First Responder Technologies

First Responder Technologies

Firefighters attempt to put out a Wildland Fire The First Responder Technologies Division (R-Tech) works closely with the nation’s emergency response community to identify and prioritize mission capability gaps and facilitate rapid development of critical solutions to address responders’ everyday technology needs. R-Tech gathers input from local, tribal, territorial, state and federal first responders and engages them in all stages of research and development—from building prototypes to operational testing to transitioning the tools that enhance safety and performance in the field.

Learn More About R-Tech

R-Tech uses a variety of approaches to gather information on capability gaps. For example, the First Responder Resource Group, comprised of 120 active and retired first responders from across the nation, is an all-volunteer working group that helps guide S&T’s research and development efforts by advising on the top-priority needs of first responders in the field. They also work directly with first responders who have specific requests, like wildland firefighters in California whose heavy personal protective gear was resulting in large numbers of heat stress injuries. In partnership with the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, the U.S. Forest Service, and California firefighters, FRG designed a new garment ensemble for wildland firefighters that improved radiant thermal protection; reduced heat stress; and improved the form, fit and function of the garments.

First Responder Resource Group (FRRG)

Comprised of 120 active and retired first responders from across the nation, the FRRG is an all-volunteer working group that helps guide S&T’s research and development efforts by advising on the top-priority needs of responders in the field.

Related Resources: First Responder Resource Group (FRRG) Fact Sheet, First Responder Resource Group in 100 Seconds video, The First Responder Resource Group (FRRG) through the Eyes of its Members video

Project Responder 5 (PR5)

This report is the fifth in a series of studies begun in 2003. The purpose of Project Responder is to identify and validate capability needs for emergency response to critical incidents, including complex, multi-jurisdictional, large-scale, high-risk, high-probability or high-consequence incidents, or incidents that have important social or economic impacts. The findings will help the FRG align funding and research and development efforts to address the highest priorities.

View or download the PR5 report.

Our Projects

Activation of Body-Worn Cameras without Responder Manipulation

Body-worn cameras worn by law enforcement officers improve transparency and promote added accountability during police interactions with the public such as traffic stops and arrests. Yet, they are particularly useful for capturing and recording “unusual situations.” In response to growing demand from police departments and increasing concern from the public, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is working with Hitron Technologies, Inc. (HTI) to develop and pilot body-worn cameras that can activate without the user manually turning on the camera.

Related Resource: Activation of Body-Worn Cameras without Responder Manipulation Fact Sheet

Advanced Multi-purpose Base Ensemble for Emergency Responders (AMBER)

The Advanced Multi-purpose Base Ensemble for Emergency Responders (AMBER) garment is being designed and developed for S&T by North Carolina State University’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center (T-PACC).

Related Resource: Advanced Multi-purpose Base Ensemble for Emergency Responders (AMBER) Fact Sheet

Automated Driver and Responder Alert System (ADRAS)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is developing the Automated Driver and Responder Alert System (ADRAS), a holistic system to enhance roadway safety for emergency personnel by alerting drivers as they approach emergency scenes and giving them specific collision avoidance instructions and by proving responders warning of inbound vehicular threats with sufficient lead-time to take protective action.

Related Resource: Automated Driver and Responder Alert System (ADRAS) Fact Sheet

Burn Saver Thermal Sensor

Firefighters often find themselves in situations where they are in danger of receiving burns because of a rapid rise in the ambient temperature to a level beyond the protective capabilities of the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worn by the firefighters. The hazard associated with infrared radiation (IR) is particularly acute because the intensity of IR can increase to dangerous levels in seconds. Developing an early detection system that informs the firefighter of a rapid temperature rise, which might not be immediately evident inside the protective gear, would greatly benefit firefighter safety.

Related Resource: Burn Saver Thermal Sensor Fact Sheet

Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) Virtual Training

While live field exercises provide hands-on training to keep skills sharp, they are often costly and time consuming—particularly when they involve coordination among various response agencies. FRG leveraged U.S. Army technology to develop a virtual environment that provides realistic, customized training scenarios and allows online cross-jurisdiction and cross-agency training.

Related Resources: EDGE page, EDGE Fact Sheet, EDGE Virtual Training Revisited video, EDGE Photo Gallery

Field Detection and Analysis for Fire Gases and Particulates: Metal Organic Frameworks

Handheld Detector for Use in Post Fire Environments: Fire investigators and other first responders involved in a post-fire investigation require the ability to detect, monitor and analyze potential fire hazards that gases and particulates pose to the health of the first responders at the scene. Current detection systems have limited capabilities, or are cumbersome and expensive.

Related Resources: Field Detection and Analysis for Fire Gases and Particulates: Metal Organic Frameworks Fact Sheet

Lost Person Locator

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), along with dbS Productions—known as the leading source of search and rescue research, publications, and training—has initiated a program to develop guidance, protocols and strategies responders can employ while searching for lost individuals. Called the Lost Person Locator, these guidelines and data sets will be readily available in an easy-to-follow format. First responders in the field will be able to use the Lost Person Locator software to quickly and safely locate missing people.

Related Resources: Lost Person Locator Fact Sheet, Lost Person Locator 100 Seconds video

Multifunctional Textiles for Advanced Personal Protective Equipment

The need for clothing and equipment that provides protection against “all hazards in an unpredictable response environment” was identified in the Project Responder 3” report that was funded by the Department of Homeland Security – Science & Technology Directorate and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). First responders often encounter unanticipated situations with unknown threats while wearing only their normal duty uniforms and their normal uniforms don’t provide protection against atypical threats.

Related Resource: Multifunctional Textiles for Advanced Personal Protective Equipment Fact Sheet

Precision Outdoor and Indoor Navigation and Tracking for Emergency Response (POINTER)

POINTER is a precision positioning sensor system that uses low-frequency magnetic fields to locate first responders’ positions and orientation, even in the most diverse and complex environments. In situations with heavy smoke, debris or line-of-sight obstructions, maintaining awareness of responder locations not only enhances real-time response efforts, but also saves precious seconds when a responder is injured or lost.

Related Resources: POINTER Fact Sheet, POINTER video

Respiration Protection for Firefighters During Overhaul Operations

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responder Group (FRG) is working with TDA Research, Inc. (TDA) to develop a respirator system specifically for use during overhaul operations. Toxic Particulates Place Firefighters at Risk. After a structure fire has been suppressed, firefighters carry out salvage and overhaul operations to check for and extinguish any smoldering hot spots, while at the same time trying to minimize damage to the structure and its contents. Early in the overhaul operations while opening walls, ceilings, etc. to check for fire, firefighters wear their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to protect them from high carbon monoxide (CO) levels.

Related Resource: Respiration Protection for Firefighters During Overhaul Operations Fact Sheet

Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS)

Rendering improvised explosive devices (IEDs) safe is crucial to protecting lives and property. So is neutralizing these devices when they are discovered. While detection technologies and strategies have received considerable attention, until recently the homeland security enterprise lacked an integrated program for developing the countermeasures public safety bomb squads (PSBS) can use to safely and efficiently dispose of IEDs. Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) is that integrated program.

Related Resources: REDOPS Fact Sheet, Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) Revisited in 100 Seconds video, REDOPS Revisited video

Smoke and Particulate Resistant Structural Turnout Ensemble

Agency for Research on Cancer named the occupation of firefighting as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Their analyses of multiple studies concluded that firefighters experience a 50 percent increased risk of testicular cancer, a 30 percent elevated risk of prostate cancer and a 21 percent elevated risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, compared to the general population. Chronic exposures to toxic combustion products found in the fireground environment are believed to contribute significantly to the higher cancer occurrences in firefighters. When used during fire suppression and over-haul stages, the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) protects the highly susceptible respiratory tract from toxic combustion products in smoke and soot.

Related Resource: Smoke and Particulate Resistant Structural Turnout Ensemble Fact Sheet 

Wireless Physiological and Environmental Monitoring (WiPEM)

Firefighting is exceptionally strenuous and dangerous work that can have significant health consequences for first responders, including death. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, of the 1,094 fire-fighters who lost their lives from 2005-2015; the leading causes of death (57 percent) were cardiac arrest or asphyxiation. Remote monitoring of vital signs that measures heart rate, respiration and other physiological factors can help reduce negative physical outcomes.

Related Resource: WiPEM Fact Sheet

Learn more about R-Tech projects by browsing FRG publications, fact sheets, news and videos.

R-Tech Commercialized Technologies

Several R-Tech technologies are now available for first responder agencies to procure. Visit our Commercialized Technologies page for more information.

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