The Department Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) regularly posts a roundup of key updates from projects currently in the development stages in S&T's First Responders Group (FRG). This article outlines FRG's accomplishments in April and May 2015.
System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders
On April 15, DHS S&T’s System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) Program issued its Body-Worn Video Cameras for Law Enforcement Assessment Report. A group of emergency responders assessed seven such systems, which typically consist of a camera, microphone, battery and onboard storage. The units are designed to be head-mounted or worn at various locations on the body, depending on the model.
The assessment addressed 16 evaluation criteria in three overarching categories:
- Capability (e.g., image quality, low-light capability and field of view);
- Deployability (e.g., attachment options, durability, and interference); and
- Usability (e.g., camera activation, instant video playback and point of view).
The report also assessed advantages and disadvantages of the seven cameras. The criteria and scenarios used in this assessment were derived from the results of a focus group of emergency responders with experience using body-worn video cameras. The focus group created requirements that are specific to first responders and made recommendations for product selection.
Virtual Social Media Working Group
On April 15-17, FRG participated in the State of Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency (GOHSEP) Annual Hurricane Exercise at the State Emergency Operation Center in Baton Rouge. FRG staff and several members of the S&T Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) were on hand to evaluate how emergency managers and responders operationalize information obtained from social media in a simulated disaster scenario. They were also interested in capturing lessons learned and best practices to include in the upcoming VSMWG report — Integrating Social Media into Exercises for Capacity Building — which is slated to be released in summer 2015.
Prior to the exercise, FRG and the VSMWG developed social media-specific objectives, a plan of action and a proposed process for integrating social media into the GOHSEP operational workflow. The process was then discussed and implemented during the exercise with Operations and Joint Information Center staff. The goal: streamline the identification of essential information in social media to better assign and deploy resources. During the exercise, the team provided Social Media SimCell support and monitored and assessed the flow of information. They also met with key emergency response stakeholders, including the Louisiana Public Information Officer, state and parish government representatives and staff from the Louisiana State Analytical and Fusion Exchange. In addition to the upcoming VSMWG report, an after-action and next steps summary will also be published on this site.
On April 16, FRG’s John Price and partners from Radiance Technologies and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs Armory Operations Branch (AOB) performed final tests of the Virtual Shooter at a Federal Protective Service firing range in Alexandria, Virginia. The Virtual Shooter is a device that closely mimics the exact counterforces exerted on the human body when using a handgun to reduce the acute body pain caused by repetitive shooting.
The project began in June 2012, developed by FRG through the Small Business Innovation Research program. AOB provided feedback throughout the development process, and the technology was permanently transitioned to AOB’s facility in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the week of May 18. The goal is to ultimately make Virtual Shooter commercially available to other law enforcement agencies and industry.
Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response
May was a month of milestones for FRG’s Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), a technology that uses microwave radar to detect heartbeats of victims trapped in wreckage. FRG and partners from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA JPL) and Virginia Task Force 1 (VA-TF1) tested the final prototype at the VA-TF1 training facility in Lorton, Virginia, on May 5. On May 7, the group, along with the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Program Office and commercial partners (R4, Inc. and SpecOps Group, Inc.), hosted a media day at the facility with members of the local, national and international press.
The real highlight of the month was confirmation of FINDER’s use — and success — in a real-life disaster situation. Two FINDER units were deployed to Nepal with David Lewis of R4, Inc. and assisted international search and rescue teams with locating four men trapped in rubble after a massive earthquake devastated the country. May also marked FRG’s official transition of the FINDER technology to the commercial partners mentioned above.
First Responder Resource Group
On May 12-14, FRG hosted the 2015 First Responder Resource Group (FRRG) meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The FRRG is a dedicated group of the nation's top first responders and subject matter experts who come together to identify technology gaps, assist in requirements gathering for new product and technology ideas and participate in testing and evaluating technologies as they transition from development to commercialization. The all-volunteer working group helps FRG focus on the top-priority needs of responders in the field.
More than 50 first responders from across the U.S. worked with FRG staff to identify and prioritize 18 new capability gaps in six areas:
- Cyber, Decision Making Support and Incident Management
- Threat Monitoring, Data Modeling Assessment and Responder Deployment
- Communication, Interoperability and Compatibility
- Emerging Technology Needs
- Explosives Ordnance Disposal
- Canine Response
Based on the feedback received, FRG will develop plans for potential technology solutions to address these gaps. The work accomplished at the meeting will inform which projects will receive funding and will serve as the basis for FRG’s Broad Agency Announcement solicitation in late summer 2015.
To learn more about the items listed in the spring 2015 Project Roundup, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.