Imagine a hot, balmy day in August as fans gather for the University of Alabama football game day opener at the packed Legion Field Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama.
Two minutes into the second quarter, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake causes portions of the stadium to crumble.
Chaos ensues as thousands of people rush to nearby exits or fall victim to crashing debris.
Within minutes, amidst the pandemonium, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), firefighters and law enforcement respond – begin search and rescue (SAR) for victims underneath the rubble to rescue victims, triaging patients, putting out fires and tending to a HAZMAT gaseous leak from an overturned trailer truck just outside the venue.
Now imagine this hypothetical situation isn’t hypothetical.
If this really happened, would all the responder agencies be ready? Would they have the tools they need?
These are the types of scenarios and questions the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) hoped to reconcile for first responders during a recent operational exercise in Birmingham, Alabama.
The DHS S&T’s Next Generation First Responder Program (NGFR) recently partnered with public safety agencies from the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama, at Legion Field stadium for the NGFR – Birmingham Shaken Fury Operational Experimentation (OpEx).
(The DHS S&T Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) Program recently partnered with public safety agencies from the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama, for the NGFR Birmingham Shaken Fury Operational Experimentation (OpEx). The OpEx assessed first responder technologies that addressed the region’s public safety capability gaps to help ready agencies for the World Games 2021 and unexpected natural disasters. S&T also partnered with industry to provide vendors the opportunity to receive operational feedback about their technology from first responders. Courtesy of DHS Science and Technology Directorate and YouTube. Posted on Oct 24, 2019.)
S&T and industry partners evaluate how selected DHS-developed and commercial technologies integrate with existing public safety systems using open standards, and how those integrated capabilities enhance operational communications, increase operational coordination, improve responder safety and augment situational awareness.
The interoperable technology solutions used recommended guidelines found in the Next Generation First Responder Integration Handbook, which provides guidance for public safety agencies and industry on standards-based interoperable technologies, helps to ensure DHS-funded and commercial technology solutions can share information with existing regional public safety systems, applications, processes and procedures.
(S&T is developing equipment and systems for the first responder of the future. The Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) Handbook shows industry how to conform their ideas and products to the responder environment. Essentially a guide to doing business with S&T. Courtesy of DHS Science and Technology Directorate and YouTube.)
The OpEx assessed first responder technology that addressed the city’s public safety agencies’ capability gaps to help augment their capabilities before hosting the World Games in July 2021, and in the event of unexpected natural disasters.
The World Games 2021 is an international multi-sport competition involving 3,600 athletes from more than 100 countries and is expected to draw an extra 100,000 visitors to the area.
“We are trying to think outside current systems because the operations associated with the games will be on a scale [local responders are] unaccustomed to,” explained Norman Speicher, S&T’s technology integration lead for the effort.
“They know they have to evolve and scale their situational awareness in ways they have not done before. They will have to incorporate other agencies that they haven’t done before. We are trying to show some tools that would enable that.”
“At the end of the day, S&T strives to ensure that in the chaos of a disaster, our communities are prepared, and our emergency responders are protected, connected and fully aware of the situation on the ground,” said William N. Bryan, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.
“We achieve this by bringing together the right partners and evaluating a range of technology solutions so when the time comes, responders can take swift, decisive action to mitigate loss of lives and property.”
Public safety partnerships included the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County and the Birmingham Emergency Communications District, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Alabama Department of Transportation, and Alabama National Guard, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
These partnerships provided the opportunity to evaluate and demonstrate mission impact of first responder communication, situational awareness, Internet of Things (IoT) and on-body technologies in an operational environment.
S&T also partnered with industry to provide vendors the opportunity to receive operational feedback about their technology from first responder.
Some of the technologies and capabilities used in the OpEx included:
|Public safety IoT|
|Unmanned Aerial Systems|
|Stadium evacuation simulation tools|
|Sensors that assess hazardous gases|
|Sensors that assess responder physiological condition and patient status|
|Responder and incident commander situational awareness tools.|
Industry partners included:
|AT&T Corporation||NC4 Public Sector, LLC|
|BodyWorn||PAR Government Systems Corporation|
|CommandWear Systems, Inc,||Project OWL|
|Easy Aerial, Inc.||Regal Decision Systems|
|Field Forensics, Inc.||Robotic Research, LLC|
|FireHUD, Inc.||SensorUp, Inc.|
|5VS LLC (Five Vital Signs)||Silvus Technologies, Inc.|
|Image Insight, Inc.||Sonim Technologies, Inc.|
|Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, Inc||SpectraRep|
|Metronome Software, LLC.||Spectronn|
|MobileIron, Inc.||TRX Systems, Inc.|
|Modern Technology Solutions, Inc.||Tyto Athene, LLC|
|N5 Sensors, Inc.||University of Alabama in Huntsville|
DHS S&T also coordinated with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T Corporation to run many of these cutting-edge networked devices on the newly-available FirstNet public safety broadband network.
“Real-time information helps first responders make real-time decisions,” said DHS S&T Program Manager and Birmingham Shaken Fury OpEx Director Cuong Luu.
“This exercise provides the opportunity for first responders to provide real-time feedback so that we may develop smarter, seamless and state-of-the-art technologies that increase their ability to focus on the mission, rather than distract from it.”
The OpEx aimed to fulfill DHS S&T and regional first responder objectives including supporting responder technology innovation, evaluating how integrated technologies make responders safer and more effective, fulfilling responders’ annual training requirements, and receiving responder feedback on existing and emerging technologies to identify areas for improvement and continued DHS S&T focus.
DHS S&T NGFR is a Finalist in the 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program
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