For first responders, arriving at an incident where there could be deadly threats is an everyday possibility. Saving lives is a dangerous business. But what if we could change that? What if responders running into burning buildings or approaching armed and dangerous suspects had better awareness in these complex situations? Simply put, what if we could help responders save lives safely?
Protecting those who protect us is a top priority for the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). We’re constantly searching for next generation solutions to problems facing our first responders so that firefighters, police and emergency medical technicians are better protected, connected and fully aware when they respond.
Just last week, our Next Generation First Responder program convened with industry at the AFCEA Bethesda Chapter Law Enforcement and Public Safety Technology Forum on this very topic. We conducted a Community Convergence panel on the next generation first responder and a human-centered design workshop on first responder capability gaps and technological innovation.
No one knows the challenges of response like responders. At the Community Convergence panel, we had the opportunity to hear from a wide range of Washington metro area first responders and federal law enforcement. We talked about their challenges, from their perspective. From on-scene communication breakdowns and lack of full situational awareness at an incident, to the behind the scenes struggles of budgeting for new equipment, we heard it all.
So how do we solve these challenges? By having meaningful conversations with industry. By connecting industry directly to responders. By talking, we’re making a difference, and by helping build partnerships between responders and industry, we’re working to establish a new model for technology development for homeland security. At S&T, we are gaining interest from the commercial market to adapt solutions for first responders, and from traditional public safety manufacturers to adopt open standards. This means, more and more, that we’re coming together with industry. For example, our EMERGE accelerator network looks to the startup community to bring the next generation of wearable technology to responders. The first year was a great success; we were able to put more than a dozen technologies in front of 200 investors.
Events like the Community Convergence allow us to have the right conversation with industry. These conversations are important to me; they’re the cornerstone of my approach to how we work with those we serve. If you are part of these conversations, keep talking. If we haven’t heard from you yet, make your voice heard! Our Twitter and Facebook are a great starting point to let us know what YOU think.
Dr. Reginald Brothers
Under Secretary for Science and Technology