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.
S&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:
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).
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.
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.