The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) manages the SAVER Program to assist emergency responders in making procurement decisions. The SAVER Program conducts assessments and validations on commercial equipment and systems, and provides those results along with other relevant equipment information to the emergency responder community. The SAVER Program mission includes:
- Conducting impartial, practitioner-relevant, operationally oriented assessments and validations of emergency response equipment; and
- Providing federal, state, local, and tribal emergency responders with information they need to make knowledgeable decisions about acquiring, using, and maintaining their equipment.
SAVER knowledge products provide information on equipment that falls under the categories listed in the DHS Authorized Equipment List (AEL), focusing primarily on two main questions for the responder community: “What equipment is available?” and “How does it perform?” These knowledge products are shared nationally with the responder community, providing a life- and cost-saving asset to DHS, as well as to federal, state and local responders.
Assessing Responder Equipment
Since its inception in 2004, the SAVER Program has conducted over 100 assessments, encompassing hundreds of pieces of emergency response equipment. Equipment assessed by the SAVER Program falls within 21 major categories on the Authorized Equipment List (AEL)—a list of approved equipment types allowed under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s preparedness grant programs.
Focus Groups, Assessments and Validations
Managed by S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory, the SAVER Program conducts assessments and validations on commercial equipment and systems, and provides those results along with other relevant information to the emergency responder community. By working directly with first responders, NUSTL’s SAVER Program can research and evaluate an extensive range of emergency response equipment in real-world operational scenarios.
NUSTL enlists emergency responders to participate in focus groups and assessments, providing the foundation for the SAVER Program. A focus group is conducted before its corresponding assessment in order to
- Identify and define evaluation criteria—the factors against which equipment are assessed
- Prioritize and weight each evaluation criterion
- Determine equipment selection criteria—factors that determine which manufacturer’s or vendor’s equipment will be included in the assessment
- Design scenarios in which the equipment will be used by the responder evaluators in the assessment
- Identify any additional responder needs regarding the equipment
The identification and definition of evaluation criteria are a critical part of the focus group. Criteria are typically categorized into the five SAVER categories: affordability, capability, deployability, maintainability, and usability. There is no requirement to use all five categories in an assessment.
Formal invitations to participate in the assessment are sent to responders and equipment vendors. Assessment activities are mapped to the evaluation criteria established by the focus group and are driven by scenarios representative of real-world responder conditions. Equipment used in assessments is procured when appropriate; on occasion due to the cost and complexity of some equipment, equipment may be borrowed from vendors or responder agencies.
Organizations that have previously worked on the SAVER Program include, among others, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWASYSCEN) Atlantic, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) as well as several U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories. Since 2004, more than 1,000 emergency response practitioners—law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and emergency managers—have participated in SAVER focus group and assessment activities, ensuring the relevance of information in SAVER reports will meet the operational needs of the responder community.
In addition to focus group and assessment reports, the SAVER Program also produces market survey reports, technotes, application notes, guides, handbooks and other types of knowledge products through the SAVER Program. These knowledge products are shared nationally with the responder community and assist in providing emergency responders with the necessary information to inform their procurement decisions.
Since 2004, the SAVER Program has produced more than 1,000 knowledge products. Publicly releasable SAVER documents are available in NUSTL’s SAVER Document Library. SAVER documents with limited distribution are available to members of the SAVER Community on the First Responder Communities of Practice (FRCoP) website. FRCoP is a platform that supports improved collaboration and information sharing amongst a vetted community of the nation’s first responders. To access limited distribution SAVER documents, request an account on communities.firstresponder.gov.
Through the SAVER Program, S&T routinely partners with other organizations and programs to increase the distribution of equipment information to the responder community. Some of these organizations are listed below.