As I’ve shared before, scientific thinking and innovation plays an important role in securing the nation. This is especially true when it comes to ensuring that the nation’s first responders have access to affordable technology that makes them more protected, connected and fully aware.
For this to happen, we must change how we look at research and development and not only gain input from our end users, but engage our industry partners as well. S&T is focusing efforts on ensuring that the conversation about first responder preparedness, safety and awareness happens daily across multiple venues, in person and online.
Recently, the Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) invited area responders and industry representatives to participate in a conversation about wearable and communications technologies. Participants braved snow and challenging traffic conditions to meet in Baltimore, Md. on Feb. 26 to share their perspectives.
At this unique event, they were asked to think differently about the role of science and technology in supporting the Responder of the Future. The meeting tapped the experience and perspective of both groups to drive the direction of first responder technology development, support how S&T is reinventing R&D practices, provide input into S&T’s Visionary Goals, and share ideas to ensure technologies are developed and tailored to make the right impacts. FRG’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility Division Deputy Director John Merrill presented the Next Generation First Responder Apex Program concept, as well as S&T’s vision of a future where electronics (e.g., sensors, communications and visualization technologies) seamlessly work together to enhance the safety of responders. Following a review of a real-world, multi-jurisdictional emergency scenario, participants identified operational challenges and gaps and provided ideas on how wearable technology could improve situational awareness, communications and vital signs monitoring.
Participants gained insights into technology, jurisdictional, budgetary and real-world event challenges; wish-lists for better situational and locational awareness of victims and first responders; improved ways for managing triage and sharing information with hospitals; and information about better sensors for detecting on-site hazards. This was a valuable discussion for our industry partners who asked focused questions and discussed potential technologies in development for addressing responder challenges.
Not only do events like this help us continue our National Conversation on Homeland Security Technology, they help create lasting partnerships that we hope will bridge the chasm between government and industry. I invite everyone to be a part of this conversation. Contribute your input and help S&T deliver effective and innovative insight, methods and solutions to meet the critical needs of the Homeland Security Enterprise.
Dr. Reginald Brothers
Under Secretary for Science and Technology