Every month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) posts a roundup of key updates from projects currently in the development stages in the Directorate’s First Responders Group (FRG).  This is the second article in the S&T Project Roundup series, outlining what S&T worked on in June.


Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE)

 This month, S&T released a video outlining the recent CAUSE experiment, a demonstration of cross-border communications and situational awareness systems in true-to-life emergency response scenarios. 

 In March of this year, S&T and its program partners spent a week in several spots along the U.S. and Canadian borders testing leading-edge technologies currently in development to advance interoperability and response capacity between the two nations.  The action-packed video demonstrates two specific response scenarios that were executed over the course of the week: a massive oil refinery fire in Saint John, New Brunswick, and the explosion of a compressed natural gas truck near the border crossing in Calais, Maine.  In both cases, participating first responders required an information exchange from all neighboring jurisdictions in near real time. 

 Any and all information that first responders might need in an actual response in order to quickly and safely assess a situation—for example, incident reports, evacuation routes, road closures, hospital status/locations, weather issues, hazmat team availability, and triage locations—was shared using Canadian and American national network systems, including S&T’s own Virtual USA® program, which are described in detail in the video.

CAUSE came about as a result of the Joint U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Initiative signed by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in February 2011 to further enhance the economic and national security of both nations. 

 On June 20, FRG’s Dr. David Boyd and his counterparts at the Canada Centre for Security Science General Defence Research and Development presented lessons learned during the CAUSE experiment on a webinar hosted by the National Information Sharing Consortium (NISC).  The webinar provided an overview of the experiment’s objectives, approach, and participants; discussed the tools and technologies involved; and identified future plans for furthering cross-border shared situational awareness.  An archive of the webinar can be viewed on the NISC website.


Finding Individuals in Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER)

 On June 24 and 25, FRG hosted a second round of demonstrations of FINDER, a tool responders can use to quickly detect living victims buried after a natural or manmade disaster.  FINDER uses microwave radar to detect an individual’s breathing and heartbeat—even when the signal must pass through several layers of building debris and rubble—greatly increasing their chances of rescue and survival.

 After testing the device with members of Virginia Task Force 1 and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Search and Rescue (FEMA US&R) team back in April, FRG and its project partners at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory made some modifications to the device based on responder feedback and data collected.  The modifications included reducing the size of the case containing the unit, extending battery life from 8 hours to 12 hours, and improving the search software and user interface. 

This latest demonstration also took place at the Virginia Task Force 1 training facility in Lorton, Virginia and included simulated disaster scenarios similar to what one would expect to find following disasters like the recent Oklahoma tornadoes, Texas plant explosion, and building collapse in Philadelphia.  The initial results were quite positive, and some of the findings from this demonstration were presented on June 26 at a meeting of FEMA US&R team members in Virginia Beach.  All information collected will inform a third round of testing later this fall.

 Next-Generation Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

 On June 26 and 27, FRG hosted a meeting with first responders and representatives of industry, academic institutions, research facilities, trade/professional groups, development organizations, and fellow government agencies to discuss requirements and capabilities for a suite of next-generation PPE.  Feedback from the event, which was held live at the Homeland Security Acquisition Institute in Washington, D.C., and virtually over the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), will assist FRG in preparing a strategic plan for the development of an integrated PPE ensemble for all responder disciplines.

 By bringing together all key stakeholders—those who design and manufacture the equipment with those who depend on it for personal performance and safety—FRG gained valuable insight into the requirements and capabilities for “PPE of the future.”  The nearly 200 guests who participated in the meeting were treated to demonstrations of several PPE technologies currently in development at S&T, including FRG’s Improved Firefighting Structure Gloves, Wildland Firefighter Advanced Personal Protection System, and a next-generation Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus.  In addition to improving the equipment’s performance, S&T is working to improve responders’ performance as well, by trimming the load they carry and reducing any interference while executing required tasks.   

 The meeting also served as a continuation of a dialogue about technologies FRG could and should develop moving forward to protect members of the fire, law enforcement, and emergency medical services communities from emerging threats.  FRG will incorporate the input gleaned into a strategy for the next 7 to 10 years ahead.

 Those who were unable to attend the meeting may still view portions on the HSIN site.  Suggestions from responders are always welcome, even though the event has ended.  Please contact first.responder@dhs.gov with any related questions or comments.


To learn more about each of the projects listed in the May S&T Project Roundup, contact SandTFRG@dhs.gov.

Source:  Dept. of Homeland Security

Reblogged: 2230 PDT 7/1/13


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