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.
The 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.