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DHS @ CES 2020: Seeing and Securing the Future Now

January 21, 2020
9:41 am

With one eye on understanding future trends in innovation and the other on how technology can enhance security and save lives, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Jan. 6-10, Las Vegas, NV. With hundreds of exhibitors and panel talks, hosted by the world’s leading thinkers and technology producers, CES provided our DHS colleagues from CBP, CISA, TSA, and S&T a timely platform to form new partnerships and identify future business opportunities. As technology continues to transform society and William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technologychange our security landscape, driven by AI, autonomy, 5G, biometrics and sensors, DHS hosted several engagements with tech experts, media, and business leaders, highlighting where technology is needed to meet the growing demands on the Department.

CES allowed DHS to experience the technology marketplace in new and different ways, while also providing many opportunities to learn about how technology is disrupting different industries and business models. “Our federal, state and local customers need safe, reliable and secure tools to adapt to and respond to changing environments and emergencies, and to drive-down risk and provide flexibility for unintended consequences. We need visibility into new solutions and advances, which is why DHS participates in events like CES,” said Andre Hentz, Deputy Under Secretary (Acting), Science and Technology Directorate.

At our “One DHS” exhibit booth, DHS colleagues Mara Winn (TSA), Vinnie Annunziato (CBP), Eric Puype (CISA), and Randy Sandone, Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI), among others, connected with industry and government officials on DHS technology needs and investment priorities. These conversations helped DHS identify new ideas and key partners we need to engage for scaling capabilities in the face of complex threats.

DHS also hosted four speaking engagements on topics that ranged from innovating aviation security to protecting privacy and security in an AI world. During a panel on “The Travel Experience of the Future,” TSA’s Mara Winn spoke with leaders from Marriott Hotels and MSC Cruise Lines about the importance (for DHS) to learn from other fields and markets. Knowledge exchanges, “enable the Department to meet innovators and identify new capabilities, which can help TSA enhance security and safely facilitate commerce and the flow of people and goods; important mission objectives,” said Mara Winn.

During a DHS panel on AI, S&T’s Andre Hentz and Melissa Oh, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), spoke about the importance of testing data developing use cases, to ensure AI capabilities are trusted and secure before being deployed for homeland security purposes. Andre Hentz suggested “it is the role of government to create the conditions for public and private organizations to collaborate, but both government and industry have a responsibility to reduce risks and vulnerabilities.”

One of the other highlights at CES was the DHS Town Hall at CES Government. TSA Administrator David Pekoske kicked off the event and spoke about the importance of being open, collaborative and communicative about our strategic vision, priorities and commitment to identifying the most effective solutions. During the Q&A, Mr. Pekoske and S&T’s Andre Hentz reminded the standing-room audience that DHS was at CES to build public-private partnerships, hear new perspectives, and help DHS better understand timely and useful solutions. A few examples include automating routine tasks, enhancing screening and detection through IoT, and driving efficiencies through AI and data analytics. Knowing where advances in technology are going is important for aligning DHS strategic investments and priorities. For the Department to plug-into and align operational systems to new tech and digital infrastructure, CBP’s Chris Pietrzak, and CISA’s Rick Driggers spoke to the importance of innovative procurement and the need for potential performers to fully understand the problems DHS is focused on solving. By investing in people, process and technology, Pietrzak and Driggers also discussed how non-traditional solicitations, such as SVIP, are allowing the Department to become more agile in how we do business with industry, which is enabling DHS to better meet expanding demands on security operators.

By attending CES, DHS is changing the conversation on the role technology plays with enhancing security. Our “One DHS” participation sent a clear message to the global technology community that the Department is serious about working with them to improve the way we deliver solutions and accelerate the most effective capabilities for our diverse missions. As the research and development arm of DHS, S&T has to continuously build new coalitions to get the job done. Our CES conversation will continue throughout FY20. Our next stop to engage global innovators and tell our story will be at South by Southwest, March 2020. I look forward to keeping you informed and hope you can join us along the way.

Kicking off 2020 with a Clear Vision

January 6, 2020
10:19 am

Welcome to 2020: a new year, a new decade…Year of the Rat! In my last blog, I touched on how for me (and many others), the holidays are a time of reflection, of taking stock, of hindsight. Looking back at the last year, we at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) traveled across the globe, engaged with public and private partners, led large-scale operational exercises, launched prize challenges, embarked on new research and development efforts, and transitioned several technologies now in use protecting our William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technologyhomeland and our first responders. Phew!

Now here we are in January, with 366 days (well, 360 by the time you read this) ahead that are a clean slate. Instead of reflection, the word that now springs to mind is resolution. Instead of taking stock, let’s take action. And let’s leave hindsight in the rearview mirror and focus on a clear 20/20 vision for 2020.

S&T has big goals, some of which I’ve outlined here, that will serve as a roadmap for the year ahead. In 2020, we aim to:

  • Deliver even more mission-critical solutions to our colleagues across DHS and our federal, state, local, and tribal first responders. For instance, in coming months we anticipate transitioning technologies like Burn Saver and QuickRoute, as well as wearable sensors for fentanyl detection. We’ll deliver new Eye-Dentify systems to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enable them to better train officers. These are but a handful of the technologies that will allow those on the front lines to be more effective in their protection of our communities and our homeland, and to remain safer while on the job.
  • Work in lockstep with our stakeholders to ensure our research and development efforts remain best aligned to their needs. In 2020, we’ll field test technologies currently in development, like POINTER, Emergency Vehicle Warning Systems, and Wildland Fire Respiratory Protection, with first responder end-users to obtain operational input that will inform technology development and transition. We’ll work with the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) to test and evaluate the Forensic Video Exploitation and Analysis tool suite in a mass-transit testbed in early spring 2020. Our SAVER program will assess and validate products currently on the market—like ballistic body armor for women and less lethal technology for law enforcement—to assist agencies with making procurement decisions. Throughout the year, we will work with DHS components and first responders to identify and support their critical technology needs and requirements.
     
  • Strengthen partnerships to advance homeland security priorities at home and abroad. We have a robust track record of engaging with the best partners across the public and private sectors to provide the resources that our Homeland Security Enterprise needs now and in the future. If you’ll be at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, come by booth 501 to chat with S&T, FEMA, CBP, TSA, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency about the next generation of disaster resilience and smart cities technology. Also this week, we’ll meet with university and national lab partners on efforts to demonstrate autonomous systems and platforms for the potential expansion of U.S. Coast Guard maritime surveillance capabilities. A number of opportunities, including our new Small Business Innovation Research solicitation that closes at the end of January will lead to even more  innovation and collaboration.

We’re rested and refreshed and already hitting the ground running, and I am really excited about all that is on the horizon. 2020 is also a leap year—I hope you will take a leap with me and follow along with S&T on all of our upcoming adventures.

Send us your questions and comments on social media—we’re @dhsscitech on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. Visit our Newsroom for articles, press releases, videos and event information, and you can sign up to receive updates as they’re available. Visit our Technology Clearinghouse for curated resources and references for first responders and our industry partners. Visit our Business Opportunities site to learn more about how we can join forces to on even more research and development efforts.

Cheers to a great year ahead!

Happy Holidays from S&T

December 16, 2019
11:28 am

Happy Holidays! And Best Wishes for 2020.And just like that, somehow it is December again. I have found that the end of the year is a great time for making lists. I am not talking about the naughty or nice list that Santa checks twice, but lists of accomplishments, areas of William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.improvement, and goals for the coming year. As I sit down with a glass of eggnog to reflect on this past year and all the great work the men and women of the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) have done to better the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Components and our nation’s first responders, I would like to share a few of the many accomplishments on my list.

DHS is one of 11 federal agencies that participate in the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). Fifteen years and 34 solicitations later, this past June, the DHS SBIR program awarded it’s 1,000th contract award. The DHS SBIR program works with U.S. small businesses to develop new and innovative technologies in support of homeland security needs. Reaching this milestone is significant and shows our commitment to an innovative future.

This summer, S&T participated in two collaborative efforts through Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Shaken Fury 2019 Operational Exercise. The first was a joint effort with FEMA, the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, U.S. Department of Defense, the National Guard, state and local government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector in a large-scale and complex exercise to test current capabilities and train with additional resources in the event of a large earthquake striking Middle America. The second was through a partnership with S&T’s Next Generation First Responder Program and the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama to prepare for the 2021 World Games. S&T was able to train first responders on various technologies that have been developed to better protect and connect them in a disaster response scenario and integrate real-time field reporting capabilities. A year-and-a-half ago, S&T set out on a path to bring cutting edge technology to one of the largest and most complex exercises. This summer, that was accomplished.

This year S&T made great strides in our efforts to apply advanced analytics to support the Department’s efforts to target human and drug smuggling networks and break up criminal enterprises that traffic in the exploitation of humans. As a result of project Igloo, an entire smuggling organization was brought down, with 61 apprehensions, 10 felony reentry prosecutions, the seizure of thousands of dollars, and the identification of hundreds of new leads.

At the beginning of 2019, S&T partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to put out a call for new technologies to help disrupt the flow of opioids into the United States through international mail. Last week, we were proud to announce the winners of this challenge. Through this collaborative initiative, we plan to continue working with these winning technologies to further develop prototypes and establish follow-on production agreements with an end goal of the government deploying these tools in international mail facilities. This is definitely a great way to end a year of incredibly hard work.

Please note, while I have highlighted a few programs and milestones that I am incredibly proud of, for every one that is listed, there are dozens more. The work that S&T does is in support of the men and women who work tirelessly to keep our communities and our country safe.

 I encourage you to take a look at our Newsroom and read through the different articles or watch one of our videos. Each one represents a programmatic or technological achievement that would not be possible without our staff, our partnerships with the government, private sector and academia, and our drive to develop innovative technology.

I raise my glass of eggnog to all of you who have worked with us this year. Job well done! On behalf of everyone at S&T, a very special thank you to those who have given their time, energy, and lives to protect our homeland!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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.

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