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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.