“Life is full of surprises, but the biggest one of all is learning what it takes to handle them.”
That sage advice from noted children’s book author Deborah Wiles illuminates the important life lesson that we can best handle whatever surprises—good or not so good—that come our way if we prepare for them.
September is National Preparedness Month, an annual public-awareness campaign sponsored by our colleagues at FEMA’s Ready.gov. The campaign’s goal is to encourage Americans to take steps to develop emergency plans. Its informative website is filled with helpful tips for creating action plans.
At the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), we are preparing every day for unexpected events that could challenge the nation. Whether it’s a natural or human-caused disaster or a local or widespread event, S&T and its partners in the government, academia and private-sector research community are creating revolutionary technologies, informational resources and other solutions that help prepare the nation to respond to emergencies (or even prevent them).
Our website is full of countless examples, and while I cannot share all of them here in this blog, I will spotlight several timely projects that align with Ready.gov’s National Preparedness Month themes:
COVID-19 Response: S&T’s pandemic-related activities focus on research and providing valuable resources to inform the fight against this public health emergency. S&T summarizes scientific research from around the world in the Master Question List, and now the Delta Variant Supplemental Reference, which consolidates what is known about the virus and what additional information is still needed. Also, we continue to conduct tests to determine the most effective measures to reduce the spread of viruses on public transit, as well as the environmental impacts of the coronavirus. More insight into S&T’s COVID-19 response are presented here.
Wildfire Detection: In June, S&T successfully tested four prototype technologies for early detection of wildfires in California. Prior to this testing, S&T worked with industry partners to refine and enhance their wildfire sensor technologies. The testing proved the technologies can be a valuable resource for first responders and the public. Last month, S&T selected two partners to move forward with the next test and evaluation phase of its Wildland Fire Sensor Research Program.
Disaster Response: S&T worked to enhance two geographic information system-based apps—the Rapid Visual Screening and Building Safety Assessment—used for pre- and post-disaster assessments. The enhanced mobile format delivers data quickly to stakeholders before or following a disaster. Also, S&T is working to advance open-source software capabilities for public safety. S&T and a partner are developing open-source code for S&T’s Next-Generation Incident Command System that will ensure the information-sharing platform meets the operational needs of the emergency response community.
Flood Sensors: S&T developed the Low-Cost Flood Sensors: Urban Installation Guidebook, which guides communities with deploying and operating flood monitoring sensors. The guidebook captures the process and results of an 18-month operational test of S&T’s flood sensors—from the initial steps of selecting sensor locations and installation to operation and maintenance. Today, its best practices are guiding other communities as they implement flood sensors.
FAST: S&T helped develop and has funded the First Aid for Severe Trauma (FAST)TM program, which trains high school students how to render life-saving first aid before first responders arrive at an emergency. S&T funded FAST instructor certification training for teachers across the country. These training sessions are part of a three-year effort by S&T, its partners, teachers and medical experts to develop and implement a FAST curriculum in high schools across the country. I am happy to announce that as of last week, the training is now available nationwide.
I believe this quote from former baseball player Dick Allen captures the inevitability of out-of-the-blue occurrences and S&T’s approach to readiness: “The most expected thing you can expect is what’s unexpected.”
We hope that you will apply Allen’s logic to jumpstarting your own planning, so your loved ones will be prepared for whatever is pitched at them. Start now at the National Preparedness Month website.