We at the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) are passionate about addressing the global threat of climate change. There’s never been a more urgent time to take action to protect workers (including our first responders) and communities from the devastating effects of extreme heat. We’re joining forces with our colleagues at the White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the entire Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on a ‘cool’ new effort to harness the power of science—and we invite you to join us as well.
Yesterday, we announced the first in a series of prize competitions; S&T and FEMA are partnering to strengthen the nation’s resilience to climate change and the cascading impacts of natural disasters. We are proud that our first time partnering with FEMA on a prize competition will be in support of combatting climate change—a priority for DHS and our planet. Climate change is driving local heat events that exceed historic temperature extremes, putting all of us at risk.
This first challenge is focused on finding innovative, climate-friendly solutions to extreme heat that can provide people in public and residential areas with access to technologies that can keep them cool during times when they, and the power grid, are under tremendous stress. The Cooling Solutions Challenge seeks novel ways to protect those at risk of heat-related illness or death. Though it may not get as much attention as hurricanes or wildfires, extreme heat seriously threatens communities across our country and is the nation’s leading cause of weather-related death. Loss of electricity is a common occurrence during any disaster and the subsequent loss of conventional cooling systems can be catastrophic, impacting our most vulnerable populations. Additionally, first responders and those required to work outdoors are at increased risk for heat-related illness. At a time when hurricanes are devastating parts of our country and people without electricity are struggling with hot summer weather, mitigating this threat is especially imperative.
These types of big problems require even bigger solutions, which is why crowdsourcing for diverse ideas and new perspectives is key, and why we invite climate-conscious innovators to enter the Challenge.
Prize competitions offer a great deal of latitude and a fresh approach to spur innovation and engage the public to help us solve problems. The unique authorities under the America COMPETES Act allow S&T to directly engage citizen inventors. These types of challenges allow us to stimulate innovation, spur development of technology, generate ideas, and send demand signals to industry for needed solutions to advance DHS’s mission.
Since 2014, S&T has completed over ten challenges in support of DHS missions—on digital wallets with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, stopping illicit opioids from entering the United States through the mail, creating more environmentally sound buoy systems with the U.S Coast Guard, and helping the Transportation Security Administration with screening algorithms and ideas around passenger safety—just to name a few. We’re excited about this new opportunity with FEMA and can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
So…do you have a solution for how to help people and communities beat the extreme heat? Check out the Cooling Solutions Challenge on Challenge.gov or our prize competition webpage for more information on eligibility, rules, terms and conditions and submission requirements. The deadline for submissions is December 7, 2021.