The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Next Generation First Responder program (NGFR) has held a series of integration demonstrations to test, evaluate and showcase interoperable technologies currently in development. The tests also assessed how DHS-funded technologies, commercially-developed technologies and existing first responder systems integrate to improve response operations. Since 2016, these demonstrations have evolved from tabletop integrations to field exercises with partner public safety agencies, and have grown to include more commercial technologies. Outcomes and lessons learned have produced materials to aid first responders, emergency managers and public safety agencies to implement new technologies addressing capability gaps.
Birmingham Shaken Fury OpEx August 2019
For NGFR’s last operational experiment, the program has partnered with Birmingham-area public safety agencies in a HAZMAT and Search and Rescue incident response resulting from an earthquake scenario. This OpEx is affiliated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2019 Shaken Fury exercise hosted by FEMA and will focus on a simulated major earthquake in Memphis, Tennessee that will impact middle America including the state of Alabama. The OpEx is also an opportunity for Birmingham-area public safety agencies to enhance their mission capabilities in advance of the World Games which the city of Birmingham will host in June 2021.
Harris County OpEx December 2018
S&T’s NGFR - Harris County Operational Experimentation was held December 2018 at the Port of Houston, Texas. The experiment integrated next generation first responder technology and safety agencies’ existing technology to assess their interoperability using guidance from the NGFR Integration Handbook to enhance the mission capabilities of Houston-area responders and the United States Coast Guard during a HAZMAT scenario. During the OpEx, DHS S&T and responders evaluated how DHS-developed and commercial technologies integrated with existing public safety systems using open standards, and how those integrated capabilities enhanced operational communications, increased operational coordination, improved responder safety and augmented situational awareness. DHS S&T and industry partners provided technologies such as responder and patient physiological monitoring sensors, indoor location tracking, HAZMAT sensors, smart alerting for responders and incident command, advanced data analytics, and situational awareness and collaboration dashboards. The OpEx After Action Report will be available April 2019.
PlugTest February 2018
The PlugTest was conducted on February 20-22, 2018, at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The NGFR PlugTest tested the architecture and standards documented in the NGFR Integration Handbook, which provides guidance for technology providers in the areas of device design, system architecture, message standards and data formats for on-body and enterprise systems to support first responders. NGFR calls this on-body architecture the SmartHub system. The event was structured to validate interoperability characteristics in three primary functional categories: sensors (e.g., physiological, chemical, location), communication hubs, and situational awareness tools.
Grant County TechEx June 2017
The Grant County DHS S&T Next Generation First Responder Technology Experiment was the first partnership with a rural public agency that tested the integration of physiological and location sensors, situational awareness systems, drones, datacasting, and deployable communications into a cohesive public safety solution in an operational environment. The TechEx took place in Grant County, Washington, and assessed both the technology integration as well as how the new technologies improved the mission response of the participating law enforcement, fire rescue, and emergency medical agencies.
Boston Communications Experiment October 2016
The Boston Communications Experiment assessed two communications systems—Mutualink and datacasting—to address requirements defined in Section 212 of Public Law 114-120 2015 (U.S. Congress, 2015). This law stipulates the execution of a pilot of three or more DHS components to assess the effectiveness of commercially available systems certified by the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Interoperability Test Center. These systems should allow multiagency collaboration and interoperability, and wide-area, secure, and peer-invitation-and-acceptance-based multimedia communications. The results identify both positive and negative features of the communication systems during the experiment, which have helped determine the next steps for these, or similar, technologies.
NGFR Integration Demonstration May 2016
The NGFR Integration Demonstration highlighted the ways in which various proprietary technologies come together to improve communications and situational awareness of first responders in the field. The demonstration integrated a number of physiological monitoring devices, environmental sensors, live video-streaming from body cameras and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), hybrid communications, wearables and alerting devices during an emergency scenario requiring a coordinated response from law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
Internet of Things (IoT) Pilot January 2016
The IoT Pilot prototyped how open-source standards could allow various proprietary technologies integrate to improve communications and situational awareness of first responders. This table top demonstration integrated a wide array of sensors, including physiological monitoring devices, environmental sensors, and wearables, and investigated sensor catalogs, geospatial displays and alerting.