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First Responder Technologies

Firefighters attempt to put out a Wildland Fire The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) 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’ technology needs. S&T 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 Responder Technologies

S&T 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, S&T 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.

Related Resources:

Comprised of 120 active and retired first responders, the FRRG is an all-volunteer working group that helps S&T maintain focus on the top-priority needs of responders in the field. The members are drawn from a broad range of disciplines and sectors and all regions of the country.


Meet some of the veteran responders who advise the S&T First Responders Group’s technology research and development program. These are members of the FRRG, hand-picked for their experience, depth of knowledge and commitment to improving emergency response.

Project Responder 5 (PR5)

Project Responder's goal 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 S&T 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. They are also particularly useful for capturing and recording “unusual situations.” In response to growing demand from police departments and increasing concern from the public, 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-threat Base Ensemble for Responders (AMBER)

The Advanced Multi-threat Base Ensemble for 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 Resources: Advanced Multi-threat Base Ensemble for Responders (AMBER) Fact Sheet, Advanced Multi-threat Base Ensemble for Responders (AMBER™): Final Report

Automated Driver and Responder Alert System (ADRAS)

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. The technology also warns responders of inbound vehicular threats with sufficient lead-time to take protective action.

Related Resources: Automated Driver and Responder Alert System (ADRAS) Fact Sheet, Snapshot: On the Road Again: Alerting First Responders and Drivers of Oncoming Roadway HazardsAutomated Driver and Responder Alert System Operational Field Assessment Report

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 Resources: Burn Saver Thermal Sensor Fact Sheet & Video, Burn Saver Operational Field Assessment Report, Snapshot: Sounding the Alarm - Small Device Alerts Responders to Big Changes to Thermal Conditions

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. S&T 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

Enhanced Rescue Hoist Glove

Rescue hoist gloves protect emergency responders' hands during specialized helicopter hoist rescue operations. To improve the durability and performance of these gloves, DHS S&T sponsored the research and development of abrasion-resistant glove materials and alternative glove designs. The effort resulted in two prototype fingerless glove designs that were tested by S&T's National Urban Security Technology Laboratory.

Related Resources: Enhanced Rescue Hoist Glove Operational Field Assessment Report

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

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

S&T 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 S&T and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 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 Resources: Multifunctional Textiles for Advanced Personal Protective Equipment Fact SheetMultifunctional Textiles for Advanced Personal Protective Equipment Report

News Extraction from Public Data Feeds for First Responders

This project seeks to develop a data-sifting social media analysis system to help responders improve their situational awareness without requiring large amounts of human attention.

Related Resource: News Extraction from Public Data Feeds for First Responders Fact Sheet, News-Extracting Reader and Filter for Helping Emergency Responders Deliver Effective Results (NERFHERDER) Data Collection Report

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

QuickRoute – Mobile Emergency Routing Services for First Responder Vehicles

S&T is working with Azimuth1, LLC to develop QuickRoute, a routing system for emergency vehicles that accounts for a variety challenges, including inclement weather, road conditions, vehicle characteristics and department-level protocols for handling vehicle usage. The technology will ensure emergency vehicles have priority traffic in all areas of travel while responding to a call.

Related Resource: QuickRoute – Mobile Emergency Routing Services for First Responder Vehicles Fact Sheet, Snapshot: New App Provides Emergency Response Vehicles with the Fastest, Safest Path to Incident, QuickRoute Operational Field Assessment Report

Respiration Protection for Firefighters During Overhaul Operations

S&T is working with TDA Research, Inc. (TDA) to develop a respirator system specifically for use during overhaul operations. 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 to protect them from high carbon monoxide (CO) levels.

Related Resources: Respiration Protection for Firefighters During Overhaul Operations Fact Sheet & VideoRespiratory Protection for Firefighters during Overhaul Operations: Operational Field Assessment Report, Snapshot: Fire is Out. However, There is Still Work to be Done

Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS)

Rendering improvised explosive devices (IEDs) safe is crucial to protecting lives and property as 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 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, Snapshot: Bomb Disarming with High- and Low-Tech Solutions

Social Media Analytics and Reporting Toolkit (SMART)

The Social Media Analytics and Reporting Toolkit (SMART) is an interactive web-accessible system that provides users with aggregated social media data (e.g., Twitter and Instagram) for analysis and visualization. SMART has been deployed to multiple real-time events to augment emergency responder situational awareness, helping scientists, engineers and first responders collaborate directly with each other.

Related Resource: SMART: Social Media Analytics and Reporting Toolkit Fact Sheet, SMART: Data Collection Report

Smoke and Particulate Resistant Structural Turnout Ensemble

The 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 fire ground 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 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 

Wearable Smart Chemical Sensor

S&T is working with TDA Research, Inc. (TDA) through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to develop a simple, inexpensive, wearable smart chemical sensor badge that has high sensitivity and selectivity to multiple TICs at trace (low parts per million or ppm) concentrations, and that triggers alarms at permissible exposure limits, short-term exposure limits and time weighted average concentrations.

Related Resource: Wearable Smart Chemical Sensor—Small, Rugged Monitor Warns First Responders of Toxic Exposure Fact Sheet

Wildland Firefighter Respiratory Protection

S&T has awarded a contract to TDA Research to develop a scarf-type respiratory protection system. TDA is teaming with Avon Protection for this project. They envision that this system will be used instead of bandannas, but will provide respiratory protection for firefighters against chemical vapors, carbon monoxide and particulate hazards for over 12 hours during wildland firefighting operations.

Related Resource: Wildland Firefighter Respiratory Protection 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 these and other projects by browsing S&T first responder page, fact sheets, news and videos.

Commercialized Technologies

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

Last Updated: 01/12/2023
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