisely, so tandem to information is communication. Our tools address these two lessons head on, incorporating aspects of both in their buildout and deployment during actual response missions.

With much of the hurricane season still ahead of us, rest assured that these tools and many more are being used to ensure the safety of Americans and reduce the inescapable shock to devastated communities. Know, too, that we continue to enhance these tools based on advancements in technology and, perhaps most importantly, feedback from users and the communities who this technology was developed to protect.

Keep up with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and subscribe to our email list for the latest updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Solving the Preparedness Puzzle

May 20, 2019
8:46 am

Between December 1811 and February 1812, the central U.S. experienced three major earthquakes, each having a magnitude of 7.0 or greater. The United States Geographic Survey indicates the probability of a similar quake of magnitude 6.0 or greater occurring during the next fifty years is somewhere between 28 and 46 percent. In today’s context, it is almost impossible to imagine the full impact of such a catastrophic event. So how do we, as a society, prepare for something William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.that is almost unimaginable? The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is focused on ensuring that we are all ready for whatever comes our way and that our communities are able to remain resilient in the aftermath.

In the coming weeks, you will hear more from DHS S&T and our colleagues at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about an exercise called Shaken Fury, which will assemble several key puzzle pieces—government (federal, state, and local), first responders of all disciplines, the private sector, academia, non-governmental organizations, media, and the general public—to evaluate the bigger preparedness picture. We want to make sure we have everything fine-tuned so when a disaster does occur, the proper plans and courses of action are in place, and our stakeholders have every resource readily available.

Scheduled to take place over a week at the beginning of June, Shaken Fury will simulate response and recovery to a 7.7 magnitude earthquake near Memphis, Tennessee. Over the past 18 months, DHS S&T has been working with planners and practitioners in preparation for this exercise to enable regional resilience through the introduction and adoption of new innovations, technologies and tools. We are partnering with FEMA and the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) to enhance information sharing and decision support, including mechanisms to assist with the uptake of FEMA’s new Community Lifelines doctrine. As well, our partnership with FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) program will expose first responders to emerging and developed technologies and advance their ability to save lives at disaster sites. With teams from Canada and Australia participating, this USAR exercise offers DHS S&T the unique opportunity to showcase technologies on an international stage.

FEMA’s Shaken Fury response and recovery plans will focus on events in the New Madrid seismic zone, and DHS S&T will take this a step further, leveraging the opportunity to introduce and transition new and established technologies that will elevate regional resilience across a whole spectrum of potential threats and hazards. The work directly aligns to FEMA’s Strategic plan and the agency’s seven Community Lifelines. DHS S&T looks forward to continuing this work after Shaken Fury, to further entrench the necessary protocols and practices that will help communities sustain their elevated posture of resilience. We will work together to transition these technologies and use lessons learned to help ready communities for everyday emergencies and large-scale disasters.

It takes great vision and many hands to assemble a puzzle of the size and scope of Shaken Fury. DHS S&T will continue to keep you posted about how planning is coming together and why a partnership and exercise of this magnitude is so vital to the safety of our communities and our nation.

We are excited to embark on this endeavor and look forward to seeing each piece of the Shaken Fury framework develop. What strategies are working in your agency or community? What are the technologies missing from your preparedness puzzle? Tell us at first.responder@hq.dhs.gov.

How 3 Days in Calif will Inform Years of S&T First Responder R&D

May 13, 2019
10:49 am

Every spring, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) holds a meeting of first responder minds to gain critical stakeholder input that will serve as a roadmap for research and development (R&D) efforts for years to come. Outcomes of this meeting will influence the technologies we produce, how we engage with partners in industry and academia, and ultimately how we provide first responders with the tools they need to stay safe and keep on William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.protecting their communities.

It may seem like a lot rides on this three-day meeting, and it does. Our nation’s responders put their lives on the line every day, and we take our responsibility to them very seriously. That’s why we go right to the source—our First Responder Resource Group (FRRG)—when we want to better understand their technology requirements. Comprised of 140 responders representing all disciplines from across the country, the FRRG is a volunteer working group that helps S&T maintain focus on the top needs of responders in the field. The group meets in person annually to identify and prioritize which of these needs S&T will fund in the months and years to come.

Here’s a peek at what took place at this year’s FRRG Meeting this past week in San Diego, and how it sets the stage for S&T’s research and development lifecycle:

  • During three days of intensive discussion and collaboration, FRRG members, along with representatives from components across DHS, broke into working groups to pinpoint technology requirements in the areas of: responder health, safety and personal protective equipment; data management, collection and analytics; strategic command, control, coordination, and communications; operations and tactical tools; and response and defeat operations.
  • The group as a whole collectively prioritized requirements and began to develop statements of objectives, which will serve as the basis for an upcoming S&T Broad Agency Announcement solicitation. This ensures the responders’ specific needs are front and center from the very start when S&T engages with partners to embark on research and development.
  • FRRG members heard updates on technologies currently in development and saw others that are now available in the marketplace—all the fruits of their labor at previous years’ meetings. FRRG member input does not stop once the requirements are tallied and the meeting ends; rather, they are essential to the entire process, from initial ideas to commercialization. They inform every iteration of technology design, fit, function, and operation. They operationally field-test prototypes and provide feedback. And they are advocates for S&T-developed technologies, sharing word with their colleagues far and wide.

Hear from FRRG members themselves about the value of these meetings and what it means to be able to inform development of technologies that will enhance how they do their jobs. This year’s meeting was especially exciting because 40 new first responders were recently added to the group, lending fresh perspectives and ensuring even better geographic representation from across the U.S. We appreciate their insights and can’t wait to work with them all on a new generation of first responder technologies.

For more information on the FRRG, email first.responder@hq.dhs.gov.

S&T Provides Solutions for Requirements

May 6, 2019
9:42 am

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s research portfolio is driven by our customers’ needs. They provide requirements, and we conduct research and development or look at commercially available options to find the best solution for current and emerging threats.

William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.

For example, with the growing volume of data from next generation tools and sensors available, first responders can easily be overwhelmed and distracted from critical tasks. S&T’s Next Generation First Responder Apex program tackled this problem alongside NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and developed the Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction and Synthesis (AUDREY). A state-of-the-art human-like artificial intelligence (AI) reasoning system that assists first responders at the scene of an emergency, AUDREY sifts through vast amounts of data and provides tailored situational awareness information to first responders. It is a useful and potentially life-saving tool to help first responders in any situation and in any location.

AUDREY is one of many tools S&T is working on to help responders carry out their life-saving responsibilities more safely and effectively. By using artificial general intelligence principles to accept that perfect information may not be available and data may be contradictory, AUDREY is able to direct attention to the most relevant information, guide the reasoning process and recognize when the responder needs new information.

We are testing out AUDREY with our Canadian partners in Hastings-Quinte, Ontario. As part of the U.S.-Canadian bilateral agreement to evaluate next generation first responder technology, emergency medical services (EMS) operators in Hastings-Quinte partnered with S&T, NASA JPL, Defense Research Development Canada and Canadian technologists to develop and test AI applications to improve patient outcomes. In early April, we co-hosted a dry run for an upcoming AUDREY experiment. The final experiment will involve a scenario where EMS will use AUDREY’s AI technology to treat patients experiencing chest pain. At the end of the experiments, we’ll prepare after action reports to share with our counterparts and stakeholders.

AUDREY was also a topic at the recent annual Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis. The conference hosted stakeholders from the global firefighting and public safety community. In addition to AUDREY, FDIC participants experienced another S&T-developed product: the Smoke and Particulate Resistant Turnout Ensemble. S&T developed the ensemble in partnership with North Carolina State University’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center and LION First Responder PPE, Inc. First Responder Resource Group input was used to support and guide the ensemble’s design and implementation. This collaboration resulted in a turnout ensemble that provides inherent resistance to smoke and other particulates without the need to don additional equipment.

S&T does not do research and development for the sake of research and development. Our customer’s requirements directly drive our portfolios, and providing first responders what they need to keep themselves and our nation safe is one of our driving principals. Learn more about our projects by visiting the Our Work section of the website and find out how to work with us by visiting our Business Opportunities page or review our Industry Guide.

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