Disasters aren’t constrained by borders, so emergency response can’t be constrained either. If a hurricane were to cause major damage in cities within the United States and Canada, responders and government leaders from both countries may need to work together to provide emergency assistance. The Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE) uses cross-border information-sharing experiments to help increase resilience at our northern border.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) recently completed the first phase of the third cross-border information-sharing experiment with partners throughout New Hampshire and Nova Scotia.
The first phase of the experiment tested new methods of engagement and information sharing for a simulated major hurricane slamming the United States and Canada. Participants included representatives of the Nashua, N.H. Office of Emergency Management, members and collaboration partners of the DHS Virtual Social Media Working Group and industry representatives including SeeClickFix, Hootsuite Labs, Humanity Road and CrisisCommons. Representatives from Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) – including teams from Colorado and New York, Pacific Northwest and Canada (CanVOST) – provided mutual aid support remotely to jurisdictions on both sides of the border.
“Disasters do not recognize borders, so collaboration across jurisdictional and sector borders is essential to resilience in the face of a major incident,” said S&T Under Secretary Dr. Reginald Brothers.
Through a series of cross-border test-and-evaluation trials related to enhancing and sharing situational awareness, CAUSE III integrates digital volunteers and social media within official emergency response to address alerts, warnings and notifications, mutual aid and deployable long-term evolution broadband.
“CAUSE III provided the City of Nashua with a unique opportunity to realistically test and evaluate non-traditional resources for emergency operations, including new technologies, processes, and organizations with skills atypical of emergency response,” said Nashua Director of Emergency Management Justin Kates. “Opportunities like CAUSE III are essential in advancing the city’s capabilities, especially when it comes to new tactics like social media, crowdsourcing, and digital volunteers.”
A second phase scenario, focusing on response efforts to an uncontrolled brush fire, will take place next week in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Montana.
“CAUSE III is a catalyst for progress, providing DHS S&T with the opportunity to partner with local, state, and federal governments, academic, non-profit, and industry stakeholders in an effective and scalable way,” Dr. Brothers explained. “The outcomes achieved in this series of experiments pave the way for future innovation in technology and process development, and strengthen cross-border capabilities.”
“The Canada and United States Resiliency Experiment has successfully demonstrated how investments in emerging science and technology social media capabilities can be used by digital volunteer communities in both countries to enhance resiliency during emergency situations”, said Dr. Marc Fortin, Assistant Deputy Minister (Science and Technology), of Canada’s Department of National Defence. “The experiment also demonstrated how investments in communications interoperability and situational awareness systems can improve the sharing of emergency information within the emergency responder community to enhance multi- jurisdictional collaboration.”
Some outcomes of the CAUSE experiment included:
- Enhanced resilience through cross-border partnerships with interoperable communications and shared situational awareness;
- Integration of non-traditional resources, including crowd-sourced information, open technologies, and digital volunteers to augment traditional emergency response; and
- The ability to send and receive cross-border alerts via multiple channels and among multiple response partners.
This event is another milestone towards President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2011 U.S. – Canada joint declaration, Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision of Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. The CAUSE Resiliency Series supports the principles and key areas of cooperation of the 2011 U.S. – Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan.