DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate has published a handbook to guide industry in developing and integrating technologies for first responders.
Through the Next Generation First Responder Apex Program, DHS has collaborated with first responders and industry to identify capability gaps in technology. The five-year Apex program uses technology to give firefighters, law enforcement officers and paramedics enhanced protection, communication and situational awareness. It engages first responders for feedback from developing program requirements through to testing prototypes.
The NGFR Apex Program consists of more than 40 research and development projects, which have been integrated with the available technology that first responders use through Integration Demonstrations. For example, in Grant County, an experiment was conducted to integrate technologies such as situational awareness and responder physiological monitoring for emergency responders. As a result, a number of new technologies for future events around Grant County have been implemented.
The handbook that has been produced by the Science & Technology Directorate outlines a ‘plug and play’ standards-based environment for commercially based technologies that will assist first responders. Its aim is to reduce barriers to entry to the first responder technology market, encouraging entrepreneurial companies while also saving costs and increasing innovation for public enforcement agencies. It stresses that indiscriminately throwing more technologies at responders can do more harm than good; instead, DHS is looking for “smarter, seamless technologies.”
The handbook also guides potential developers through the Responder SmartHub modules, which ensure that technology is primarily body-worn so that responders can carry out activities safely.
“Integrating new capabilities with existing technology investments is critical to adoption – first responder agencies do not have the budget flexibility to buy all new technology suites and often buy different capabilities from different vendors,” it says. “Interoperability is therefore essential to make sure both new and legacy technologies can support first responder missions without distracting them from their operational priorities.”
DHS S&T is inviting industry to review the handbook and provide feedback on the level of technical detail. Anyone interested in providing feedback should email NGFR@hq.dhs.gov to receive the required NGFR Integration Handbook comment matrix.