Technology is rapidly changing the way the world operates, and first responders are acclimating in stride. New mobile devices and apps are finding their way to the marketplace with responders in mind, but the delicate nature of smartphones has us wanting for a protective case.
More than 60 percent of surveyed first responders reporting to have either damaged their phone on duty, or know someone who has, rugged cases are a timely necessity. The Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC), a division within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's (S&T) First Responders Group, called for a ruggedized case for smartphones that provides impact, moisture, and temperature protection. Through a Small Business Innovation Research project, California-based SA Photonics is helping to develop a solution. The company presented design highlights, successes, and next steps at a Phase II SBIR kick-off meeting in September.
Preliminary design highlights for the hardening of devices project include:
· Protective overlay that enables the phone to pass drop tests of up to nine feet
· Silicone corner bumpers for extra impact absorption
· A watertight enclosure with silicone inserts to maintain phone functionality in wet conditions or after immersion
· A temperature control system for optimum operation in temperature extremes
· Solar panel, wireless charging, and a method to double battery capacity
SA Photonics said its greatest success is the technology that protects the weakest part of the smartphone, the screen, against a nine foot drop onto a hard, pointed object while still providing the same touch capability as an unprotected iPhone.
The focus of the Phase II project will include:
1. Completing a detailed design of a ruggedized smartphone enclosure, culminating with a Critical Design Review
2. Building 12 prototype ruggedized enclosures
3. Developing prototype smartphone applications
4. Completing performance testing and user acceptance studies
5. Updating design based on performance testing and user feedback
6. Refining a private and public sector commercialization plan
As design research marches forward, first responders who increasingly reach for their smartphones during the call of duty may soon have a ruggedized case to match.
Created: 12/5/2013 9:41 AM
According to a report released by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), every 23 seconds a fire department responds to a fire in the United States. The report, Fire Loss in the United States, also shows that in 2012, there were more fire-related deaths than ever previously reported. Home fires caused 83 percent of the 2,855 civilian deaths that year and approximately $7 billion dollars in property loss. A total estimate of $12.4 billion in property damage occurred—an increase of 6.6 percent from 2011.
NFPA has resources available, including podcasts, online videos, and fact sheets, to help first responders engage their communities in an effort to drastically reduce these numbers this holiday season, as more people take to their kitchens to prepare holiday meals. Cooking is the largest cause of home fires nationwide, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA); while this may be common knowledge for emergency medical services personnel, firefighters, and first responders, the general public may not be as acutely aware of the dangers of the most commonly used room in a home. USFA also provides resources to not only help responders educate their communities about prevention, but also to refresh their own holiday response skills.
There are many types of kitchen fires that the average American may be affected by in a lifetime. Statistically, NFPA estimates that most of these fires can be prevented entirely with proper care and planning. For instance, fire alarms are a good way to reduce the risk of home fires, but the general public may not be aware of the different types of alarms, their importance, or how to properly install and maintain them.
In addition, responders can inform citizens on the proper use of stovetops and ranges. The USFA suggests that cooks make sure that stovetops are not crowded with so many pots and pans that a splash could cause a fire and to avoid wearing loose clothing or clothing with hanging sleeves while preparing meals. Fabric can easily catch fire while the unsuspecting chef stirs a pot. Paper towels and potholders are necessities for the kitchen, but if they are left in the wrong place, they might catch fire and cause substantial damage. And as the trend increases, families should be advised that if they plan to serve fried turkey this season, they should not leave the bird unattended in the fryer. Small electric sparks can turn into full blown fires in minutes.
The best protection against fires this holiday is education. More tips on cooking fire safety are available at:
Created: 11/26/2013 12:43 PM
Originally posted to the Homeland Security blog by John Cohen, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis and Counterterrorism Coordinator
The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) joined the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento first responder community for a demonstration of the pilot Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) virtual training platform—a system designed to train first responders across multiple agencies, disciplines, and jurisdictions in real time on complex emergency response scenarios. EDGE allows multiple individuals across the first responder community to. Simply by logging into the secure EDGE system from a computer, responders can train on a simulated virtual emergency. Today’s demonstration involved an active shooter scenario, and participants from Sacramento law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire, unified command and dispatch joined in today’s training and demonstration.
The EDGE virtual training platform is a new technology representing one of countless partnership and training efforts between DHS our Federal, State, local and private sector partners—enhancing preparedness efforts for our first responders and ensuring that our nation is more safe and secure. DHS offers a broad set of tools to help law enforcement and private sector partners prepare for active shooter scenarios. The DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate Office of Infrastructure Protection and FEMA provide active shooter trainings across the nation . Additionally, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice have expanded access to federal training on active shooter situations for law enforcement and first responders with additional outreach, new online resources, improved training curricula, and exercises with law enforcement at all FBI field offices.
As a part of the Administration’s comprehensive efforts to prevent gun violence, DHS in partnership with the FBI and the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services, has already taken significant steps to improve preparedness. In January, DHS officials joined FBI and state and local law enforcement officials from around the nation to solicit input regarding prevention and response efforts. This input informed the Administration’s work to create model emergency planning guidance for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education, which were released in June. The White House progress report and emergency management planning guides are available here. Our efforts are ongoing and we are always working to incorporate new information and mitigate potential threats.
Created: 11/26/2013 12:33 PM
Join the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) on Thursday, November 21, for a Twitter Chat about S&T’s Resilient Tunnel Project. From 1 to 2 p.m. EST, S&T Resilient Systems Division Program Manager Dr. John Fortune will be online to discuss the tunnel plug, a prototype that uses state-of-the-art textile technology and manufacturing techniques to protect mass transit tunnels from flooding.
In recent years, the United States has experienced more frequent and destructive floods, such as those seen during Hurricane Sandy. Tunnels are a critical means of rapid departure and evacuation during an emergency. In the case of Hurricane Sandy, New York City was forced to shut down seven subway tunnels in the face of a devastating disaster that tore through every borough and county of the region.
To help protect this critical part of our nation’s infrastructure and prevent future flooding, S&T is researching technologies that can prevent or limit flooding in transportation tunnels. Working with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, West Virginia University, and ILC Dover, S&T developed a tunnel plug that quickly inflates to isolate and seal tunnel sections, limiting the spread of damage and destruction.
The plug is composed of three layers of high-strength Vectran® fabric. The fabric is highly durable, as is evidenced by its origins—ILC Dover originally developed it for use in the landing pods of the Mars Rover. It is also flexible and able to fit into a compact container that can be pre-installed in underground transit tunnels. Upon deployment, the plug can inflate within minutes, sealing off a tunnel from flooding, as well as smoke and chemical releases. In 2012, S&T successfully tested the plug in a full-scale test tunnel at West Virginia University, and in 2013, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority partnered with ILC Dover to design, manufacture, and test a prototype plug in NYC’s subway system.
During the Twitter Chat, Dr. John Fortune will discuss how the tunnel plug works, outcomes of pilot tests, and the impact this tool will have on our nation’s critical infrastructure. We encourage you to join the two-way discussion and share your thoughts.
Submit your questions and comments to @DHSSciTech before, during, or after the chat and be sure to use the #STTechTalk hashtag.
Created: 11/19/2013 12:02 PM
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), along with partners at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the emergency medical services (EMS) and manufacturing communities, are developing new ambulance safety standards focused on crash load characteristics, patient restraints, ambulance layout and design. These standards will improve the safety of both EMS professionals and passengers within the ambulance cabin.
In addition, these partners are developing several guidebooks for the EMS field; the first of which addresses ambulance alerts and hearing-impaired drivers.
The approach of an ambulance is announced by audible sirens that alert drivers well before it is visible, giving drivers enough time to make way for the emergency vehicle. According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, more than 12 percent of the population (38 million people) has significant hearing loss. Hearing-impacted drivers that can’t hear the warning sirens do not get that early warning of an approaching emergency vehicle, so they may not be able to react as quickly
The guide, Improving Communication between Ambulances and the Hearing-Impaired, analyzes multiple electronic warning systems designed to improve communication between an ambulance and hearing-impaired drivers. In-vehicle warning systems, external warning systems, and portable warning systems are outlined and evaluated using a ranking system. Cutting-edge technologies from the research and evaluation include SMS alerts, location tracking of approaching EMS vehicles, and revolutionary traffic lights that automatically redirect traffic at intersections in an ambulance’s path.
It also provides key research about the different types of hearing impairment – such as congenital, acquired, and temporary due to loud noise and environmental conditions – and matches them to technological advances that can reduce negative effects.
Improving Communication between Ambulances and the Hearing-Impaired was created in partnership between S&T’s First Responders Group, S&T’s Resilient Systems Division, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), BMT Designers and Planners, and Carlow International.
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Created: 11/15/2013 1:51 PM
Originally published on The Commerce Blog.
When it comes to detectors for dangerous chemicals, toxins or nefarious germs, smaller and faster is better. But size and speed must still allow for accuracy, especially when measurements by different instruments must give the same result.
The recent publication of a new standard—a culmination of years of research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—provides confidence that results from handheld chemical detectors can be compared, apples-to-apples.
Such detectors are used by emergency responders to check for the presence of explosives or toxic chemicals that threaten public safety. Quality control managers in the pharmaceutical industry use them to verify the identity of chemicals going into their production lines.
The new standard, published recently by ASTM International, is intended as a guide to correct the output from different handheld Raman spectrometers, so that different instruments produce the same result for the same sample.
Raman spectrometers identify chemicals by shining laser light on a sample and detecting the very small changes in the wavelength of that light as it is re-emitted from the sample. However, spectrometers from different manufacturers can produce signals with different peak intensities. These differences can be confusing, particularly if first responders from different agencies use different instruments and get differing results on an unknown sample in the field.
A a series of NIST Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) were developed that are used to correct Raman systems with differing excitation lasers. These standards enable the correction of the differences in peak intensities reported for the same sample by different Raman spectrometers. Researchers continue to work with spectrometer manufacturers to develop an industry consensus standard to enable comparisons among Raman spectrometers. Their work was funded by the NIST Law Enforcement Standards Office (OLES) and the Department of Homeland Security.
The newly published industry consensus standard, Standard Guide for Relative Intensity Correction of Raman Spectrometers (designated as E2911-13), is available from ASTM International at www.astm.org/Standards/E2911.htm. For more on OLES, visit www.nist.gov/oles. For more on the NIST reference materials for fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy, visit www.nist.gov/mml/bbd/bioassay/fluorescence_raman_intensity_standards.cfm
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Created: 11/13/2013 11:12 AM
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides assistance to the men and women who have served our nation in the armed services. Unfortunately, many veterans find that the world they left to defend isn’t always the same when they returned. They can end up unemployed, hungry, and even homeless, despite the best efforts of the VA and other support organizations.
On Veteran’s Day (and every day), the VA encourages first responders to join in improving the lives of veterans who may need help.
First responders can be the VA’s eyes and ears when in the field. The agency needs your insight on the location of veterans who, due to an emergency or turn of fate, may be at risk of homelessness or hunger. By communicating this information to the VA, you become a part of a lifesaving communication network. The network works in two ways:
(1) The VA provides healthcare, educational assistance, job placement, and housing assistance to thousands of veterans in America. By simply identifying which veterans might benefit from these services, you speed up the VA’s response time.
(2) When you encounter veterans who may need assistance, be sure to tell them about the 24-hour 1-877-4AID-VET hotline. One phone call can make a huge difference in a veteran’s life.
The VA is committed to ending veteran homelessness by 2015. For more information about how the Department plans to achieve this goal and how you can help, watch this brief video. You’ll learn more about how the information you provide will be implemented to improve veterans’ well-being. Also, visit http://www.va.gov/homeless for more information on the VA’s overall mission to aid homeless veterans.
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Created: 11/4/2013 2:12 PM
Please join us on November 6, 2013 for our Webinar, Emergency Services Sector Overview and Stakeholder Readiness Exercise Section on Continuity.
This month’s webinar will highlight two presentations. The first topic will focus on the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Infrastructure Protection’s Emergency Services Sector Specific Agency (SSA), its mission, disciplines, and capabilities.
The second topic will introduce the agency’s Stakeholder Readiness Exercise Section (SRE) and provide a summary and status update. The SRE Section coordinates the Office of Infrastructure Protection's participation in the National Exercise Program, other Federal exercises, and regional exercises for critical infrastructure partners around the nation.
Invited By: FEMA-Continuity Webinar (FEMA-ContinuityWebinar@fema.dhs.gov)
When: Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM, Eastern Time
(US and Canada)
Speakers: Dan Schultz, Section Chief, Sector
Outreach and Programs Division, U.S.
Department of Homeland Security, and
Michael Sutton, Exercise Manager, Sector Outreach and Programs Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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For additional information please contact us:
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Created: 10/31/2013 2:07 PM
Originally posted by Bobby Whithorne, White House Assistant Press Secretary, to the White House blog.
"There's nothing more important than us getting this right. And we're going to spend as much time, effort and energy as necessary to make sure that all the people in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut know that the entire country is behind them in this difficult recovery effort. We are going to put not just 100 percent, but 120 percent behind making sure that they get the resources they need to rebuild and recover.” -- President Obama, November 3, 2012
Nearly one year ago, communities across a dozen states in the Northeast experienced the devastating and tragic effects of Hurricane Sandy. Communities were shattered, families were torn apart, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, and lives were upended. But brick by brick, block by block, we are rebuilding. The impacted communities will come back stronger and the federal government will continue to stand right by their side as we continue to recover and rebuild.
Over the past year:
The Obama Administration has provided direct assistance to more than 230,000 people and small businesses in the form of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) individual assistance, Small Business Administration (SBA) grants and loans and Department of Labor (DOL) employment and training services.
Further, the administration has announced over $39.7 billion in funding for recipients, and more than $13.5 billion of this has already been paid out. This includes:
- More than $1.4 billion that FEMA has provided directly to more than 182,000 individuals impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
- More than $2.4 billion in low-interest loans through the SBA to individuals and businesses.
- More than $3.2 billion in FEMA assistance to state, local and tribal governments for emergency protective measures, debris removal, and repair and replacement of infrastructure in the hardest hit areas.
- $10.4 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including $5.4 billion of CDBG-DR funds allocated within 8 days of the signing of the Sandy-supplemental into law. This represented the fastest ever allocation following the signing of an appropriations bill.
- More than 26,000 households have already been assisted through CDBG housing programs across the region, with more than $157 million paid out to these beneficiaries.
- Already more than $2 billion in infrastructure funds are at work in dozens of projects across the region.
- More than $5.7 billion made available from the Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Highway Administration has announced more than $500 million for recovery efforts.
- $569 million in grants from the EPA to New York and New Jersey for improvements to wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities.
- More than $74 million in FEMA Hazard Mitigation grants to implement long-term mitigation measures to minimize or prevent future damages.
- More than $28 million in Disaster Unemployment Assistance to disaster survivors.
- $47 million in National Emergency Grants from DOL's Employment and Training Administration, which also helped more than 11,000 individuals who lost their jobs as a result of Sandy receive approximately $13.2 million.
- More than $50 million in Disaster Case Management to connect disaster survivors to resources and services of multiple agencies.
- $6.2 million obligated by the Department of Agriculture for 22 projects which covered emergency food assistance, as well as infrastructure and economic programs. Some of these projects helped repair, rehabilitate and rebuild farmland, watersheds and flood plains.
- More than $7.9 billion paid out to the more than 143,000 National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders who filed claims. More than 99% of NFIP claims are closed.
Other efforts include:
- FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with State and local governments to reopen 97% of public beaches from New Jersey through Connecticut by Memorial Day 2013 – sending a strong message to thousands of Americans that the shore was open for business.
- FHA and FHFA protected thousands of families who, through no fault of their own, were at risk of foreclosure as a result of Sandy – first by putting in place a foreclosure moratorium and then by cutting red tape to offer families streamlined loan modification.
Created: 10/31/2013 10:58 AM
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group is pleased to present the Capacity Building Webinar Series. Initiated in November 2012, the series offers virtual training to first responders and emergency managers on information-sharing processes and technologies. Participants can learn new ways to discover, manage and use information for emergency operations. The series also aims to foster innovation and collaboration amongst first responders participating in the training.
“This series will help us expand our reach dramatically. We’re sharing advice among those who have actually been involved in making advances in homeland security and we’re providing guidance to others on how to replicate those successes,” said Dr. David Boyd, Director of DHS S&T’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility.
Presentations are delivered by national leaders and field experts who share domain-specific strategies and guidance on how to implement practices designed to build local capacity to manage and use information. Webinars are free of charge and registration is not required. Participants can complete a quiz at the end of each event and earn a certificate.
TOPIC: Tools and Technologies for School Emergency Response
DATE: Thursday, December 12, 2013
TIME: 1:00 p.m. EST/ Noon CT/ 11:00 a.m. MT/ 10:00 a.m. PT
DURATION: 1 hour 30 minutes
ATTEND AT: https://share.dhs.gov/capacitybuildingseries (Registration not required. You may login as a guest.)
- Alerts and Warnings: IPAWS, WEA, and the Geospatial Information Infrastructure (November 19, 2013)
- Cybersecurity for Public Safety Administrators (November 7, 2013)
- Part 1: A Look at Voluntary Registries: Perspectives on HIPAA Policy and the Role of At-Risk/Special Needs/Medical/Functional Needs Registries (August 22, 2013)
- Part 2: A Look at Voluntary Registries: Perspectives on HIPAA Policy and the Role of At-Risk/Special Needs/Medical/Functional Needs Registries (August 22, 2013)
- Federal Grants for Public Safety and Emergency Management Information Sharing (July 30, 2013)
- A Discussion on Voice Communications Interoperability (May 29, 2013)
- Tools and Technologies for Hurricane Operations (May 16, 2013)
- Maximizing Use of HSIN Tools and Features (March 27, 2013)
- Accessing and Monitoring Weather Data to Aid Decision-Making during Hazardous Events (February 5, 2013)
- Innovating with Social Media to Advance Homeland Security (December 12, 2012)
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Special Events Management (November 20, 2012)
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Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you require additional assistance viewing our webinars or if you’d like to be added to the Capacity Building Webinar Series email distribution list.
Created: 1/25/2013 2:41 PM
This year marks the 10th Anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is using the occasion to acknowledge the progress made and to address the cyber security challenges that lie ahead.
Through its Stop. Think. Connect. campaign, DHS is dedicating each week of the month to outreach surrounding a particular cyber security challenge, including:
· Shared Responsibility: Coming together as a nation to ensure a safe, secure, resilient cyberspace
· Mobile Safety: Emphasizing the importance of cyber security on the go, on all devices
· Cyber Workforce: Fostering the next generation of cyber leaders through education and training
· Cyber Crime: Exploring efforts to prevent crimes like theft, fraud, and abuse that take place online
· Critical Infrastructure and Cyber Security: Protecting the cyber and physical security of the nation’s critical infrastructure
Everyone—from government and law enforcement to the private sector and most importantly, the general public—has a role to play in cyber security. For the everyday American citizen, this includes taking precautions as we shop online, bank using our smartphones, and interact with friends through social networks. For responders, this includes keeping abreast of the latest techniques cyber criminals use to gain access to computer networks, detecting and investigating attacks on critical infrastructures, and educating your communities about Internet safety.
DHS has made toolkits and resources available to all sectors through its National Cyber Security Awareness Month and Stop. Think. Connect. websites. Resources are also available via social media; on Twitter, follow @cyber, @DHSgov, and @DHSSciTech for updates throughout the month. On Facebook, continue to check the DHS page for the latest National Cyber Security Awareness Month news.
Mark your calendars: DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will host a related Capacity Building Webinar, Overview of Cyber Security for Public Safety Officials, on November 7 at 1:00 p.m. EST.
We want to hear from you about cyber security successes and challenges, as well as any events you are planning to commemorate National Cyber Security Awareness Month in your community. Contact email@example.com or reach out to us via Facebook and Twitter with your feedback.
President Obama’s 2013 National Cyber Security Awareness Month Proclamation
DHS Cyber Security
S&T Cyber Security Division
U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Alert Team
National Cyber Security Alliance
Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center
Created: 10/21/2013 2:29 PM
As part of its Research & Resources in Food Protection Webinar Series, the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD) at the University of Minnesota—a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Center of Excellence—recently hosted a webinar on consumers' responses to food contamination events.
The webinar was presented by Dr. William Hallman, Ph.D., and Dr. Cara Cuite, Ph.D., Professor and Chair and Associate Research Professor (respectively) of the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University, and facilitated by Dr. Tim Sellnow, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the Graduate Program in Communication at the University of Kentucky.
The speakers posed a question: How do we help consumers regain confidence in the food supply after an incident of food contamination? A goal is to alert the public and motivate them to take appropriate actions while not losing confidence in the food supply during this process.
Some key findings presented during the webinar include:
The public is more likely to better understand food contamination events, believe information to be accurate, and to follow instructions when they receive information from government sources, the media, and the company at the center of the incident;
Television remains the number one medium for communicating information to the public; however, social media is increasingly important;
Notices distributed only in English miss large audiences; and
Coverage of “What to Do” and “What is Being Done” is often lacking.
View a recording of the webinar on the NCFPD website. The Center’s next webinar, The FBI's Perspective on Food and Agriculture Protection, is scheduled for November 8, 2013.
Created: 10/18/2013 11:15 AM
Over 90 percent of law enforcement agencies use social media, with more than 70 percent using it for investigations. These results are according to a survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Six hundred law enforcement agencies from 48 states were represented. With criminals leaving “digital fingerprints” all over the Internet—even bragging about their crimes—it’s up to investigators to chase leads online.
When it comes to arson, most investigators said they believed social media helped to solve crimes more quickly. However, most were also self-taught on how exactly to use it as an investigatory tool. According to research commissioned by LexisNexis in 2012, some of the most common uses of social media related to arson investigations include identifying fire-setting activity and the location of said activity, gathering photos or statements to corroborate evidence, and soliciting tips and leads from the public.
Additional information on the use of social media in criminal investigations can be found in the February 2013 edition of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Law Enforcement Bulletin or by contacting the National White Collar Crime Center. Social media networks and the Internet may contain a treasure trove of investigative leads that can help identify, apprehend, and prosecute offenders if investigators know how and where to look for these clues.
Created: 9/30/2013 4:28 PM
On September 25, Twitter launched a new alerts feature that sends emergency notices as text messages to users who opt-in. The feature, Twitter Alerts, was originally announced on Twitter's blog. According to Twitter, the new alerts feature will help users get important and accurate information from credible organizations during natural disasters, emergencies, or times when other communications services are unavailable.
Similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s Wireless Emergency Alerts program, Twitter Alerts are sent directly to a user's phone when they sign up for alerts from a specific account. They will also appear as tweets in a user’s home timeline, standing out from regular tweets with an orange bell icon. Users with Twitter for Android or iPhone will also receive a push notification.
Alerts are currently available from DHS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Red Cross. Several state and local fire and emergency management departments have also signed up to issue alerts, as have many global non-profit organizations. For a full list of participating agencies, or to learn how your agency may participate in this new service, visit: https://about.twitter.com/alerts/participating-organizations.
Created: 9/30/2013 4:11 PM
Most radio vendors use proprietary software in their programmable radios. This can make it difficult for first responders with limited technical expertise to program the equipment, and, historically, it has often hampered interoperability among radios used by emergency responders from different jurisdictions. In one particular incident in 2011, Pinellas County, FL’s communications manager, Pam Montanari, was unable to connect the county’s trunked system to the portable radios used by a neighboring jurisdiction. As a result, the county failed to receive the assistance it needed to handle an emergency situation. That incident contributed to the start of a major effort by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) to develop radio programming compatibility requirements for the public safety sector.
NPSTC formed the Radio Programming Compatibility Requirements (PCR) Working Group to tackle this problem. The group, chaired by Montanari, set the goal of enabling easier programming for interoperability without requiring manufacturers to alter their software in any way. Since the core of the problem is that different vendors label the data within their programming software differently, the group settled on an elegantly simple solution. Working with Project 25 vendors, the Working Group created a spreadsheet that cross-references the differently labeled programming data used by those vendors. The spreadsheet gives public safety communications programmers a guide for importing and exporting necessary code when jurisdictions using different radios and software need to talk to one another.
On August 20, 2013, at the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials - International (APCO) Annual Conference, the Working Group successfully used the spreadsheet to program six disparate radio systems and achieve interoperability, confirming that radios from different manufacturers can recognize other manufacturers' programming feature sets. Test participants included the Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications, Icom America, Motorola Solutions, RELM Wireless, Tait Communications, and Thales Communications, along with the Boise (Idaho) Fire Department, the Michigan Public Safety Communications System, and the Monroe Township (NJ) Professional Firefighters.
Montanari said she was very pleased with the success of the test. Paul Roberts, Division Chief of Special Operations, Boise Fire Department, and a Working Group participant, echoed her comments. "This was a very successful meeting today,” he said. “The Working Group, users, and vendors, really have come together to produce a much-needed tool.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) is a NPSTC sponsor. The Working Group plans to take the spreadsheet to OIC to explore the possibility of digitizing the data and distributing it to the first responder.
Created: 9/27/2013 10:00 AM
As part of National Preparedness Month, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) staged “N95 Day” on September 5 to raise awareness among workers, emergency responders, and the general public about the benefits and proper use of N95 respirators. N95 respirators—short for N95 Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirators—are so named because they filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles. They are used mostly by industrial workers but also by emergency response personnel to protect themselves from inhaling potentially harmful airborne substances.
You can find links to a comprehensive list of NIOSH N95-related materials at http://knowits.niosh.gov/, the respirator information page of CDC’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL). Emergency Medical Technicians will find helpful the new NIOSH publication “Respirator Awareness: Your Health May Depend On It,” which is aimed at workers in all sectors of the healthcare industry but also includes information that the general public should know.
On N95 Day, CDC hosted a webinar entitled “Debunking the Myths of Respirator Use.” Links to the audio and PowerPoint® slides from the event can be found on the NPPTL website.
Created: 9/20/2013 2:14 PM
Following a natural or man-made disaster, quickly detecting living victims buried in rubble or other debris greatly increases their chances of rescue and survival. This is especially true in situations where there are multiple rubble piles or large amounts of debris, where a rapid victim detection system is necessary to help first responders more effectively and efficiently save lives.
On Thursday, September 26 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EDT, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will host a Twitter chat to highlight one such technology that it is developing—Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER)—which allows responders to locate trapped victims solely by their heartbeat and breathing pattern.
The S&T First Responders Group (FRG) Program Manager John Price, along with project partners from the National Aeronautics Space Administration Jet Propulsion Lab (NASA JPL), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue Office, and Fairfax County (Va.) Fire and Rescue Department, will discuss recent disasters like the tornadoes in Oklahoma and how FINDER can be deployed in the future to minimize the loss of lives and increase responder safety.
FRG is working with NASA JPL, FEMA, and local responders to develop, test, and evaluate FINDER in a number of varying conditions. The unit, designed to be easily portable by response teams, uses low-power microwave radar to detect an individual’s breathing and heartbeat. The signal must pass through several layers of building debris and rubble. The first FINDER prototype was tested in a lab earlier this year and has since been deployed in field settings simulating actual disasters with Virginia Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces 1 and 2.
S&T wants to hear feedback from responders across the country on the FINDER technology and learn how we can continue to provide increased support for search and rescue operations for all areas of response, as well as any future implications for the technology for law enforcement or emergency medical services responders. Submit your questions and comments to @DHSSciTech at any time before, during, or after the chat and be sure to use the #STTechTalk hashtag.
Created: 9/19/2013 1:51 PM
This is the month when all of us should be raising awareness of the importance of emergency preparedness in our communities. Now in its 10th year, National Preparedness Month has grown steadily into a nationwide effort involving organizations ranging from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Citizen Corps, and the American Red Cross to corporations and local police precincts and fire houses.
If neighbors and organizations in your community are looking for reliable information on how to be better prepared, here are a few web sites/sources you can recommend:
The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate is working with FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission, and the wireless industry to research how to improve public response to Wireless Emergency Alerts. FEMA offers mobile resources to help families become disaster-ready. Encourage people in your community to sign up for FEMA’s text messaging program to receive regular safety tips for specific disasters and to search for recovery centers. Also recommend that they download the FEMA smartphone app. The app offers an interactive emergency kit list, emergency meeting location information, and more. It also has a new feature—the Disaster Reporter—that enables users to submit GPS-tagged disaster information and images that emergency responders can display on public maps for others to see.
Created: 9/11/2013 1:48 PM
Guest post submitted by Greg Licamele, Director of External Communications, Fairfax County (VA) Government
We're all neighbors with someone.
If you're a state first responder, you share a border with other states in the continental United States. If you're a local first responder, you're surrounded by other jurisdictions or even have smaller towns amid your municipality.
One of the most complicated jurisdictions in the United States is the National Capital Region because of the many layers of government in the area. Coordination is critical for local, state, and federal entities working in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.
So how do we coordinate in a world in which our boundaries are easily blurred and invisible to many of our residents? The answer is using social media to help localize information monitoring and to improve regional coordination.
Last month, more than 160 public information officers and first responders participated in the second annual National Capital Region Social Media in Emergencies Summit (#NCRsmem on Twitter). We learned from some of the best voices not only in the DC area, but also from across the country including speakers from Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, and San Francisco.
We learned as a region. We discussed issues as a region. We’re trying to move forward as a region so all of our social media ships rise together in order to provide effective engagement and information before, during, and after an emergency in our area.
We invite you to review our Summit recap document at http://www.capitalregionupdates.gov/clients/4063/557833.pdf
summarizing the great presentations about:
The Boston Marathon bombing from the deputy commissioner of the police department;
The trend toward digital volunteers and how the American Red Cross is leading training efforts;
The work done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and New York City Office of Emergency Management for Hurricane Sandy;
The quiet nature of public health crises and how the Philadelphia Health Department uses social media;
The new era of "nano news" in which we live - that of jpdeathblade, not Walter Cronkite;
And many more topics.
We're all neighbors with someone, so we in the National Capital Region invite you to share these insights from our Summit with your neighboring jurisdictions and partners, too.
Created: 9/10/2013 10:47 AM
Guest post written by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) project manager Jim Grove.
S&T, along with partners at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and representatives from the emergency medical services (EMS) and manufacturing communities, is developing ambulance patient compartment design and safety standards. These standards will cover seats and restraints; patient cots and restraints; equipment mounting requirements; supply/drug cabinet retention requirements; and patient compartment integrity and interior delethalization. For the past three years, S&T has worked with equipment manufacturers to conduct research, development, and testing of stakeholder-approved designs, including computer modeling and simulation, and crash dummy tests. The data from these tests are being used to establish standards with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE); in turn, SAE-approved standards are being submitted for inclusion in the second edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 1917 Standard for Automotive Ambulances.
Next year, S&T, NIOSH, and NIST will jointly publish an Ambulance Safety and Design Guidebook, which will provide human factor guidelines and other criteria to enable EMS providers to write and submit ambulance design criteria to manufacturers as part of their ambulance purchasing requirements. The guide will also include lessons learned and best practices for improved transportation, as well as a driver’s guide. S&T’s ambulance patient compartment design and safety standards project has is improving design standards for ambulances and has assisted the manufacturing community by advancing research, design, and equipment safety. As a result of a year of testing and evaluation efforts, 86 recommendations have now been submitted for incorporation into the next version of NFPA 1917. The guidebook will be applied to the design of a prototype safety demonstration ambulance being developed by NIOSH. These recommendations should infuse the standard with more robust requirements that address enhanced patient care and EMS professional safety in the patient compartment.
Created: 8/28/2013 10:12 AM
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that the next meeting of the National EMS Advisory Council (NEMSAC) will be held on September 5 and 6 in Washington, DC. The meeting, which is open to the public, will offer a forum for members of the emergency medical services (EMS) community to provide direct input to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS about responder safety, emerging issues, and models for success in the field.
NEMSAC was formed in 2007 as a nationally recognized council of EMS representatives from across the country. The group considers information on EMS issues, develops policy positions, and makes recommendations regarding EMS standards, benchmarks, and data collection; strengthening EMS systems through enhanced workforce development, education, training, exercises, sustainability, equipment, and medical oversight; and guidelines for conducting needs assessments for improving community-based EMS systems at state and local levels.
The NEMSAC meeting will be held at the Performance Institute at 901 New York Avenue NW, Third Floor, Washington, DC 20001. For additional information about the event, contact Drew Dawson, Director of the DOT Office of Emergency Medical Services, at 202–366–9966 or Drew.Dawson@dot.gov. To register, visit https://www.signup4.net/Public/ap.aspx?EID=DOTN12E.
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Created: 8/26/2013 9:02 PM
Our daily life, economic vitality, and national security depend on cyberspace. While increased connectivity has led to significant transformations and advances across our country – and around the world – it also has increased the risks to privacy and security. Everyone has a unique role to play in cybersecurity—whether it’s protecting small businesses from fraud, teaching students about cybersecurity ethics, or just thinking twice before clicking on a hyperlink. The Department’s Stop.Think.Connect. TM campaign relies on its National Network of partners to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of staying safe online.
The National Network comprises approximately 30 non-profit organizations, including D.A.R.E., Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 4-H, InfraGard, and the National Association of Counties. Some of these partners have joined the campaign in recent months, helping us reach more Americans to inform them about their personal role in addressing cybersecurity risks.
Recent new partners include:
- Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA)
- Center for Internet Security (CIS)
- Connect2Compete, an organization dedicated to expanding access to technology and training
- Connect Safely, a non-profit organization that provides social media and mobile media safety tips
- Government Technology Services (GTS) Coalition
- High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA)
- Hungry Hungry Hackers (H3), an applied research security community at Georgia Tech
- International Council for Small Business (ICSB)
- Fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers League
- National Elementary Honor Society
- National Junior Honor Society
- National Honor Society
- Women in Homeland Security
Stop.Think.Connect.™ is a national public awareness effort to guide the nation to a higher level of Internet safety and security by educating and empowering the American public to be more vigilant about practicing safe online habits. The campaign encourages Americans to view Internet safety and security as a shared responsibility at home, in the workplace, and in our communities. Through these partnerships with the National Network, the Stop.Think.Connect.™ campaign gains a greater understanding of the cybersecurity issues and trends, and is able to develop helpful tips and resources specific to the organizations and their members.
For a complete list of Stop.Think.Connect. National Network partners, or for more information on how an organization can join, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
Created: 8/21/2013 4:28 PM
The U.S. Forest Service recently launched a new website that provides general information about wildfires and what to do before, during, and after a fire. Resources include prevention tips, lessons learned, fire behavior research, and instruction on how to rebuild following a fire. The site also offers a behind-the-scenes look at wildland firefighters and the state-of-the-art technology they use while protecting natural resources and communities. The Forest Service will continue to update the site often throughout the 2013 wildfire season.
Created: 8/20/2013 3:53 PM
On October 2-3, 2013, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate will host the Video Quality in Public Safety (VQiPS) Workshop in Houston, Texas. There, S&T’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility and attendees will celebrate the five-year anniversary of the VQiPS program, learn about emerging video technology, and chart a path forward. In keeping with the theme of five successful years, we’ve created this list of the top five VQiPS accomplishments since the program’s inception.
VQiPS Top Five Accomplishments:
1. Developed the Consumer Digital Video Library (CDVL), which is available at (http://www.cdvl.org/).
· The CDVL is a digital video library intended for researchers and developers in the fields of video processing and visual quality (both objective and subjective assessment).
· CDVL provides relevant video clips for different types of video processing and quality measurement applications for public safety agencies.
· Video manufacturers can use the CDVL to help the public safety community identify appropriate systems for their needs and when designing future systems.
2. Released four technical reports on topics such as visual quality, object of recognition, and visual acuity.
· Defining Video Quality Requirements: A User Guide for Public Safety
· Recorded-Video Quality Tests for Object Recognition Tasks Report
· Video Quality Tests for Object Recognition Applications (Live) Report
· Assessing Video Quality for Public Safety Applications Using Visual Acuity
3. Developing the Video Quality Standards handbook which was released during spring 2013.
· The Video Quality Standards handbook specifies a minimum level of performance for video surveillance system (VSS).
4. Developed the “Defining Video Quality Requirements: A Web Tool for Public Safety (Version 2.0)” (http://www.pscr.gov/outreach/vqips/vqips_guide/define_vid_qual_reqs.php)
· The first iteration of the VQiPS Web Tool (Web Tool Version 1.0) provided public safety agencies with a self-assessment tool to help them identify their video quality needs and included application-independent usage scenarios and a glossary of common terms.
· The updated version of the VQiPS Web Tool (Web Tool Version 2.0) helps agencies align their video quality needs with existing technical performance specifications and standards by matching a video user’s unique needs to use cases and providing a video system requirement recommendation.
5. Completed testing first responders’ usage during the annual Workshops and incorporated requirements into next-generation VQiPS Web Tool.
· Compiled the results of 96 generalized “use cases” which helped the team incorporate a bit rate recommendation in Version 2.0 of the Web Tool.
o In order to get the video quality an end user needs, they need to be able to clearly define their functional requirements, or use case, by answering two questions:
· What is in the scene of interest, or scene content?
· What is the task to accomplish from viewing the scene?
At the end of the October 2013 Workshop, attendees should walk away with a clear understanding of the VQiPS tools available to them. Further, as the technology landscape continues to rapidly evolve, those who participate in this Workshop can expect to gain an increased awareness of developing technologies, best practices, and lessons learned related to VQiPS. Workshop objectives will be accomplished through a day of engaging presentations, educational panel breakouts, demonstrations, and case studies. To register for the Workshop please go to: https://www.regonline.com/register/checkin.aspx?MethodId=0&eventsessionId=d5563a6835a740c88861f535d4528266&eventID=1196859. For more detailed information on how to register for this Workshop, please email VQiPS_Working_Group@sra.com.
Created: 2/26/2013 1:28 PM
Guest post by Master Deputy Tom Erickson, Public Information Officer, Johnson County (Kansas) Sheriff’s Office
I had the honor on July 11, 2013 to present four hours of training to the Kansas Juvenile Officers Association on Social Media Leadership in Law Enforcement. Those in attendance were officers, deputies and command staff who were all attending the week long training.
The presentation covered the always popular question of why is social media usage important to first responders in outreach and response roles. I surveyed the crowd to gauge who uses social and in what ways. The answers were interesting and somewhat of a departure from other government groups. About two-thirds of the attendees used social in their personal lives but less than one-third used it as a tool at work for listening purposes and even fewer actually used it for investigative needs.
Because this presentation was really about being leaders in social it presented me with an opportunity to get many of those in attendance much more engaged with using social as a listening and investigative tool.
We discussed the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case on a number of occasions and how the appropriate social listening could help law enforcement prevent or protect their communities from possible issues once a verdict was reached. We discussed that by having the full operational picture of what is being planned or discussed in their communities can only be achieved by implementing robust listening strategies in the social space.
Additionally, we discussed how listening can be done using free tools in cases where those working with juveniles can simply listen and watch their activities without having to actively engage, follow or friend. This is always somewhat of a hot topic as there are emotions tied to “listening-in” on others. However, after some discussion, there was an understanding of the attendees that this kind of listening is no different than standing in the hallway of a school, listening to conversations happening. The conclusion was formed by the audience that the information posted on social that’s not locked down by the user is open for anyone to listen to. In addition, by the sheer nature of hashtags, all conversations are open for active listening and engagement.
I finished with some thought provoking discussion on how the future of augmented reality could change the way law enforcement interacts with the public. We discussed the implications that will come with the use of products like Google Glass and the importance of law enforcement to understand and embrace new technologies as they develop.
Through my many presentations on social to law enforcement officials, it is clear that although more agencies and individuals are using social on some level, there is still a great lack of understanding in the resources that social provides.
Leadership at all levels of government but, most importantly, local emergency response leadership should be looking for ways to implement a more robust use of social instead of looking for ways to keep employees from using these tools. We see time and time again that social saves lives and if we are truly in the business of saving lives then we must be actively engaged in social.
Created: 8/7/2013 3:30 PM
Regional Emergency Support Function (R-ESF) 15: External Affairs, in conjunction with The George Washington University’s Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management, will host the National Capital Region Social Media in Emergencies Summit on August 13 in Washington, DC.
The event is for public information officers and emergency responders from across the National Capital Region to discuss how social media is being used in disasters and other events on a regular basis. Expert speakers from across the country and spanning multiple disciplines will present, including the American Red Cross and the Boston Police Department. Topics include a how-to on Pinterest, using social media in media relations, and a panel on social media lessons learned during Hurricane Sandy. The panel will feature members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's (DHS S&T) Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) who will discuss their activities during Hurricane Sandy, as well as points from the group’s recently released report on the use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during the storm. Members of the panel include:
· Allison Cerra, Communications Specialist at the New York City Office of Emergency Management
· Jason Lindesmith, Social Media Lead at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
· Christine Thompson, President and Co-Founder of Humanity Road
The panel will also discuss the major themes of social media use by various groups and overview some of the technology, process, and policy gaps featured in Lessons Learned: Social Media and Hurricane Sandy that will need further discussion and consideration going forward.
For more information, visit http://www.capitalregionupdates.gov/go/doc/4063/1769775/ and be sure to check back here after August 13 for a blog post recapping the Summit. You can also follow the #NCRsmem hashtag on Twitter for updates before, during, and after the event.
Photo courtesy of FEMA.
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Created: 7/29/2013 1:57 PM
On August 1, join the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) from 1 to 2 p.m. EDT in a Twitter Chat on Technologies for Bomb Incidents. S&T First Responders Group Program Managers Christine Lee and William Stout will be online to discuss S&T technologies and resources commercially available and being developed to assist responders with detecting, responding to, and recovering from bombing incidents.
One such technology is REDOPS: Response and Defeat Operations Support, an integrated program to develop safer and more efficient countermeasures for bomb squads. REDOPS’ three-pronged approach combines assessing emerging technologies, expanding robotic capabilities, and upgrading existing tools and protective systems (e.g., exploring the integration of self-contained breathing apparatuses into bomb suits). REDOPS draws on expertise from all levels and regions of the improvised explosive device (IED) response community.
Program managers from the S&T Explosives Division will also be online to highlight the Semi-Autonomous Pipe Bomb End-Cap Remover (SAPBER), a low-cost device for dismantling pipe bombs. SAPBER preserves forensic evidence, often located on or within a pipe bomb, by carefully disassembling it without disturbing the explosive materials inside.
The First Responder Support Tools bomb response smartphone application (FiRST App) is another S&T tool. Available on the iOS, Android, and Windows platforms, FiRST App provides authorized responders the information necessary to safely control incident locations: defines stand-off distances, calculates rough damage and injury contours, identifies nearby areas of concern, and suggests roadblocks that could help isolate an incident. FiRST App also provides IED and HAZMAT guidelines.
Lastly, two online forums where responders can offer best practices and lessons learned—Technical Resource for Incident Prevention (TRIPwire) and First Responder Communities of Practice (FRCoP)—will be highlighted. TRIPWire is a secure, online information-sharing network for law enforcement, bomb technicians, and other responders to learn about current IED tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as IED design and emplacement. FRCoP is a professional networking, collaboration, and communication platform fostering information sharing amongst first responders. We encourage you to join the conversation.
Experts from the DHS Office for Bombing Prevention which leads the Nation’s efforts to enhance the ability to prevent, protect against, and respond to bomb threats through developed programs to educate and assist state and local partners will join the chat too.
S&T wants to hear from you and learn how we can continue to provide increased research and development support for bomb technicians and first responders. Ask us about these tools, how they can be used, how they’re being developed, and how your agency can be involved with pilot testing. We want your feedback on what you need to accomplish your mission safely.
Submit your questions and comments to @DHSSciTech at any time before, during, or after the chat and be sure to use the #STTechTalk hashtag.
Created: 7/26/2013 5:10 PM
On July 9, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications held their second hearing to discuss social media for emergency management. The hearing, titled “Emergency MGMT 2.0: How #SocialMedia & New Tech are Transforming Preparedness, Response, & Recovery #Disasters #Part2 #Govt/NGOs” featured testimony from representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM), and the Jersey City Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEM).
In her opening statement, the Subcommittee’s chair, Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), highlighted the successes of the American Red Cross and FEMA as being particularly effective in adding social media technologies to their preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. Rep. Brooks also called attention to the American Red Cross' Digital Volunteer Program, a relatively new program in which the organization trains volunteers from across the United States to use social media to provide assistance to the American Red Cross during emergencies.
The Digital Volunteer program was later discussed during the Q&A section of the hearing in conjunction with the Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) initiatives, which were used recently by the Oklahoma OEM during the Moore tornado in May. VOST is a group of trusted volunteers who support traditional emergency management agencies and public information officers who might become overwhelmed by the amount of data coming in from a disaster. VOST members are activated to help perform specific functions for agencies during a disaster.
The Jersey City OEM is also training people to work with VOST volunteers. Additionally, Rep. Brooks emphasized the importance of DHS S&T's Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) during the Q&A section with FEMA. She pointed out that as technologies continue to evolve. It is important to gather best practices and lessons learned in one place and then circulate them back into the field so that emergency responders and disaster volunteers work together to best use social media in emergencies. To read the witness statements and see video of the opening statements of the hearing, please visit http://homeland.house.gov/hearing/emergency-mgmt-20-how-socialmedia-new-tech-are-transforming-preparedness-response-recovery.
To learn more about how first responders can use social media, please visit the Make America Safer through Social Media and Virtual Social Media Working Group communities on First Responder Communities of Practice: www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
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Created: 7/24/2013 3:43 PM
by Dave Shepherd, Program Manager, DHS S&T
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is opening access to its Biodefense Knowledge Management System (BKMS) to first responders and users of First Responder Communities of Practice. The BKMS is a product of DHS S&T’s Biodefense Knowledge Center (BKC), which provides authoritative, all-source technical assessments and data analysis tools to help the homeland security community anticipate, prevent, characterize, and respond to an attack using biological agents.
The BKMS enables users to conduct Google-like searches across vast repositories of biodefense data. In addition to technical assessments written by BKC scientists and technologists, data in the BKMS includes fact sheets, scientific reports, research databases, and news articles. The BKMS indexes more than 30 heterogeneous scientific data sources from DHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the World Health Organization, and other U.S. government agencies, and contains more than 37 million documents that are updated frequently. By fusing massive quantities of bioscientific data, the BKMS can help users rapidly answer bio-related inquiries and also identify intersections between data that may not have otherwise been apparent.
Access to the BKMS is provided on a “For Official Use Only” basis; prior to getting access, users must request an account and be approved by the BKC. Registration is free and easy for government employees: visit the BKC’s introduction site at https://bkms.llnl.gov and click on the “register” link in the upper right corner of the page to enter information about yourself and your purposes for using the system. After your credentials have been verified, the next time you wish to access the site, just enter your login information in the upper right corner of the homepage. Note that the BKMS does not collect any information from users beyond that requested in the registration page.
For further information about the BKMS or the BKC, e-mail Tom Bates, BKC Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dave Shepherd, BKC Program Manager, at email@example.com.
Created: 7/16/2013 3:01 PM
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently released a video summary of the Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE): a demonstration of cross-border communications and situational awareness systems in true-to-life emergency response scenarios.
Back in March, S&T and its program partners—the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Defence Research and Development Canada–Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) of the Canadian Department of National Defence, and Public Safety Canada—spent a week along the U.S. and Canadian border testing leading-edge technologies currently in development to advance interoperability and response capacity between the two nations.
The action-packed CAUSE 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, including representatives of the Maine Emergency Management Agency and the Province of New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, required an information exchange from all neighboring jurisdictions in near real time.
Any and all information that first responders might need to quickly and safely assess a situation—incident reports, evacuation routes, road closures, hospital status/locations, weather issues, hazmat team availability, and triage locations—was shared using national systems including the Canadian Multi Agency Situational Awareness System and the American Integrated Public Alert and Warning System and Virtual USA®, as well as numerous state and local capabilities which are described in detail both in the video and a lessons learned report.
“In every exercise of CAUSE, it worked more effectively and rapidly than we had hoped,” noted Dr. David Boyd, Director of the DHS S&T Office for Interoperability and Compatibility and the Department’s CAUSE lead. “This is a tremendous milestone in tearing down the technological ‘tower of Babel’ along national borders.”
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. The CAUSE demonstration represents an important milestone for the initiative and corresponding Action Plan. For information on the Initiative, CAUSE, and the video production, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about model tools and practices used to improve cross-border shared situational awareness and communications interoperability, visit the National Information Sharing Consortium website at www.nisconsortium.org.
Created: 7/12/2013 12:09 PM
The City of New Orleans is no stranger to devastating hurricanes. Only 80 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, storms like Hurricane Betsy (1965), Hurricane Camille (1969), and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005) caused significant damage across the Gulf Coast and in the city itself.
Very aware of its vulnerability to tropical systems, the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness hosted city agencies, organizations, and response partners in a functional exercise at the City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on June 13, 2013. The exercise focused on four specific objectives: information management and sharing, EOC management, resource management, and communications. It was designed to establish a learning environment for players to exercise emergency response plans, policies, and procedures as they pertain to a disaster that is significant enough to warrant a full activation of the city’s EOC.
The exercise tested response to a hypothetical storm called Hurricane Murphy: a Category 2 hurricane making landfall on August 28, 2013 at Cocodrie, Louisiana with sustained winds of 110 mph and gusts to 125 mph. The exercise was conducted in six hours, combining both the EOC A and B shift in a normal 24-hour period. More than 40 agencies participated, including city police, fire, and emergency medical services, public works, transportation, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, City Hall, state and volunteer agencies and organizations, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Over the six-hour exercise, players received, shared, and responded to hundreds of injects, simulating real-life scenarios. At the end, players participated in a hotwash to discuss, capture, and evaluate performances.
With the 2013 hurricane season underway, exercises like this one help to ensure response and recovery procedures and capabilities are in place. For more information, please contact Garnesha Crawford, Communications Director for the City of New Orleans at 504-658-4945 or email@example.com.
Created: 7/10/2013 3:03 PM
On July 9, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications held their second hearing to discuss social media for emergency management. The hearing, titled “Emergency MGMT 2.0: How #SocialMedia & New Tech are Transforming Preparedness, Response, & Recovery #Disasters #Part2 #Govt/NGOs” featured testimony from representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM), and the Jersey City Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEM).
In her opening statement, the Subcommittee’s chair, Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), highlighted the successes of the American Red Cross and FEMA as being particularly effective in adding social media technologies to their preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. Rep. Brooks also called attention to the American Red Cross' Digital Volunteer Program, a relatively new program in which the organization trains volunteers from across the United States to use social media to provide assistance to the American Red Cross during emergencies.
The Digital Volunteer program was later discussed during the Q&A section of the hearing in conjunction with the Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) initiatives, which were used recently by the Oklahoma OEM during the Moore tornado in May. VOST is a group of trusted volunteers who support traditional emergency management agencies and public information officers who might become overwhelmed by the amount of data coming in from a disaster. VOST members are activated to help perform specific functions for agencies during a disaster. The Jersey City OEM is also training people to work with VOST volunteers.
Additionally, Rep. Brooks emphasized the importance of DHS S&T's Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) during the Q&A section with FEMA. She pointed out that as technologies continue to evolve. It is important to gather best practices and lessons learned in one place and then circulate them back into the field so that emergency responders and disaster volunteers work together to best use social media in emergencies.
To read the witness statements and see video of the opening statements of the hearing, please visit http://homeland.house.gov/hearing/emergency-mgmt-20-how-socialmedia-new-tech-are-transforming-preparedness-response-recovery.
To learn more about how first responders can use social media, please visit the Make America Safer through Social Media and Virtual Social Media Working Group communities on First Responder Communities of Practice: www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
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Created: 7/8/2013 3:43 PM
On June 6, more than 100 communications strategists, government employees, and citizen social media enthusiasts convened to discuss using this medium in today’s communications market at the 3rd Annual Citizen Engagement Seminar.
Throughout the day, participants learned trends, best practices, and planning procedures necessary to launch government and agency social media sites. The seminar began with a presentation by Tim Fullerton, digital communications director for the Department of Interior (DOI), on the agency’s social media efforts. Fullerton discussed the possibilities vehicles such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter offer federal government agencies and shared best practices for optimal engagement. The most important best practice Fullerton suggested is the development of innovative, timely, and exciting content. Fullerton explained that content is the key to a successful, engaging social media channel.
In social media, two-way communication is not only encouraged, but necessary. Sites that disseminate information without facilitating dialogue, Fullerton said, are less successful. He stressed that agencies should have a plan in place for responding and reacting to comments, both positive and negative. When asked what DOI does to combat negative feedback and comments on its social media pages, Fullerton responded, “We stay out of it.”
On the DOI and even the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (DHS S&T) Facebook and Twitter pages, visitors are able to post public comments at will, sometimes leaving biased opinions open for thousands to see. Fullerton explained that DOI heeds audience suggestions by recording those comments and internally discussing possible improvements in team meetings. When critical opinions are made known, he added that fans of the agency often defend its image in the dialogue. DOI and DHS do not moderate comments on their Facebook pages prior to posting; however, the agencies reserve the right to remove any materials that are offensive or pose a risk to security or privacy.
Department of Education (DOE) new media analyst, Nicole Callahan, followed with a presentation on another type of engagement through social media: customer service. Callahan shared the advantages of simplicity and informality, offering that the DOE social media team is always mindful of its audience and the impact of key messages on this audience. Practitioners, she said, should create content based on the target demographic and use appropriate platform etiquette. Both Callahan and Fullerton agreed that adding an air of humor when appropriate helps keep the audience interested. In an effort to improve service to loan borrowers and students, DOE often use jokes and word play to lighten the tone of complicated topics.
Similar to DHS S&T’s #STTechTalk Twitter chat series, DOE hosts monthly #OfficeHours Twitter chats during which students and parents can ask experts questions about the agency, loans, and education reform. When working with a small team and limited resources, strategies like hosting a Twitter chat or webinar are ways to reach a larger audience while maintaining communications and interaction with stakeholders
As the web transforms, Callahan cautioned that communications teams should carefully evaluate new social media channels before investing the time and resources necessary to launch an outreach campaign. Agencies should consider leveraging tools and technologies that are most popular among their target demographics; government and first response organizations should understand that not every channel (i.e., YouTube, Pinterest, or Vine) is appropriate for the audience. For example, DOI has an Instagram account to communicate through photos positive messaging regarding services at national parks. They discovered that their target audience actively uses the site; therefore, they deemed this an appropriate approach. Decisions about social media choice and etiquette should be carefully considered.
Callahan also stressed that social media can level the playing field, providing a venue for high-level agency executives to communicate with the general public on a personal level. She shared that the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, often answers questions during inter-meeting breaks by using the #AskArne hashtag on his Twitter account.
Currently, DHS S&T initiates dialogue, provides technology updates, and offers best practices to the first responder community through social media. To engage with the DHS S&T on social media visit www.facebook.com/firstrespondersgroup or www.twitter.com/DHSSciTech.
Created: 7/1/2013 5:13 PM
Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the nineteen firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty combating the wildfire outside Yarnell, Arizona. As thousands of their colleagues continue to fight wildfires across Arizona and the West, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are working closely with our federal partners including the Forest Service and the Department of Interior, to support state and local efforts. Our utmost priority is public safety and I urge residents in the impacted areas to continue to listen to local authorities and follow their guidance and instructions.
Created: 7/1/2013 2:20 PM
Registration is now open for the third in a series of Cybersecurity Framework Workshops hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Under Presidential Executive Order 13636, “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyber Security,” NIST is charged with developing a voluntary framework of existing standards, guidelines, and best practices to reduce the risk of cyber attacks against the nation’s critical infrastructure. The framework is intended for use by the financial, energy, transportation, food and agriculture, and health care industries. NIST’s workshop series brings together critical infrastructure owners and operators, industry associations, standards development organizations, individual companies, and government agencies to contribute to the development process.
NIST hosted two previous Cybersecurity Framework Workshops, one in Washington, D.C. and one in Pittsburgh, PA, which attracted 700 in-person and more than 2,500 online participants. The final workshop will be held in September 2013, after which NIST will publish a preliminary framework for public review and comment.
Participants at the San Diego workshop will be expected to review the draft framework, available online, ahead of the workshop and to actively participate in workshop breakout sessions.
The Department of Homeland Security and its Science and Technology Directorate are supporting the framework development effort, and will play a large role in defining and supporting its future implementation.
For more information about the Cybersecurity Framework: http://www.nist.gov/itl/cyberframework_wkshp_06-20-2013.cfm.
To register for the San Diego workshop: http://www.nist.gov/itl/csd/3rd-cybersecurity-framework-workshop-july-10-12-2013-san-diego-ca.cfm.
Created: 6/26/2013 4:07 PM
The U.S. Department of Commerce Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program recently released an article titled “Modeling a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.” This article addresses the joint effort between PSCR and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate on modeling and planning for a nationwide public safety broadband network.
The article was published in the June 2013 edition of the IEEE Vehicular Technology Magazine. Recent legislation has made a nationwide public safety broadband network based on Long Term Evolution technology possible. The creation of this network will augment public safety’s existing land mobile radios by providing a network that is capable of transporting large amounts of data, including video.
More specifically, this article addresses modeling and planning challenges related to implementing a nationwide public safety broadband network. It outlines an approach for analyzing small areas of terrain to explain the large-scale network and factors in differences in terrain, user density, and public safety needs. It also explains the approach to modeling a large-scale public safety network such as the one planned for the nationwide deployment in the United States.
While addressing challenges, the article also proposes potential solutions and helps users plan for alternative scenarios (e.g., target areas, user requirements, and site assumptions) in a timely manner. The article uses a clustering algorithm to groups areas–also called classes–that have similar characteristics (e.g., user population, coverage percentage, land characteristics, and network load). The process consists of four major components:
· Classification: systematic placement of the nation into small areas and then grouping into clusters based on land and user population characteristics.
· Sampling: a subset of a population from each cluster for detailed radio frequency (RF) analysis.
· Analysis: performs a RF analysis (i.e., instrument that displays signal energy at each frequency step across a transmission band) of a specific area to determine which resources are necessary
· Extrapolation: scales the analysis results to the entire nation
Download the article to read more about the lessons learned from modeling a nationwide public safety broadband network.
Created: 6/21/2013 1:25 PM
Ten agencies and organizations have joined together to issue a call to action—a unified approach to sharing and reporting suspicious activity. The action states that law enforcement and public safety professionals should increase public understanding and awareness of suspicious activity reporting (SAR) and that law enforcement officials should utilize SAR training available to help them contribute effectively to this important endeavor.
SAR is one of law enforcement’s most effective tools both for preventing crimes and violent acts and for tracking down perpetrators. In 2011, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convened representatives from local, state, tribal, and federal agencies to develop a uniform approach to reporting and sharing information about suspicious activities. That meeting led to the creation of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI): a collaborative effort led by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement partners. The NSI establishes standard processes and policies for agencies to share timely, relevant Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) while protecting the public’s privacy and civil rights.
Law enforcement and other public safety professionals are responsible for educating the public and themselves about SAR. This means ensuring that the public understands how to properly report suspicious activities, and that agencies collect and analyze SARs and submit them to their respective fusion centers, the FBI, or the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The NSI has developed online SAR training not only for law enforcement but also for key non-law enforcement disciplines, including fire and emergency medical service personnel, 9-1-1 call takers, emergency managers, and corrections, probation, and parole officers. NSI training programs are free of charge and available online on the NSI website. The NSI’s SAR Line Officer Training is also available on the Sheriff and Police channel of LEAPS.TV, the Law Enforcement and Public Safety Network.
Created: 6/19/2013 1:52 PM
On June 27th, join the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) for a Twitter Chat about S&T’s Rapid Recovery Transformer (RecX) project. From 1 to 2 p.m. EDT, S&T Resilient Systems Division Program Manager Sarah Mahmood will be on-hand to discuss the results of the RecX pilot program and answer questions about lessons learned and the future of the project.
RecX provides next generation extra high voltage (EHV) transformers as emergency replacement units to enable infrastructure resilience and reduce recovery time. Together with industry partners – the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) the ABB Group of St Louis, Mo, and CenterPoint Energy, S&T successfully demonstrated the RecX prototype in March 2012, by transporting the RecX from St. Louis to Houston, installing, commissioning and energizing it in the grid in a record 6 days.
The rapid recovery and resiliency of the nation’s electric grid is vital to the nation’s security and economy. EHV transformers deliver electricity from power generation plants to distribution networks. If these transformers fail, especially in large numbers, therein lays a very big problem.
Imagine electricity cut off for just a couple days. The impact extends from telephone services and transportation to banking, sewage services and water facilities. Everything involving communication, banking, and businesses transactions depends on electricity. Imagine having to boil water because space weather (e.g., a solar flare triggers a geomagnetic storm), Mother Nature (e.g., extreme weather event causes flooding of electric substations) or a manmade error/source (e.g., Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)) damages several EHV transformers.
Being back up and running right away is vital to our security and economy, so having a ready-to-go, easy to install and put to use EHV transformer is necessary. Annual power outage costs are currently in the billions.
S&T wants to hear from you. Join the chat. Submit your questions and comments to @DHSSciTech before, during, or after the chat and be sure to use the #STTechTalk hashtag.
Created: 6/17/2013 4:10 PM
On June 4, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications held a hearing to discuss social media for emergency management. The hearing, titled “Emergency MGMT 2.0: How #SocialMedia & New Tech are Transforming Preparedness, Response, & Recovery #Disasters #Part1 #Privatesector,” featured testimony from representatives of Google.org, Palantir Technologies, the Internet Association, and Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc. (PSEG).
In their opening statements, Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), the chairwoman of the committee, and the ranking minority member of the committee, Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), mentioned some social media limitations such as the need for reliable electric power and networks, rumor control, and the accuracy of information shared through social media.
Witnesses mentioned common themes: the need for interaction and partnerships between the government and the public sector; lessons learned after disasters, including the importance of preparedness and pre-positioning; using familiar technologies for information sharing after a disaster; and the need for data standards. The witnesses also affirmed the need for public/private partnerships to ensure their respective technologies are effective and useful to those affected by disasters.
To read the witness statements and see video of the opening statements of the hearing, please visit http://homeland.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-emergency-mgmt-20-how-socialmedia-new-tech-are-transforming.
One week before the hearing, Rep. Brooks participated in the weekly #smemchat, a Twitter chat (open discussion) on social media and public safety issues with practitioners from across the country. The #smemchat is held every Friday at 12:30 pm EST and open to anyone interested in participating.
To learn more about how first responders can use social media, please visit the Make America Safer through Social Media and Virtual Social Media Working Group communities on First Responder Communities of Practice: www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
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Created: 6/14/2013 2:23 PM
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) First Responders Group recently released the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA): New York City Demonstration Lessons Learned Report.
The WEA service, formerly known as the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS), is a national capability for delivering geographically-targeted alerts to the public on mobile devices. The Lessons Learned Report describes the adoption of WEA by the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM), which was the first state and local government to adopt WEA. Some of NYC OEM’s experiences were specific to being the first alert originator to deploy WEA, but their other experiences involved activities that others will have to perform to use the WEA service in their own jurisdictions.
Information in this report can guide other alert originators in the adoption and integration of the WEA service in the following areas:
- Coordinating alerting authority with local and neighboring jurisdictions
Choosing alert origination software Training staff to send WEA messages
- Determining when to send WEA messages
- Handling the challenges presented by geo-targeting to the county level
- Creating understandable messages in 90 characters
- Justifying investment in WEA, and
- Informing the public about what to expect from WEA.
Download the report to read about the unique challenges faced and overcome during this pilot.
Created: 6/13/2013 4:46 PM
The men and women of DHS, together with first responders and other partners, work every day to ensure that the homeland is safe, secure, and resilient.
Every four years, we step away from the work we do together every day, look at how things have changed over the last four years, and develop strategies to address evolving threats and keep our nation safe, secure and resilient. This enterprise-wide effort is the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR).
Our first quadrennial review answered the question, “What is homeland security?” It laid out the vision and five mission areas for DHS and provided guidance for the broader homeland security enterprise. The second QHSR is focusing on how we work together to address critical security challenges in the face of evolving threats and resource constraints.
The second QHSR just reached an important milestone – setting our plan of action. DHS will work with partners across the homeland security enterprise, including first responders, to:
· provide an overview of changes in the homeland security environment;
· reaffirm the vision and mission areas set out by the first QHSR;
· update our goals under these mission areas;
· identify the strategic shifts needed in key areas to address evolving threats in an era of resource constraints.
Created: 6/11/2013 4:31 PM
This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) released the Digital Video Quality Handbook for the first responder community. This handbook, which shows how a video system design process can link with real‑life public safety applications, is now available on www.firstresponder.gov.
Developed by the S&T First Responders Group’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC), this document is the result of a partnership between federal and industry partners, and responders themselves.
Three additional important reference materials, originally released through the www.safecomprogram.gov website, have also recently been made available on the www.firstresponder.gov website:
Created: 6/11/2013 1:22 PM
Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Office of University Programs (OUP) hosted an event for students interested in careers in science and technology. At Career Pathways for Future Homeland Security Science and Technology Professionals, DHS officials including S&T Under Secretary Dr. Tara O’Toole and OUP Director Matthew Clark encouraged and invited students to pursue a lifelong career in the field.
More than 500 students gathered in Washington, D.C. to learn about topics such as the DHS cyber security mission, how to build homeland security accomplishments while in school, and crime scene investigation. An installment of the S&T #STTechTalk Twitter chat series using the #STFuture hashtag served as an event encore. During the chat, S&T tweeted information about the ins and outs of OUP and the DHS Centers of Excellence (COE), and provided detailed information on how to pursue jobs within the Homeland Security Enterprise.
DHS S&T’s mission is to create solutions for America’s security challenges; challenges which Director Clark believes can be solved by the professionals of the next generation. To that end, he tweeted, “Students are the #STFuture!” The Directorate taps the expertise of the nation's colleges and universities to address pressing homeland security needs through three unique programs: OUP Programs, which engage, educate and ultimately direct academically high-performing individuals toward choosing Homeland Security Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics related careers; the Minority Serving Institutions Programs, which work to ensure the face of America is reflected in the future of the Homeland Security science and technology work force; and COEs, which engage the academic community to deliver tools, technologies, knowledge products, training, and talent to enhance the Department’s homeland security capabilities.
The Visual Analytics Law Enforcement Toolkit (VALET) is one example of how OUP’s COE efforts are in use today. VALET provides first responders with real-time information on crime hotspots. Another technology developed through one of OUP’s COEs is Armor Assistant for randomized monitoring over routes, which was recently deployed at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Students involved in at least one of OUP’s efforts have an opportunity to truly make a difference in the science and technology landscape of America while building successful careers. For more information on opportunities within the DHS enterprise, visit www.usa.gov/jobs. To participate in the next DHS S&T Twitter chat, follow @DHSSciTech on Twitter and search the #STTechTalk hashtag.
Created: 6/3/2013 4:22 PM
As the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season approaches on June 1, communities and public safety agencies across the country begin to prepare for possible storms throughout the summer and into the fall. While some states are more vulnerable to hurricanes than others, many are at risk. Hurricanes do not always follow a set path and sometimes impact populations that do not expect to be affected.
Last season, Hurricane Sandy left several states in the Northeastern U.S. damaged and many cities and neighborhoods destroyed. Social media and other collaborative technologies were an integral part of preparation, response, and recovery efforts. Nearly one year later, it is important to look back, identify areas for improvement, and begin to develop and enhance the tools needed to improve response this year and beyond.
To accomplish this, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (DHS S&T) Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) published its newest document, Lessons Learned: Social Media and Hurricane Sandy. The report is the result of input and discussion from across the first response community between October 2012 and May 2013. It provides an overview of how social media was used to prepare for, respond to, and recover from Sandy in late October 2012, and discusses lessons learned and themes in the application of social media and other collaborative technologies. It also identifies several gaps in technology, process, and policy, many of which will require further discussion and consideration by public safety agencies, response partners, and communities.
The VSMWG also announces the re-release of three documents focusing on social media in emergency management that contributed to the Lessons Learned: Social Media and Hurricane Sandy report:
· Social Media Strategy—a high-level introduction to social media and its benefits to public safety agencies;
· Next Steps: Social Media for Emergency Response—a follow up to the “Social Media Strategy,” presenting challenges, next steps, and best practices for public safety agencies that are developing and implementing their own social media; and
· Community Engagement and Social Media Best Practices—a guide to successfully using social media to engage whole communities for preparedness.
About the VSMWG
Recognizing the need to address the challenges associated with social media and collaborative technologies for use in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery, DHS S&T established the VSMWG in 2010. The VSMWG’s mission is to provide guidance and best practices to the emergency preparedness and response community on the safe and sustainable use of social media technologies before, during, and after emergencies.
Drawn from a cross-section of subject matter experts from local, tribal, state, territorial, and federal responders from across the U.S., VSMWG members are establishing and collecting best practices and solutions that can be leveraged by public safety officials and responders. For more information on the VSMWG, please visit First Responder Communities of Practice www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
Created: 5/31/2013 3:57 PM
On June 26-27, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) is holding a meeting to discuss Next Generation Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This meeting will be useful in obtaining research that is currently being performed that could assist in the development of improved PPE for responders and provide information regarding first responder requirements, technical capability of industry, and development work being conducted by other agencies. The discussions will assist S&T in preparing a strategic plan for the development of next generation PPE for the first responder disciplines (i.e., fire, law enforcement, emergency medical services, etc.). The intent is to develop goals for the development of an integrated PPE ensemble that provides multi-threat protection, increases the safety of first responders, and reduces the amount of equipment responders must carry.
Who is invited?
Technical personnel from industry, academic institutions, research facilities, trade/professional groups, standard development organizations, and other government agencies that are interested in participating in open discussions regarding concepts, requirements, and capabilities for Next Generation PPE for the first responders of the future.
How do I register?
To attend in person
· Complete this form and submit it to S&TConferenceAppro@HQ.DHS.GOV.
Register by no later than June 18, 2013.
The Homeland Security Acquisition Institute (HSAI): 90 K Street NE in Washington, DC (within walking distance of Union Station).
· Due to building security requirements, anyone not registered in advance to attend this meeting will not be granted admittance to the building.
· Government issued identification will be required for building access and for check-in to the meeting.
To attend virtually
For those unable to physically attend the meeting but would like to participate via Webinar, complete both of the following steps:
1. Complete the attached form and submit it to S&TConferenceAppro@HQ.DHS.GOV and
2. Go online to https://connect.hsin.gov/nexgenppe-2013/event/registration.html.
Questions? Need additional information?
Contact FRG Program Manager Bill Deso at (202) 254-6748 or William.Deso@HQ.DHS.GOV.
Information regarding hotels and restaurants near the 90K facility can be found at: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/privacy/ SpeakersSeries/DHStrainingcenterinformation.pdf
Created: 5/30/2013 3:53 PM
Guest post from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Strategic Foresight Initiative
The world is changing in ways that can have major impacts on the emergency management community. FEMA’s Strategic Foresight Initiative (SFI) promotes the idea that thinking more broadly and over a longer timeframe will help us understand these changes and their potential impacts – and to begin addressing them now. Last week, SFI released Toward More Resilient Futures: Putting Foresight Into Practice. Using a nontraditional, visual design, this document represents a new approach to communicating the value of strategic foresight through working to help bridge the gap between “theory” and the real world of practice.
With this new document, SFI hopes to help readers explore the future by immersing them in the big issues driving change and highlighting real world examples of Whole Community members who are currently taking forward-leaning action to enhance disaster resilience.
While SFI’s earlier work (like the Crisis Response and Disaster Resilience 2030 report) centered on a deep analysis of future needs, Toward More Resilient Futures is more practical in focus. For instance, the five future scenario analyses presented in Feature 1 includes some of the ways today’s key trends (e.g., slow economic growth, catalyzing events) may affect the emergency management community moving forward. It also includes over 100 links to engaging and reliable source materials that readers can peruse to learn more about the topics covered in the document. For Features 2 and 3, the team drew primarily from the SFI Network (using member submissions) to showcase practical applications of foresight principles, highlighting various success factors that were employed and noting the specific SFI strategic needs that were addressed.
The SFI team invites members of the Whole Community to visit the SFI website and join the SFI Network to learn more about how their organization or project can use this information.
Created: 5/30/2013 1:31 PM
The following photos were submitted by Battalion Chief Kirk Kushen of the Kern County Fire Department, whose team has been battling a string of wildfires in both in Kern and neighboring Ventura County. The entire state has been plagued by wildfire in recent weeks, as record high temperatures, low humidity, and gusty winds created a perfect storm for blazes to ignite and rapidly spread. The responders can be seen wearing next-generation personal protective equipment (PPE) that the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is developing to improve safety and enhance performance in the field.
“I had command of a Kern County Strike Team of five engines sent to the Springs Fire in Ventura. I was wearing the garment system for several days and found them significantly cooler than my previously issued PPE,” Kushen said.
The “PPE” that Kushen references is the Wildland Firefighters Advanced Personal Protection System: a National Fire Protection Association certified system that S&T is developing with the U.S. Army Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center National Protection Center, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. Fire Service, and local firefighters. The gear improves radiant thermal protection; reduces heat stress; and improves the form, fit, and function of garments.
“The Kern County Fire Department also had our Rio Bravo Hot Shot Crew with 20 personnel wearing our Gen I garments on the same fire. I have received nothing but positive comments on the [S&T] PPE system,” Kushen continued.
The home of Ellen DeGeneres in Ventura County was one of the structures that Kushen and the other responders helped protect. Ellen posed for photos and offered a note of personal gratitude on her Facebook page and Twitter account, saying “I’m so grateful to the fire fighters who are working to put out the Spring Hills fire. Thank you!”
To learn more about the Wildland Firefighter Advanced Personal Protection System and other next-generation personal protective equipment currently being developed by DHS S&T, please contact SandTFRG@dhs.gov.
Created: 5/23/2013 10:58 PM
Volunteers Needed for a Study to Find Out
Guest post drafted by Dr. David Lazer, PhD and Dr. Drew Margolin, PhD of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts
“I am OK.”
When two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, three people were killed, hundreds of people were injured, and millions of people were scared and confused. Among the worries and wonders were thoughts such as: What is happening? Are the people I care about OK? Do the people who care about me know that I am OK? How could something like this happen? What can I do?
In a terrible moment like this, people reach out to their social network—their friends, family, neighbors. And in an unexpected crisis, the fastest way to reach out to someone you know is through their mobile phone. Family members can be reached almost instantly, no matter where they are. Neighbors can come to our aid. Close friends can help us make sense of horrifying events. A better understanding is needed of how social network activities help inform emergency response efforts to disseminate information rapidly in the first moments of a crisis.
Northeastern University in Boston has just launched a study of how mobile phones are used for communication around emergencies, with two surveys to examine phone use during Hurricane Sandy, and after the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Both surveys utilize special Android apps that, while preserving privacy, identify the contacts that participants spoke to and texted with most frequently during and after these events. The app then generates a survey that asks participants about how they were affected by events (e.g., Did they lose electricity during Sandy? How near the bombings were they?), their relationships to important contacts, as well as questions about their reliance on social and mainstream media.
In addition, the apps ask how their social networks affected people’s ability to get the information, resources, and emotional support that they needed at that moment. The contrast between Hurricane Sandy and the Marathon bombing allows for a comparison between an anticipated and unanticipated emergency (e.g., Were mobile phones important in the latter?), and allows examination of how infrastructure failure resulted in substitutions of different media for reaching out to one’s social network.
Participation requires loading an Android app and about 10 minutes of time. To encourage people to participate, Northeastern will donate $3 to One Fund Boston for every participant in the Boston study, and $3 to local food banks in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Dr. Lazer is Professor, Political Science Department and College of Computing and Information Science at Northeastern University. Dr. Margolin is Post-Doctoral Research Associate, College of Computing and Information Science at Northeastern University.
Created: 5/21/2013 1:56 PM
Immediately following a disaster, letting friends and families know you’re safe and well is very important. Information can be dynamic, conflicting, and often times confusing. The American Red Cross developed its Safe and Well website (www.redcross.org/safeandwell) to centralize reconnections between those affected by disasters and loved ones searching for them after an event. On the site, individuals affected by disasters can register themselves as “safe and well”; while those searching check the site for their loved one’s name to find an update and brief message.
In the aftermath of this week’s devastating tornadoes, the American Red Cross encourages tornado survivors and those with loved ones within the affected areas to register on, and check the site at www.redcross.org/safeandwell.
Created: 5/21/2013 12:38 PM
First responders face a wide array of risks and threats in a range of operating environments. They rely on their personal protective equipment (PPE)—garments, gloves, goggles, helmets, and more—to shield them from hazardous conditions during both day-to-day operations and major incidents.
On May 21 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. EDT, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will host a Twitter chat with First Responders Group (FRG) Program Manager William Deso, who will be on-hand to answer questions about S&T’s work developing the next generation of PPE: highly durable gear that is bulletproof, fire resistant, and able to withstand chemical and biohazard exposure. Deso will share examples of PPE technologies currently under development, including the Improved Firefighter Structure Glove, a new lightweight, slim-profile self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and Wildland Firefighter Advanced Personal Protection System.
The Improved Firefighter Structure Glove will equip structural firefighters with optimal don and doff capability, fire resistance, and wet/dry flexibility. The Wildland Firefighter Advanced Personal Protection System improves the garments worn by wildland firefighters by reducing heat stress—a major concern for these firefighters who must wear and carry a significant amount of personal protective gear to perform their duties.
FRG is working with the U.S. Army Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center’s National Protection Center (Natick), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. Fire Service, and others to develop a National Fire Protection Association-certified garment system that improves overall firefighting response for both wildland and structural firefighters.
S&T wants to hear from the responder community about how we can continue to provide increased protection from current and emerging threats in all areas of first response including firefighting, law enforcement, and emergency medical services. Submit your questions and comments to @DHSSciTech at any time before, during, or after the chat and be sure to use the #STTechTalk hashtag.
Created: 5/20/2013 10:38 AM
"Given the lack of alternative spectrum, cost of relocation, major disruption to vital public safety services and likelihood that the spectrum auction would not even cover relocation costs, NPSTC believes implementing the T-Band legislation is not feasible, provides no public interest benefit, and that the matter should be re-visited by Congress."
- National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) T-Band Report,
March 15, 2013
No one denies the critical need for a nationwide public safety communications network, and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has led planning efforts in that direction. In February 2012, President Obama enacted legislation that included provisions for funding and governing such a network—the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. But the legislation requires public safety agencies in 11 metropolitan areas to transition from radio frequencies between 470-512 MHz (known as T-band frequencies) to other, narrower bands, by 2023.
NPSTC, a federation of public safety and telecommunications organizations, recently issued a report which analyzed the impact on state and local governments required to make the move. The report illustrates a conservative $5.9 billion impact on public safety entities, and it points out that many areas have no spectrum to accommodate such a move. Read the report by clicking on the link or visiting the NPSTC web site.
Created: 5/16/2013 3:25 PM
Early reports from Boston claimed that at least one of the explosive devices had been placed in a trash can. The reports proved false, but law enforcement agencies have long known trash cans to be potentially attractive places to conceal explosive devices. When detonated, the device could rip the trash can itself into shrapnel, increasing the risk of injury to anyone nearby.
One solution is to remove trash cans from public places. A handful of cities, including Tokyo, London, New York, and Washington, D.C., have done this to some degree in public transit and high density areas, but public reaction to having no place to dispose of trash has been largely negative. There is, however, another solution. Back in 2007, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) collaborated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a performance standard for blast-resistant trash receptacles (BRTR), which can partially contain explosive forces. ASTM International released the standard, which guides emergency responders and managers through the evaluation, purchase, and deployment of the bins, and in the years since, several models of BRTR have been developed and commercialized. Most people have seen them in train stations, airports, and outside of government buildings across the country.
The BRTRs are specifically designed to minimize the impact of an explosion by directing the blast path up instead of out and capturing shrapnel from the blast. The bins are also designed to maintain their structural integrity to avoid creating additional shrapnel, thereby reducing fatalities and damage.
Late last year, S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory assessed several BRTR models currently available in the marketplace and recently posted its findings on the S&T System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders Program website. Overviews of how the receptacles work, as well as applications and special design features, are also available on the site.
Public safety is of paramount importance, but, in many people’s minds, public convenience runs a close second. BRTRs help strike a balance that everyone can live with.
Created: 5/16/2013 11:00 AM
From Transit Police Officer Richard "Dic" Donohue:
I cannot begin to properly thank everyone involved in my recovery, as many fearless indi-viduals stepped up and acted heroically that night. To start I must thank my brothers from the Transit, Boston, Harvard, Watertown, Cambridge and State Police, as well as fire department personnel and the various other first responders, all of whom put their own lives on the line to save mine. In the midst of a firefight they dropped to the ground and assisted me when I was shot. My family got through those first few days through the community's outpouring of prayers and endless support. I am told that when I arrived at the hospital I had almost no blood and no pulse, and the team of medical experts at Mount Auburn miracu-lously brought me back to life. I am now awake, moving around, talking, and telling jokes (much to my Wife's dismay). I am able to walk briefly through the use of a walker. My pain varies day to day and I still have a long road of rehab and recovery ahead, but I am optimistic I'll recover back to 100%. The bullet will remain in my leg as it is not obstructing anything or causing any pain. However my wife has informed me that the bullet will ultimately cause her the most pain, as I will be using it to get out of things such as mowing the lawn, doing laundry, and painting the deck.
My wife and I send heartfelt condolences to the Collier family. Sean was one of my good friends out of the Academy and I arrived on scene soon after Sean's attack. There is not a single day we are not thinking or speaking of Sean. And we are certain Sean was watching over me and assisted in saving my life. He could not save himself that night, but Sean could save me.
We want to again thank everyone for their prayers and concerns. I, however, have very little memory of the week's events and am working with officials to piece everything together. When the full story of that evening is accounted for, it will be wilder than any movie you have ever seen. And it will contain more heroes.
My wife and I understand the news value of what has occurred, but we ask you to give us the time and space we need during my recovery.
Thank you for your understanding.
Officer Donohue & His Wife Kim
Created: 5/7/2013 1:53 PM
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Twitter account reached a milestone of 6,000 followers. S&T joined Twitter in May 2009 and has since used the @DHSSciTech account to disseminate information about the Directorate’s projects and programs, link to press releases, articles and blog posts about S&T on the DHS.gov and FirstResponder.gov websites, announce upcoming events and webinars, and share resources to support and enhance the efforts of our nation’s emergency responder community.
S&T recently started hosting monthly Twitter chats, an opportunity for us to engage with you about everything from the technologies we are developing to trends and careers in homeland security fields. The next chat in our #STTechTalk series will take place May 21, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EDT about Next-Generation Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Learn about the new PPE we are working on to shield first responders from hazardous conditions, including an improved firefighter structure glove and an advanced personal protection system for wildland firefighters. We want to hear from you! How can we continue to provide increased protection to first responders from current and emerging threats, both during both day-to-day operations and major incidents? Submit your questions or comments any time to @DHSSciTech and be sure to include the #STTechTalk and/or #ResponderPPE hashtags.
Many thanks to all of our followers who have helped us to reach this important milestone! We look forward to continued engagement in the weeks, months, and years to come. To those of you not yet following us—what are you waiting for? Head over to @DHSSciTech to see what you’ve been missing.
Created: 5/7/2013 12:03 PM
Emergency medical services (EMS) responders provide the first point of care and are at often at high risk of exposure to biohazards and infectious diseases. Understanding the critical importance of prevention is imperative.
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) recently released a free reference guide for EMS responders and their organizations with practical information about infection recognition and prevention in various EMS environments. The Guide to Infection Prevention in Emergency Medical Services, developed by experts in the field of infection prevention, is designed to help EMS responders apply current scientific knowledge and best practices to enhance safety for patients and responders. It contains current recommendations, regulations, resources, and program examples.
The guide will help responders gain an understanding of:
Infection prevention standards, regulations, and best practices in patient and EMS responder safety;
Instructions, examples, and tools to conduct surveillance and risk assessments;
Forms and templates for infection prevention education, training, and compliance monitoring; and
Emergency, disaster, and bioterrorism preparedness practices.
For additional information on APIC and the guide, visit www.apic.org.
Created: 5/1/2013 3:39 PM
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is hosting a Virtual Roundtable on Wednesday, May 1 at 2:00 p.m. EDT, titled “Conducting Security Assessments: A Guide for Schools and Houses of Worship.” Participants must register online for this free Virtual Roundtable, which includes a question-and-answer session with the panelists, including:
Bob Hellmuth – Director, Department of School Safety and Security, Montgomery County, MD Public Schools
Paul Goldenberg – Vice Chair Homeland Security Advisory Committee’s Faith-based Security and Communications Advisory Committee
Matt Wombacher – Protective Security Advisor, National Capital Region, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Citing two recent high-profile events—the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wis.—the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate is working to help schools and houses of worship identify vulnerabilities, identify actionable measures they can take to manage them, and “create a culture of security throughout the institution.”
A limited number of phone lines will be available; the panelists are asking participants to plan on listening online using either the computer’s speakers or headphones. DHS recommends attendance from:
• Leaders, administrators, staff, and volunteers from schools and houses of worship, and
• Law enforcement and federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officials.
This could be an ideal opportunity for houses of worship and schools to invite law enforcement officers into their facilities to participate jointly in the Virtual Roundtable. Afterward, they can hold a cooperative meeting to discuss security improvements at the facilities and how to work together in the future to keep the dialog between the institutions and agencies active.
Created: 4/29/2013 4:03 PM
Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) program completed 27 projects, assessed 65 products, and produced 136 publications. These efforts are a core component of SAVER, which provides market information and guidance to help first responders make informed decisions when selecting and buying new equipment. Successfully implemented through a network of technical agents and first responders, SAVER also helps responders by providing objective information regarding the capabilities of equipment. State and local first responder agencies can use this information to help justify purchases or apply for grants.
Read the SAVER Year in Review at https://rkb.us/SAVER/download.cfm?id=7559
Created: 4/29/2013 3:01 PM
On April 15, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) issued a brief explaining why, in the opinion of its members, cell phones, smart phones, and the planned nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) will not, in the foreseeable future, serve the voice communications needs of emergency responders. Regarding cell phones and smart phones, NPSTC cites several unique public safety communications needs that commercial wireless carriers cannot meet:
· Dedicated channels and priority access
· One-to-many group capability
· Reliable, secure, and redundant networks
· Maximum coverage within assigned jurisdictions, and
· Unique, ruggedized equipment designed for emergency situations.
The brief further points out that, while NPSBN will have voice capabilities, it is “intended to provide urgently needed broadband data capabilities” and will not, in the near term, meet the voice communications needs of the public safety community. It goes on to list a number of voice features critical to first responders’ mission, including an “off network” capability, a direct (unit-to-unit) mode, push-to-talk, and group call (voice communication from one to many members of a team).
NPSTC urges local, tribal, state, and federal public safety officials to continue to fund their land mobile radio systems until cell phones, smart phones, and the NPSBN demonstrate their ability to meet the voice communication needs of their agencies.NPSTC is a federation of organizations funded by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.
Created: 4/26/2013 2:36 PM
The new Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) standard for land mobile radio (LMR) equipment [ANSI/TIA-4950] is good news for first responders and for manufacturers of public safety LMR equipment. Recently approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the standard isolates LMR equipment from other devices and ensures LMR safety without compromising equipment performance or forcing equipment redesigns.
Incidents of fires in battery-powered cars, computers, and aircraft circuitry have led to widespread rethinking of standards for all kinds of electrical equipment, including radios. First responders routinely carry battery-powered portable radios into hazardous environments, such as grain elevators, petroleum refineries, tanker ships, and buildings with gas leaks, where a random spark can cause an explosion. At the sites of vehicle and aircraft accidents, they often encounter spilled flammable fluids. So the first responder community has a special interest in safe radio equipment.
In 2010, the standards certification organization FM Approvals announced its intention to replace an existing standard for intrinsically safe LMR equipment—equipment designed and manufactured to be incapable of providing an ignition source in Division 1 Hazardous environments—with a new one. The proposed standard would necessitate new equipment designs that could reduce radio performance. However, there is no documented evidence of any first responder injuries or loss of life due to the failure of radio equipment that complies with the existing standard.
As an alternative, in 2010, the Intrinsically Safe Working Group of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), funded by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, proposed an approach for revising the existing standard and initiated discussions with FM Approvals and the International Society of Automation. NPSTC further discussed the issue with TIA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Land Mobile Communications Council, and other public safety groups. In late 2011, TIA convened an Engineering Subcommittee to create the new LMR-specific standard.
Overall, the new standard is another example of the positive things that can be achieved when policy balances the needs of both first responders and industry.
Created: 4/26/2013 12:00 PM
The recent events in Boston have raised interest in enhanced responder training related to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Joint Interagency Training and Education Center and Homeland Security Programs at West Virginia University are offering first responders a specialized three-day course, “IED Response on Mass Transit and Passenger Rail Systems” (DOD-007-RESP). Slots are still available for the May 14-16 and June 25-27 classes. The curriculum includes classroom, tabletop, and full exercise training, using realistic disaster scenarios in the 2,800-foot Center of National Response Memorial Tunnel in Gallagher, West Virginia.
For more information, visit WVU Homeland Security Programs.
Created: 4/23/2013 3:16 PM
The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) will host a webinar on a decontamination solution for ambulance interiors. FRG will host this webinar in partnership with members of the Interagency Board, the S&T First Responder Resource Group, local first responders, national emergency medical services (EMS) associations, and federal EMS partners. The webinar will take place on April 25 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EDT.
S&T’s Interagency Office and Chemical/Biological Defense Division have possibly discovered a commercially-available fixed and mobile decontamination solution as a result of their work with the U.S. Transportation Command, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and other Department of Defense components in aircraft decontamination. This solution may support the Interagency Board’s Number 8 Research and Development (R&D) item for Ambulance Interior Decontamination. The decontamination process is unique because it involves using a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide in a mist application than normally found in a hospital or other bio-environments. This is important because hydrogen peroxide can be corrosive and could potentially damage sensitive electronics and electrical systems at higher concentrations.
The webinar will provide an overview of the solution process, science, R&D and current application, and use of the technology by first responders. Access the webinar on the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN).
A HSIN account is not required for access; individuals without a HSIN account may access the session as a GUEST just before the webinar is set to begin. Note: computer speakers are required for the audio portion of the presentation.
Created: 4/22/2013 1:06 PM
Throughout Hurricane Sandy, response agencies and community partners used a variety of social media tools to engage with stakeholders, share information, and maintain awareness of events and community needs.
On April 17, members of the Virtual Social Media Working Group—established by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate—will present, in detail, how their agencies leveraged social media for engagement purposes, and will discuss challenges, successes, and lessons learned at the National Association of Government Communicators 2013 Communications School.
Follow the First Responders Group on Facebook!Follow the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate on Twitter!
Created: 4/15/2013 2:18 PM
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are a real threat and every first responder faces the possibility of coming across one on a routine emergency call. The same is true for security personnel at high-traffic public facilities such as shopping malls, sports facilities, and cineplexes.
Bomb squads and explosive ordnance disposal technicians are certified to deal with such threats and continuously train to keep up with changes in their discipline. But where can law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and private sector security managers find reliable information on current threats and how to spot them?
The same place bomb technicians do: TRIPwire. TRIPwire, the Technical Resource for Incident Prevention(www.tripwire.dhs.gov), is the Department of Homeland Security’s online, collaborative, information-sharing network about terrorist IED tactics, techniques, and procedures. Developed and maintained by the Office for Bombing Prevention, it was established in 2006 as a forum where bomb technicians, law enforcement officers, and other emergency service personnel can learn and share information about IEDs, including design and emplacement considerations. Today TRIPwire has more than 16,000 registered users, including more than 2,400 certified bomb technicians and representatives from 50 federal agencies, 39 military units, and 770 state and local agencies.
Since June 2006, the TRIPwire site has gotten more than 68 million hits.
If you have a stake in homeland security, you should consider obtaining a free TRIPwire account. Applying for an account is simple. Sign on to www.tripwire.dhs.gov and click on “Register for an account.” Complete the application. Include your contact information, your current employment and area of expertise, and an authorized contact who can verify your employment and job duties. All membership applications are carefully vetted.
Follow the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate on Twitter!
Created: 4/11/2013 1:50 PM
“I started out wanting to be an oceanographer,” said Kathleen Higgins, Chief of Stakeholder Engagement for the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (DHS S&T) First Responders Group (FRG). “I was going to be more famous than Jacques Cousteau.”
Higgins delivered the keynote address at a March 26 Department of Justice (DoJ) Office of Justice Programs event celebrating women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
She recounted what she called the “long and winding road” that led her from inspirational chemistry classes in high school to disappointment at being unable to pursue oceanography—women were prohibited from sailing aboard research ships, because the ships lacked “women’s quarters.”
A lifelong murder-mystery reader, Higgins discovered an unexpected new career path in forensic chemistry and served several years as Senior Chemist at the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab (one case she worked on is depicted in the 2010 motion picture Conviction, starring Hilary Swank) and Coordinator of the Forensic Science program at Northeastern University.
Then her life took more unexpected twists. She managed the research and development team that engineered the U.S. Postal Service’s first successful pressure-sensitive postage stamp (the challenge: produce a stamp exactly the same thickness as a dollar bill—42 ten-thousandths of an inch). She served as Director of the Office of Law Enforcement Standards at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Then she joined DHS S&T as Branch Chief of the Command, Control and Interoperability Division, Office for Interoperability and Compatibility, before accepting her present position as Chief of Stakeholder Engagement for FRG.
In introducing Higgins, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary said, “This is someone who has succeeded in a whole range of scientific and technical pursuits, and who demonstrates that there are opportunities everywhere in government for those willing to develop and put to work the necessary technical knowledge, perseverance, and imagination.”
Higgins summed up her career this way: “I’ve learned that even if the tide is against you, you can learn something that you need to know…that hands-on experience is more valuable and exciting than almost anything else you can do.
“You can find challenge and reward even in doing things that you don’t think fit your career path,” she continued. “You can accomplish almost anything if you choose the right teammates, give them their head, and use their feedback to guide you.”
Follow the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate on Twitter!
Created: 4/10/2013 2:49 PM
A lot’s been going on in the arena of first responder communications recently. Following are some recent highlights of note to our readers:
On February 20, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) announced the members of its Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), which will include 40 representatives of public safety organizations from across the country. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) recognizes that engaging the first responder community is critical to any successful public safety venture, and the PSAC will serve this role for FirstNet. FRG applauds the fact that FirstNet has decided to leverage SAFECOM’s “bottom-up,” practitioner-driven approach and looks forward to engaging the PSAC on efforts to support the nationwide public safety broadband network. In fact, FRG will be hosting a Twitter chat on this topic on March 28. More details about this event will be posted on FirstResponder.gov soon.
In other recent news, the DHS Office of Emergency Communications announced the release of the FY 2013 SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants. Updated in partnership with key stakeholders including S&T’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility, the SAFECOM Grant Guidance provides grantees with the most up-to-date information on federal policies and programs affecting emergency communications, and technical standards for improving interoperability. The Guidance also includes updated information on federal investment priorities, broadband developments, and narrowbanding, among other related topics.
Finally, the SAFECOM Executive Committee (EC) meeting provided the opportunity for robust discussion and updates on critical emergency communications topics. Held in Houston, Texas, on February 7, the meeting provided a forum for conversations and collaboration on the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan Criteria, 2013 Strategic Priorities, narrowbanding, and updates from key federal partners and emergency communications stakeholders.
For more information on SAFECOM activities, visit www.safecomprogram.gov.
Created: 4/2/2013 1:45 PM
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced this month a joint venture aimed at strengthening the practice of forensic science, particularly as it relates to the courtroom.
The new National Commission on Forensic Science will bring together nearly 30 practitioners, including academic researchers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and other stakeholders to develop policy recommendations for the U.S. Attorney General. The Commission will consider guidance on practices for federal, state, and local forensic science laboratories and will craft policy on issues such as uniform codes for professional responsibility and requirements for training and certification.
“Forensic science is an essential tool in the administration of justice and needs to be continually evaluated as science progresses,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. “Forensic science helps identify perpetrators, convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent, and protect public safety. This initiative is led by the principle that scientifically valid and accurate forensic analysis strengthens all aspects of our justice system.”
For more information about the Commission, visit http://www.nist.gov/oles/doj-nist-forensic-science021513.cfm.
Created: 4/2/2013 1:14 PM
First responders can now manage hazardous materials incidents with their phones. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released a free, mobile app of its Emergency Response Guidebook 2012 (ERG). It offers first responders fast, easily accessible information to help manage HAZMAT incidents. The app has a search feature and users can also browse the complete Guidebook, which contains data relevant to almost any hazard, including health risks to victims, equipment required for response, and recommended first aid techniques for victims of exposure. The app is available for iPhone and Android.
Created: 3/25/2013 12:51 PM
Following an earlier National Research Council (NRC) workshop on public response to alerts and warnings delivered to mobile devices, the NRC conducted a related workshop in February 2012 to look at the role of social media in disaster response. This was one of the first workshops convened to look systematically at the use of social media for alerts and warnings—an event that brought together social science researchers, technologists, emergency management professionals, and other experts on how the public and emergency managers use social media in disasters.
In addition to exploring how officials monitor social media, as well as the resulting privacy considerations, the workshop focused on such topics as:
What is known about how the public responds to alerts and warnings;
The implications of what is known about such public responses for the use of social media to provide alerts and warnings to the public; and
Approaches to enhancing the situational awareness of emergency managers.
Presentations made by invited speakers, remarks by workshop participants, and discussions during parallel breakout sessions are summarized in the full NRC report: Public Response to Alerts and Warnings Using Social Media: Report of a Workshop on Current Knowledge and Research Gaps. It also discusses potential future research topics and investments, and describes some of the challenges facing disaster managers seeking to incorporate social media into regular practice. You can order a copy of the full NRC report or download a PDF version of the summary. For more information, please contact Virginia Bacon Talati at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the National Academies website to learn more about the other exciting work that NAS is doing in the areas of Science and Technology.
Support for this project was provided by the Department of Homeland Security with assistance from the National Science Foundation.
Created: 3/20/2013 2:10 PM
On Thursday, March 28 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EDT, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will host the second Twitter chat in the #STTechTalk series, focusing on the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board and its role in shaping a new nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network (PSBN).
There is little doubt that communications among first responders, and their response efforts, could have been improved during 9/11 and subsequent disasters if a dedicated nationwide broadband network had been in place. In fact, creation of the PSBN was a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission in its 2004 report. The PSBN was formally established in February 2012 as part of an Act of Congress, and soon after the FirstNet Board was put in place to design, deploy, and operate the network.
The Board consists of three standing federal representatives and twelve appointed private citizens. Taken together, the members of FirstNet bring more than 12 decades of experience designing, constructing, and maintaining wireless networks, both in the U.S. and internationally; more than 13 decades of experience in public safety; and a perspective honed by nearly 40 years of service in state and local government. In the past year, FirstNet discussions have focused on the construction of a network that can leverage new technologies for first responders and efficient, interference-free data transfers.
During the Twitter chat, Dr. David Boyd, Director of S&T’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility, will facilitate a conversation about the promise of PSBN to close technological capability gaps and streamline communication channels to improve the work of first responders. He will also discuss current S&T public safety broadband efforts and prospects for the public safety community’s transition onto the PSBN. Experts in this field, including first responders, will be invited to discuss the capability gaps that the PSBN seeks to address, as well as to share their suggestions for consideration.
Follow DHS S&T on Twitter @dhsscitech.
Please search the #STTechTalk and #FirstNet hashtags to follow and engage in the conversation.
Created: 3/19/2013 1:50 PM
Guest post drafted by the InterAgency Board*
The Information Management & Communications SubGroup of the InterAgency Board would like to remind first responders that the Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) will require Advanced Authentication in order to gain access to networks, effective September 30, 2013. Advanced Authentication requires that two forms of credentials be presented before access will be allowed.
The first credential you will need is considered “something you have” or “something that you are.” Something you have needs to be physical, perhaps a smart card, security token, or key fob. Something that you are could include a fingerprint or even an eye scan. These are all something can be carried on your person. The second credential you will need is considered “something you know.” This could include a unique password, pin number, or a challenge question.
Advanced Authentication needs to be in place for all mobile systems, including laptops (removed from the squad car) and all mobile devices, such as cell phones and PDAs, that run FCIC/NCIC access transactions or any device that uses the internet, wireless or dial-up connections to run or process FCIC/NCIC transaction.
Whether or not your agency requires CJIS Advanced Authentication boils down to one key question: Do you have officers who access NCIC criminal justice information from a mobile data terminal or handheld device, or are they trying to remote access from an unsecured location? If the answer is “Yes,” then those officers will require an Advanced Authentication system to be compliant.
More information can be found at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/cjis-security-policy-resource-center/view.
*The InterAgency Board or IAB is a voluntary, collaborative panel of emergency preparedness and response practitioners from a wide array of professional disciplines that represent all levels of government. With a commitment to the first responder, the mission of the IAB is to strengthen the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond safely and effectively to emergencies, disasters, and CBRNE incidents. As a federally funded program, the IAB provides a structured forum for the exchange of ideas among operational, technical, and support organizations to improve national preparedness and promote interoperability and compatibility among local, state, and federal response communities. For more information, please visit www.iab.gov.
Created: 3/14/2013 2:36 PM
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created an Active Shooter Preparedness website to centralize access to agency resources, documents, and training available to emergency responders and the public.
In addition to information on webinars and scheduled trainings, including an Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Independent Study course, the site also provides guides for campus safety and research on threat assessments produced by the U.S. Secret Service.
According to the DHS website, “in many cases, there is no pattern or method to the selection of victims by an active shooter, and these situations…by their very nature are unpredictable and evolve quickly.” The information on this site is presented to help increase awareness of behaviors, pre-incident indicators, and characteristics of active shooters.
Given today’s ever-changing threat environment, preparing for and training employees to cope with workplace violence should be a key piece of an organization’s incident response planning. In addition to the website, DHS hosted several Active-Shooter Workshops, most recently held in California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Puerto Rico, to prepare organizations across the country for active-shooter and hostage-taking events.
During the one-day workshops, participants were educated on the history of active-shooter events and learned about common behavior, conditions, and situations associated with active shooters. In addition, they began to foster communication between critical infrastructure owners, operators, and local emergency response teams—including discussions on interoperability, communications protocols, and best practices for planning, preparedness, and response.
Visit http://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness to enroll in online training courses through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), attend webinars, and download additional resource materials. For further information on how to participate in any future workshops, contact ASworkshop@hq.dhs.gov.
Created: 3/12/2013 1:59 PM
There were 22 agencies involved in security efforts in the National Capital Region (NCR) for this year’s Presidential Inauguration. Sharing information among disparate agencies is critical for large-scale security events like this, so the NCR built a Geospatial Data Exchange (GDX) to accomplish this. A significant component of the GDX was the Virtual USA® (vUSA) program’s Virtual Library.
This technology component of vUSA provides a secure, web-based capability enabling users to collect, share, and manage data feeds. Using this technology, NCR was able to create their GDX, a web-based environment to discover, share, and access data feeds published by any NCR partner. Robert Horne, Project Lead for NCR-GDX, recognized that the Virtual Library met 80 percent of the NCR’s needs, providing significant time and cost savings.
Benefits of using the Virtual Library went both ways. Not only was NCR able to build their GDX, but they were also able to develop enhancements to the existing Virtual Library technology, which they shared back with vUSA at no cost. These enhancements, such as a geospatial software toolbar that publishes map data as a data feed, are being incorporated into the Virtual Library and ultimately will benefit the larger vUSA community.
During the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, the GDX was used in the DC Emergency Operations Center (DCEOC) and Fusion Center to share local, state, and federal data. Horne collected geospatial data from many sources including the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Park Service and the Joint Force Headquarters and shared a selected subset of that data with NCR-GDX partners. The data included locations of the primary event venues, critical infrastructure, and charter bus parking. The GDX also shared data feeds that were consolidated from its users within the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and other federal and local partners to provide situational awareness.
Because of the contribution that vUSA made to the NCR-GDX development, NCR hosted a member of the vUSA support team at the DCEOC on Inauguration Day. There, the vUSA support team member got a firsthand look at how data was shared through GDX and how it was used for situational awareness. NCR provided insights on the data shared in the GDX, its overwhelming acceptance among the Inauguration partners for data sharing, and how it has built capacity and improved situational awareness in numerous ways to enable information sharing throughout this diverse community.
Being the first utilization of the GDX for a major event like the Presidential Inauguration, all NCR parties agreed that, despite any hiccups, it’s significantly more efficient and effective than the previous mechanisms of information sharing. The GDX development will only improve with its anticipated, continued use. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate continues to improve the value of the Virtual Library through its partnership with jurisdictions like the NCR who build upon existing technologies and freely share back recommendations so that these improvements can be shared with the broader vUSA community.
Created: 3/7/2013 3:04 PM
State and local 911 professionals, federal agency representatives, and other 911 stakeholders will gather to participate in the “State of 911“ Forum webinar discussion, presented by the National 911 Program on March 14, 2013 from 12-1 p.m. EST.
This webinar, the third in a bimonthly series, will feature an update on National 911 Program activities; a case study from King County, WA; and an open Q&A session. The National 911 Program will share accomplishments of the E911 Grant Program and provide a report on the first national 911 data collection effort.
Marlys Davis, King County’s E911 Program Manager, will provide an overview and best practices for Next Generation 911 (NG911) early adoption in King County, WA and share success stories for coordinating with state and federal 911 stakeholders. Davis will also be available for questions during this webinar.
To register for the webinar, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/911Webinar.
“State of 911” webinars take place every other month. Topics and presenters will include: standards development, governance, legislative changes, updates on NG911 efforts from the Federal Communications Commission Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and early adopter experiences from states, counties, and regions in the process of transitioning to NG911.
For more information about the webinar series, visit http://911.gov/webinars.html.
Created: 3/7/2013 2:28 PM
Have you visited First Responder Communities of Practice lately? Membership on the professional networking and information sharing platform now tops 6,000, with more than 150 groups and new practitioners joining every day!
There is no longer a need to search multiple sites for answers to questions because the conversation is already happening on DHS First Responder Communities of Practice, a resource for professional networking, built specifically for the first responder and emergency preparedness and response community. Stay in touch with distant colleagues, seek and provide answers as experts, access critical documents, form communities around specific projects or areas of interest, and get the latest information on developments in your field. It’s now easier than ever to sign on – once you set up your account, you can simply connect using your Google ID!
Want to find out what members are up to? Join the site and explore for yourself – whether it’s a working group focused on the use of social media for public safety, cyberspace, university public safety issues, or discussions about ways emergency operations centers can improve performance – it’s the best way to get the latest information you need. The site is approved for the exchange of information up to the For Official Use Only (FOUO) and Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) levels.
It’s easy to join the First Responder Communities of Practice and begin networking with experts on issues that are important to you. Request an account via FirstResponder.gov today!
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @dhsscitech and on Facebook - www.facebook.com/firstrespondersgroup
Created: 3/5/2013 1:14 PM
For those who live in areas that are prone to earthquakes, having a solid plan in place can be the key to staying safe when the ground starts to rumble. It doesn’t matter where you are—home, work, school, at a movie, restaurant, or shopping mall—a quake can strike anywhere and at any time. Taking the proper precautions and knowing how to act in that instant can save lives, reduce injuries, and prevent massive damage to property.
Such preparedness is the goal of the Great ShakeOut, a series of earthquake drills held annually in regions across the country and the world where earthquakes are prevalent. With the support of partners including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, National Science Foundation, and American Red Cross, as well as schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and state and local governments, these drills provide an opportunity for millions across the country to develop emergency plans and practice how to stay safe during a quake.
One of the main lessons participants learn is how to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” — drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and grab hold until the shaking stops. Already in 2013, 4.4 million people have registered to participate in the drills, which kicked off on February 7 with the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut. More than 2.9 million people attended the third annual drill in this region, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Informal events were also held in Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas.
Did you know?
· The U.S. Geologic estimates that nearly 3,840 earthquakes occurred in the United States in 2012; 5,240 took place in 2011 and nearly 8,500 in 2010.
· Though earthquakes are not considered common in Texas, a 3.0-magnitude earthquake did strike near Dallas in late January 2013.
· While the 1964 Great Alaskan earthquake, with a magnitude of 9.2, was the most powerful earthquake ever to hit the United States, the central region is no stranger to powerful quakes. Between December 1811 and February 1812, a series of serious earthquakes with estimated magnitudes ranging between 7.5 and 7.7 rattled the region near New Madrid, Missouri.
· According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the East Tennessee region, which extends into Georgia and Alabama, is one of the most active seismic zones in the country.
The drills are not only an excellent opportunity for individuals and families to prepare, but they also allow first responders and emergency personnel to ensure that plans in place are effective and efficient. For example, the Jonesboro, Arkansas Police Department participated in a 45-minute drill that covered reactions to fires, gas leaks, property damage, and injuries that might ensue in the aftermath of an earthquake.
Additional ShakeOut drills will take place in coming months; next up is the Great Utah ShakeOut in mid-April, and several additional national and international events will follow in October. To learn more and register to take part in a ShakeOut near you, visit www.shakeout.org.
Created: 2/25/2013 4:21 PM
Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) will host a series of monthly Twitter chats to discuss technology and resources being developed to support and enhance the efforts of first responders from across the country. Experts from various disciplines will be on hand the last Thursday of every month to answer your questions about the research and development currently underway at DHS S&T and to share resources available to the emergency response community.
The first DHS S&T Twitter chat will focus on the Multi-Band Radio (MBR) technology, including its use at high-profile events like the Presidential Inauguration, Super Bowl, and State of the Union Address, as well as the recent releases of the MBR Pilot Report and Procurement Guide.
When: Thursday, February 28, 1:00 to 2:00 EST
Where: Follow DHS S&T at @DHSSciTech and submit questions using the #MBRChat hashtag in addition to the #STTechTalk tag. Questions submitted in advance of the chat will also be considered.
Created: 2/21/2013 3:09 PM
Multi-Band Radio (MBR), a technology developed with DHS S&T funding and now being deployed throughout the Homeland Security Enterprise, continues to demonstrate its value. MBR equipment was recently used in the National Capital Region by emergency responders during the Presidential Inauguration and the President’s State of the Union Address. The use of MBR technology is a prime example of the operational value during large scale events.
John Freeberger, Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service, said afterward that “The MBR's unique ability--to handle multiple frequencies and the three common encryption algorithms used by our many stakeholders – was paramount to a successful deployment.” He added that “Having the ability to go from UHF, VHF, 700MHz, 800MHz conventional, trunking, clear or secure comms by a simple channel selector change [was] instrumental.”
MBRs have also been used to enhance security at the last two Super Bowls.
That’s not all. At the outset of the MBR project, S&T envisioned the program potentially creating “a competitive multiband marketplace.” That is happening. U.S. manufacturers have been able to retain electronics engineers and software developer positions and subcontract work to other businesses as a result of their participation in the MBR program and the commercialization of their MBR product lines. Several manufacturers of MBR accessories—from battery packs, antennas and holsters to speakers and microphones—also are appearing in the marketplace.
So MBR is not only helping to ensure public safety but also contributing to the stabilization and growth of the job market.
Federal, state, tribal and local agencies can find complete information on MBR in DHS S&T’s recently released Defining Multi-Band Radio Requirements: A Procurement Guide for Emergency Responders.
Created: 2/21/2013 1:41 PM
You have heard the alert tones on the radio. You have seen the emergency alert scrolling across your TV screen. And by now, you may have seen an alert pop up on your mobile device.
Since mid-2012, mobile device users in the U.S. have begun seeing emergency alerts delivered to their mobile devices over a new emergency notification system: the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS). Developed in partnership between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Communications Commission, and wireless carriers, CMAS allows emergency managers to send geographically-targeted emergency alerts, also known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), to mobile phones based on their location at a given point in time. CMAS has been rolling out nationwide, and as of January 2013, it has transmitted close to 3,000 messages to the American public, delivering potentially life-saving information in a new and more personalized way.
As the deployment of this new system continues and its usage grows, DHS S&T is looking to the future, researching enhancements to the system that could make it more effective at delivering critical information to those in harm’s way.
As mandated by the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act of 2006, DHS S&T is currently investing in research and development in two areas:
· Improving the geo-targeting of mobile alerts and warnings – enhancing the ability of CMAS to target more precise geographic areas, and therefore provide more relevant information to the recipient; and
· Understanding and improving public response to mobile alerts and warnings – building our knowledge of how the public responds to emergency information so that emergency managers can craft and send more effective messages.
To achieve these goals, DHS S&T created the CMAS Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) program and is funding research projects at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council, and the University of Southern Mississippi. These projects will explore how to make CMAS messages more relevant and effective by achieving the following:
· Determining the optimal content and language to use in a CMAS message to motivate the public to take appropriate protective actions
· Identifying the best possible platform, format, and content for conveying emergency information to diverse populations
· Examining the opportunities and challenges presented by current and emerging technologies for delivering CMAS alerts with greater geographical precision
In addition to these projects, the CMAS RDT&E Program is currently evaluating other proposals for research and development in geo-targeting and public response from research organizations, private companies, and universities.
DHS S&T expects to round out the CMAS research portfolio in 2013 by selecting final proposals and continuing research efforts already underway. Once completed, the results of all these research projects will inform enhancements to CMAS both in the near term and long term—influencing the system’s use today, as well as how it will evolve over time to deliver more relevant and effective life-saving information to the public.
Created: 2/14/2013 4:08 PM
Traditionally, the term “first responder” has referred to those individuals trained to quickly respond to emergency situations, such as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel and emergency medical technicians, and other related service professionals. Today, this term could be expanded to include anyone with a smartphone or sophisticated mobile device at the scene of an event. Within seconds of a natural disaster, crime, or public scandal, thousands of messages are published to many social media sites. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as well as mobile technologies including cameras, video, GPS, and Bluetooth, turn bystanders at the scene into the true first responders, making information instantly available to the masses and informing emergency responders as events unfold in real time.
On January 29, 2013, SRI International hosted a day-long seminar dedicated to this emerging practice of using social media for public safety. Experts in the fields of computer science, emergency response, privacy, interoperable data, and information sharing discussed challenges, best practices, and new advances associated with social media and collaborative technologies.
Two of the presenters, Nola Joyce of the Philadelphia Police Department and Greg Caronia of the Nassau County (NY) Office of Emergency Management, offered examples from their respective communities of the importance of civic engagement in emergency planning. Some response agencies leveraged social media during Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, turning online technologies into virtual help centers. Others used social media to communicate evacuation routes, fueling locations, and opportunities for aid. In addition, the public turned to social media to locate loved ones, food and water, and in some cases, life-saving medication.
Despite the rising popularity of social media in general, and examples of its recent success during crises, many first responder agencies still have not implemented the technology into their emergency response operations. The panelists discussed this as well, suggesting a lack of knowledge, resources, and training as possible factors. However, despite this slow rate of overall adoption, social media continues to grow as a key resource for preparedness, response, and recovery.
The panelists noted that information shared via social media may be considered public, so unintended use of the data raises privacy concerns. As government agencies continue to adopt social media, these concerns, along with many others, will need to be addressed, and guidance and best practices developed.
For more information on challenges associated with the use of social media, refer to the following DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Virtual Social Media Working Group guidance documents: “Social Media Strategy," which provides a high-level introduction to social media, its benefits for public safety, and best practices from agencies already using it, and the "Next Steps Strategy," which serves as a follow-up to the Social Media Strategy. These documents present challenges and provide next steps and best practices for public safety agencies developing and implementing social media campaigns.
For additional information on social media and public safety, visit FirstResponder.gov and select Communities of Practice under the Programs menu.
Created: 2/11/2013 1:55 PM
Steven VanRoekel, Federal Chief Information Officer of the United States, stood at the lectern before a packed auditorium at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Projected on the screen behind him was an image of Gollum, the wizened cave-dwelling creature from the motion picture The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The creature leered with evil intent, a smart phone in its hand. “When it comes to mobile networks,” said VanRoekel, “wrongdoers are everywhere.”
The event was the December 2012 Mobile Device Security Technical Exchange Meeting, which brought together federal IT managers and engineers, cybersecurity specialists, cryptologists, cyberforensics investigators, IT policy wonks, and others with an interest in mobile device security. The focus was on federal mobility projects related to the Obama Administration's Digital Government Strategy (DGS), “Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People,” released in May 2012. The DGS sets the goal of making government functions more mobile and federal data more accessible to the public.
VanRoekel’s keynote framed the day's discussions by outlining the challenges of expanding federal mobility without creating opportunities for the Gollums of the world—lurking criminals and U.S. enemies—to penetrate our security and gain access to sensitive information. He referenced the Government Use of Mobile Technology: Barriers, Opportunities, and Gap Analysis—referred to as Milestone Action 10.2—a report issued by the Digital Services Advisory Group and the Federal Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council earlier in the month. He encouraged those involved in federal mobility efforts to “think big” and “set a new default” for mobility and security government-wide, while acknowledging that federal spending on IT has been flat since 2009 and likely will not increase significantly in the near future. This fiscal situation means that the DGS must rely on innovation and on developing solutions that “we can do once and use several times” across government.
A panel discussion followed, in which IT managers from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense explained their agencies' mobility programs and the security challenges those programs face, including:
· the need for single solutions that serve different agency components with different mobility requirements
· quickly developing apps to provide specific new mobile functions
· modifying mobile security strategies to keep pace with the continual appearance of new mobile platforms and capabilities
· developing reliable user authentication tools, and
· addressing what is often the weakest link in IT security: the human factor.
The speakers that followed, among them IT security managers and experts from the National Security Agency, the Committee on National Security Systems, and NIST, asked and offered answers to questions that reflect today's mobile security challenges. Among them:
· How do you balance user experience and cost against security?
· Is it possible for commercially available mobile devices to provide adequate security, so that the government avoids having to purchase expensive specialized devices?
· Can government and industry, in partnership, develop consumer mobile devices that meet government security requirements?
· What tools are needed to rapidly and effectively detect and close security breaches in mobile devices and networks?
· What is needed to strengthen current encryption schemes and develop ever more effective cryptographic solutions?
· Can government tap into the talents of young “native digital users” to come up with mobile security solutions?
From questions asked and suggestions offered by the audience during the Q&A parts of the program, it was clear that a lot of IT folks throughout government are thinking about security issues and have ideas that could prove valuable. If you are one of them, there are people eager to hear from you, among them the members of the CIO Council's Information Security and Identity Management Committee.
For more information on the Mobile Device Security Technical Exchange Meeting, contact John Love at the White House Military Office.
Created: 2/5/2013 12:23 PM
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that nearly halfway through the flu season, all but two states (Hawaii and Tennessee) are currently experiencing widespread flu activity. The virus, detectable by symptoms such as high fevers, body aches, coughing, and vomiting, is highly contagious and hits certain populations particularly hard, including children and the elderly. First responders and medical personnel tasked with treating the ill are not exempt from experiencing these symptoms themselves, which is why it is critical that they are armed with tools to prevent and control further contamination. Listed below are five tips that first responders can employ to remain healthy and helpful for the remainder of flu season:
1. Get Immunized
In preparation for flu season, the Food and Drug Administration approved the production of up to 145 million vaccine doses—twice the amount available in recent years—that guard against multiple strains of the virus. Many people, including first responders, ignore the call to action for immunization against the influenza virus because of myths that the vaccine is ineffective or itself causes sickness. This is not true. Immunized first responders are less likely to become infected by flu-prone patients they treat or to spread the virus among their colleagues. Even at this point in the season, getting vaccinated is an effective preventative measure. Thousands of doses are still available across the country.
2. Wash Hands Regularly
The use of personal protective equipment, such as gloves and smocks, is especially important when working with flu victims. When bare hands must be used, or exposed, always properly wash and sanitize hands before and after each task.
3. Thoroughly Clean and Sanitize Equipment
The CDC estimates that the influenza virus can remain viable on external surfaces, including in ambulances and on medical equipment, anywhere from two to eight hours after being exposed to the environment. Clean surfaces make for improved recovery outcomes.
4. Wear a Surgical Mask
Influenza is spread through droplets that are aerosolized when coughed or sneezed by an infected person. These droplets settle onto surfaces and are spread via personal contact or through contact with the droplets while they are airborne. As first responders work with several people each day, it is important to wear a surgical mask to protect against these airborne germs when possible.
5. If Sick, Stay Home
First responders and medical personnel meet and work with hundreds of people every day. Therefore, those experiencing flu-like symptoms have a much greater risk of spreading the virus through basic daily interaction and should stay at home until the illness subsides.
For important facts about the flu virus and to find clinics providing flu shots, visit www.cdc.gov and www.flu.gov.
Created: 1/31/2013 2:15 PM
When an emergency strikes, to say that every second counts is an understatement. Gathering and disseminating information to stakeholders and the general public quickly and efficiently is critical. The ability to investigate every lead, often in a very short timeframe, could mean the difference between lives saved and lives lost. New technologies currently in development at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seek to quickly arm first responders and law enforcement officers with the resources they need to take swift action and minimize impact in communities across the country. Such was the case recently in Philadelphia, where an Amber Alert, issued not only though traditional outlets but also via mobile alert, contributed to the safe return of a young child to her family.
Just hours after the Amber Alert was issued, residents living in the immediate area received a dedicated announcement on their mobile devices, similar to a text message, advising them to check local media for more information on how to help police locate the missing girl. The message, which was preceded by a unique Emergency Alert System sound, is one example of the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), a joint effort of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and several national wireless carriers, to enhance national public safety efforts.
Fully operational since April 2012, CMAS allows public safety authorities to use FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Open Platform for Emergency Networks to send geographically-targeted, text message-like emergency alerts to the public. In addition to Amber Alerts, both Presidential Alerts and Imminent Threat notifications will be relayed to mobile phones using cell broadcast technology that will not get backlogged during times of emergency, when wireless voice and data services can become highly congested. CMAS complements the existing Emergency Alert System, which sends warnings to television and radio via broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline communications pathways.
Thankfully, the outcome of the Amber Alert in Philadelphia was positive and a family was reunited. DHS teams at S&T and FEMA will build off of this success and continue to support and advance this technology in order to increase public awareness and ensure timely, effective alerts during future crises.
For more information on CMAS, contact us at SandTFRG@dhs.gov.
Created: 1/28/2013 1:52 PM
If so, check out the recently-released Defining Multi-Band Radio Requirements – A Procurement Guide for Emergency Responders on FirstResponder.gov.
The MBR allows first responders to communicate with multiple agencies and jurisdictions operating on different radio bands. It can replace up to five different radios, at roughly the cost of just one high-end portable radio.
This new guide includes information on writing the operational and regulatory requirements, and addresses the problems with radio communications interoperability between responders. It also details the technical capabilities of the MBR and accessories available from the original manufacturers and from secondary markets.
Find the MBR Procurement Guide and the MBR Pilot Report on FirstResponder.gov.
Created: 1/24/2013 1:49 PM
The Stockton, California Police Department (SPD) conducted field testing of a new mobile biometric device that has the ability to capture latent fingerprints from a crime scene by using a near-infrared camera. The Field Latent Print Pilot, conducted in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate through Sandia National Laboratories, tested the Fusion device, which was jointly designed in 2007 by the Department of Defense and Ohio-based 3M Cogent, Inc. Prints captured by the device in the field are sent to a local Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), where the latent image is searched for possible matches.
Within minutes of the field capture, the results are returned to the device and published to a secure webpage, displaying up to 20 mug shots of potential matches with an associated degree of confidence in the match. These results are used as lead generators by SPD detectives as part of their normal casework.
One example occurred within 48 hours of SPD having received the Fusion device. An SPD officer initiated a traffic stop and the driver brandished a firearm at the officer and fled on foot. Using the Fusion device, SPD officers were able to identify a suspect from a fingerprint on the car door within an hour. An hour later, the suspect was in custody.
The 18-month pilot successfully resulted in buy-in from all levels of SPD and the local District Attorney’s office, and the program has caught the attention of many other law enforcement partners looking to replicate the application of the technology. The pilot’s positive identification rate was 19 percent. Traditional manual methods with a latent finger print examiner produce a 26 percent positive identification rate, on average, but results can take weeks or months compared to the rapid results achieved with technology like Fusion. With ongoing improvements, mobile technologies like this have the potential to transform how law enforcement investigations are conducted. Law enforcement officers can be armed with almost instantaneous suspect information with real follow-up potential—a capability that is not currently available.
Created: 1/22/2013 11:36 AM
Originally posted by John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to the Blog @ Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plays a significant role in preventing and combating human trafficking. Since 2010, our work has yielded more than 2,200 human trafficking arrests, 1,154 indictments and 796 convictions. Last year alone, ICE initiated a significant number of human trafficking investigations, contributing to more than 967 arrests, 559 indictments and 381 convictions.
ICE is one of the primary federal agencies responsible for combating human trafficking. We work with our law enforcement partners to investigate suspected cases, and to identify, rescue and provide assistance to trafficking victims.
We work hard each and every day to identify and investigate human traffickers, and we are equally committed to ensuring that victims of this terrible crime are given the support and resources they need. We have resources for human trafficking victims in every Homeland Security field office. In the vast majority of our field offices, ICE employs full-time victim assistance coordinators, to ensure victims’ welfare remains a top priority. Additionally, in all our field offices, collateral-duty coordinators who provide counseling and crisis intervention services for victims and victim witness coordinators are available on an as-needed basis.
Everyone has a role to play in combating human trafficking. ICE relies on tips from the public to dismantle human trafficking organizations. I encourage you to learn the indicators of human trafficking by taking the DHS general awareness training, and keep your eyes and ears open to suspicious activity. Trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight, voiceless and scared, and you can help bring the perpetrators to justice.
If you suspect human trafficking, call the Homeland Security Tip Line at 866-DHS-2-ICE or complete our online tip form. To learn more about human trafficking and what you can do, please visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign and the Blue Campaign Facebook page.
Created: 1/18/2013 12:39 PM
Whether riding in the back of an ambulance or running alongside a gurney, emergency medical personnel often have to multitask, frequently needing to connect and monitor a variety of devices to a patient. Multiple wires can quickly become a confusing and hazardous obstacle. To reduce the risk of entanglement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has partnered with Sotera Wireless, Inc. to develop a device that can monitor vital signs without the mass of wires. This wireless device will monitor blood pressure, 12-lead electrocardiograms, temperature, and respiration and will work with existing equipment, including sensor patches that attach to a patient and transmit data feeds wirelessly back to a central monitor. For more information on Wireless Patient Monitoring, see our Tech Profiles section.
Created: 1/17/2013 9:25 AM
by U.S. Deputy Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines,
first published on Chief’s Corner, USFA.gov
More than two hundred and sixty five people have been killed in multiple death armed attacks since the Littleton, Colorado Columbine High School shootings in 1999 through the most recent armed attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
As members of the fire service we now know that no-notice events such as Aurora, Colorado; Portland, Oregon and Sandy Hook have and will occur anywhere, at any place, to anyone or demographic. There is not one among us who hasn't been touched by the more recent events in Webster, New York where firefighters became the target of a planned armed attack.
Accordingly, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is undertaking a study of these events in both this country and internationally to identify risk commonalities and best practices to successfully respond to these diverse incidents. The topical report will be released later this month and is currently undergoing extensive peer reviews. Extraordinary efforts on the part of local fire/rescue and EMS agencies have to be taken in order to protect fire and EMS personnel and experience maximum success in saving civilian lives. These events may play out over an extended period of time, requiring large EMS triage, treatment and transportation efforts, under dangerous and unfamiliar conditions to fire and EMS personnel.
In the interim, USFA offers these universal steps to ensure fire and EMS personnel are best prepared to meet this unique and challenging threat.
The most important action we can take is to determine the lead agency for these incidents. In the vast majority of cases, law enforcement will serve in this capacity. Regardless of lead agency declaration, make contact with local or state law enforcement officials and special operations team leadership to become familiar with their strategies and tactical operations. Some possible subjects for discussion and planning follow:
- Potential roles and equipment law enforcement expects from fire and EMS assets (e.g., forcible entry, lights, aerial devices, etc.).
- Review command, control and communications operations.
- Review of NIMS terminology along with any technical law enforcement terminology fire and EMS personnel may have a need to know.
- A discussion of how survivor triage will occur and if law enforcement desires training in same.
- How will injured law enforcement officers be managed? Early on in the incident a protected area should be declared and communicated to EMS leadership.
- Casualty collection points for citizens, EMS triage and how transportation and communications with area hospitals occur.
- What steps should be taken at high risk occupancies to mitigate the loss of life and coordinate with first response personnel.
- Once the plan is developed, it should be exercised and updated annually.
There is much more valuable information to be learned from past events and the best practices created by those who have experienced one of these incidents. We encourage you to go to the following sources for more information.
- Baldanza, M. V. (2005). Fire department response to "active shooter" incidents. Fire Engineering. 158(9). 105-106. (requires account to access)
- Hamilton, S. (2012). Responding to scenes of violence. Fire Engineering. 165(9), 26+. (requires account to access)
- Ludwig, G. G. (2012). The active shooter: A special challenge - plan and practice your fire-EMS response to mass-casualty shootings. Firehouse. 37(7), 34.
- Renaud, C. E. (2010). Making sense in the edge of chaos: A framework for effective initial response efforts to large-scale incidents. Master's Thesis. Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School.
- U.S. Fire Administration. (2012). Fire service operations for the Southeastern tornadoes: April 2011 (PDF, 1.5 Mb). Emmitsburg, Md.: The Administration.
- U.S. Fire Administration., & TriData Corporation. (1999). Wanton violence at Columbine High School (PDF, 2.3 Mb), April 20, 1999: Special report. Emmitsburg, Md.: The Administration.
- Vernon, A. (2012). Response priorities for mass violence incidents. Fire Engineering. 165(6), 95-96+. (requires account to access)
- Wylie, Rob. (October 18, 2012) Fireground commentary - mass shootings. Retrieved from http://flashovertv.firerescue1.com
Created: 1/11/2013 10:45 AM
Much progress has been made since the need for interoperable communications was first recognized more than 10 years ago but first responders still face significant challenges achieving interoperability during and after incidents like Superstorm Sandy. Unless they have been fortunate enough to have upgraded to some of the new multiband radios that are starting to come onto the market, the vast majority of first responders are using two-way radio systems which may not be interoperable with other agencies because they operate on different frequency bands. First responders rely on bridging solutions to connect these disparate legacy radio systems. These bridges use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to transmit data and voice communications. Although based on internet protocol, how VoIP technologies are implemented are essentially proprietary, so there is no guarantee that one manufacturer’s VoIP-based equipment will connect to another.
The situation is not as dire as it may seem. In coordination with the Department of Commerce’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, the First Responders Group’s (FRG) VoIP Working Group developed the Bridging Systems Interface (BSI) profile, which was recently used for response efforts to Superstorm Sandy. An article in Government Security News discusses the use of a Mutualink IP gateway system to link disparate radio systems allowing for individuals in different departments to talk to each other regardless of the type of equipment being used. Mutualink was one of FRG’s several industry partners on the VoIP project and it was the implementation of the BSI profile that enabled this interoperability. The BSI non-proprietary implementation profile has been adopted by more than a dozen vendors in similar gateway products. It is a popular solution for first responder agencies since this IP gateway system enhances communications without requiring updates or replacements of existing equipment. As such, this is one of many important tools in a first responder’s tool kit.
Together with PSCR, FRG led the VoIP Working Group to address the lack of interoperability between VoIP-based devices. Rather than going through the lengthy process of creating new standards, this coalition of public safety first responders, industry representatives, and federal partners created VoIP specifications, or implementation profiles. A VoIP implementation profile, such as the BSI, is a collection of existing standards, parameters, and values necessary for VoIP-based devices to connect with one another. Bridging systems with interfaces built to these specifications allow first responder agencies to seamlessly connect radio systems over an IP network—regardless of the manufacturer. Emerging broadband technologies are full of promise and organizations like FRG are working to provide the research and development needed to enhance their utility for public safety in the years to come. But, first responder agencies are using legacy radio communications systems today and will need to continue to use them in the foreseeable future, so FRG needs to continue R&D efforts in this arena as well to ensure that first responders can communicate with each other when they need to.
Created: 1/4/2013 7:12 PM
Cyber forensics is among the most important disciplines in the criminal investigation field. While the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2009 National Crime Victimization Survey shows double-digit declines in violent crime, personal theft, and property crime between 2000 and 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2011 Internet Crime Report shows a 1,866 percent increase in reported online crime during the same period. And the FBI report doesn’t count cyber attacks launched against the U.S. government and its assets. Against this tide of cyber crime and cyber warfare stands a small corps of digital forensics analysts who are finding increasing support from the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T).
In 2011, S&T formed the Cyber Security Division (CSD) (https://www.dhs.gov/st-csd) in response to growing cyber security challenges. CSD’s mission is to enhance the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure, systems, networks, and users by 1) developing and transitioning new technologies, tools, and techniques and 2) coordinating and leading research and development (R&D).
In pursuing its R&D objective, CSD established the Cyber Forensics Working Group (CFWG), composed of representatives from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Since 2009, the group has helped S&T identify and set research priorities, and S&T has funded many important and successful projects addressing those priorities.
The CFWG meeting on November 14, 2012 in Washington, D.C. provided a glimpse into the group’s work. Attending were representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the New York Police Department, and the U.S. Secret Service.
CSD Director Dr. Doug Maughan began the meeting by reviewing some of the projects S&T has funded, ranging from IronKey secure USB and Komoku rootkit detection technology to HBGary’s memory and malware analysis and Endeavor Systems’ malware analysis tools.
Maughan then reviewed R&D progress on cyber forensics requirements identified by the CFWG in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 and FY 2012, much of it funded by S&T. Included on the list was research related to NAND and NOR chip analysis, Personal Identification Number (PIN)/PIN Unlock Key (PUK) bypass on encrypted SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards, imaging and parsing of solid state drives, and disposable mobile phone analysis. Clearly, CFWG is identifying and S&T CSD is tackling technology challenges of the highest priority.
Next, Barbara Guttman and Ben Livelsbeger from NIST conducted a tour of the Institute’s new online Computer Forensics Tool Catalog (http://www.cftt.nist.gov/tool_catalog). Based on information provided by vendors, the catalog enables practitioners to learn about commercially available products, their applications, and specifications. Recently launched, the catalog lists 26 tools with information provided by 14 vendors. NIST is inviting more vendors to submit product information and all practitioners and other stakeholders to use the site and make recommendations for its further development.
Salvatore Paladino of ITT Exelis then gave the group a tour of CyberFETCH (https://www.cyberfetch.org), the S&T-sponsored clearinghouse for cyber forensics tools, technology, and information. Open to all agencies, companies, and academics, CyberFETCH came online in May 2012 and provides not only resources, but also a platform for networking, interagency collaboration, and forensic laboratory interaction. Again, S&T and the CFWG strongly encourage everyone in the cyber forensics community to visit and use CyberFETCH and contribute ideas for its improvement.
Success in cyber forensics relies on cooperation and collaboration among all stakeholders. Take a few minutes to explore the links in this posting. Then get involved. Share these resources and opportunities with others, and contribute your ideas to the community. We can all benefit from your participation.
Created: 1/3/2013 10:51 AM
By Jay English, Technical Services Manager, Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials
More than 50 first responders from across multiple disciplines gathered in Arlington, VA on December 4-6, 2012 to identify existing gaps in public safety technologies. These practitioners, members of DHS S&T’s First Responder Resource Group (FRRG), met to discuss five specialty areas related to emergency preparedness and response:
· Readily accessible, high-fidelity simulation tools to support training in incident management and response
· The ability to know the location of responders and their proximity to risks and hazards in real time
· The ability to communicate with responders in any environmental conditions (including through barriers, inside buildings and underground)
· The ability to remotely monitor the tactical actions and progress of all responders involved in the incident in real time
· Protective clothing and equipment for all first responders that protects against multiple hazards
Once identified, the gaps were prioritized and the top three or four gaps for each group were selected for further definition. For each of these top gaps, an Operational Requirements Document was developed to identify the need, solution, logistics, and costs. Based on specified selection criteria DHS S&T selects four or five projects for funding.
A Request for Proposal is issued for each approved project. The FRRG members remain involved in the entire process to evaluate vendors and prototype technologies, and all the way through the testing and evaluation stages. The end goal of this process is to provide public safety agencies nationwide with new technologies and tools to further their missions.
In my experience, the FRRG and similar programs are valuable for the first responder community, and DHS S&T leadership, and support for such initiatives is greatly needed and appreciated by the first responder community.
Created: 12/27/2012 9:29 AM
By Joseph Porcelli, Director of Engagement Services, GovDelivery
Throughout Hurricane Sandy, my power stayed on, I had water, and the windows that make up two of the four walls in my apartment did not blow in. Others were not as lucky. Given the east coast was shut down, I decided to use my time to help others.
I work for GovDelivery, the company that provides the platform used by members of the Coalition for National Preparedness. The community is where members connect and collaborate on emergency preparedness. I wanted to see how I could use social media to help others prepare, respond to, and recover from the storm and then share my experiences and success with the membership so could replicate in the future.
Specifically, I hoped to (unscientifically) test the following:
- Will my posts influence people to prepare, and will they share this information with their own networks?
- Regarding messaging content, will relating protective actions to the things I know my friends care about or find funny or cool influence them to follow my advice?
- What (if any) trends will appear in the messaging shared across my and others’ networks via social media during Sandy? What lessons can we learn from this event?
What I found, at least qualitatively, seems to justify my efforts. Specifically,
- My posts did, in fact, influence members of my networks to prepare for the storm, and to share information with their networks as well.
- Many of my friends found the tips I shared to be very helpful, and noted the accuracy of my posts.
- Many found my tips to be relevant, relatable, and interesting. The tips I shared ranged from how to store extra water (in the bathtub to use to flush the toilet, and freezing bottled water to help keep the temperature of the fridge colder for longer after power is lost), to important items to stock, emergency and safety measures, etc.
- One friend asked if it might be possible for non-friends to subscribe to my posts in the event of another disaster.
Throughout the event, my friends started posting tips and questions to my Facebook wall. My profile had become, in essence, a clearinghouse for my immediate and extended networks to find information that they could trust. Looking back now, my top three takeaways from Sandy are:
- Ask people to share and make sharing easy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Facebook page is a great example of this point.
- Photos can help to make messages relatable. For example, when asking people to “make a kit,” a photo of a preparedness kit will help them understand what it is you are actually talking about.
- Humor and pop culture references can make messages more relatable and help to keep the audience engaged.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. government. Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users and the Department of Homeland Security is not responsible for any content on these websites. Furthermore, the placement of the links on this website does not constitute an endorsement of any programs, policies, or views of the organizations by the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government.
Created: 12/26/2012 5:48 PM
On Wednesday, December 5, 2012, the International Association of the Chiefs of Police (IACP) held a Twitter chat at 3 PM EST. Denoted by the hashtag #AskIACP, the organized Twitter chat was an opportunity for law enforcement and the greater first responder community to ask the IACP and its Executive Director Bart Johnson questions on a variety of topics, including social media for law enforcement, information about organizational structure, the upcoming conference, and the organization’s plans for the upcoming year.
Many of those who tuned in were interested in learning about how IACP can help the first responder community, particularly police chiefs and law enforcement, become more engaged in the world of social media. Johnson encouraged the audience to use the IACP’s Social Media Center–an online community which provides guidance for law enforcement officers on how to use social media as an investigative tool and a community conduit. When asked if there are any regionally-based webinars or training sessions planned for the year, Johnson replied, “Our Center for Social Media Website is updated constantly and we (IACP) are exploring many options to provide training.” Currently, the website offers a resources section, which includes links to FAQs, tools, tutorials, training, and technical assistance.
One participant asked, “What are the top two issues facing law enforcement today?” Johnson responded, “officer safety and policing.” Officer safety has long persisted as a prevalent issue, Johnson said, “it is a top priority.” In June 2012, the IACP launched the Center for Officer Safety and Wellness to assist in the ongoing effort.
In addition to the Center for Officer Safety and Wellness, Johnson noted the Officer Injury Database and the IACP Tech Center, two resources available to the law enforcement community. The Officer Injury Database provides collaboration opportunities for law enforcement organizations on a variety of crime- related issues, including causes, indicators, and preventable measures. The IACP Tech Center helps improve technological awareness.
The 120th Annual IACP Conference and Law Enforcement Education and Tech Expo (IACP 2013), will take place October 19-23, 2013, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA. IACP’s annual conference and expo provides law enforcement professionals opportunities to learn, network, and problem solve. Johnson says he is “looking forward to another successful conference that serves ‘our’ global members and addresses cutting-edge issues.”
Created: 12/18/2012 2:10 PM
Public safety operators have wanted a single, portable or handheld land mobile radio (LMR) capable of operating across disparate radio bands and modes for many years. At the request of first responders, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T)’s First Responders Group (FRG) challenged LMR manufacturers to develop a single radio capable of operating on more than one radio band. The MBR, a handheld radio, allows emergency responders to communicate with each other regardless of the band on which they operate. To read the full report on how and why DHS developed the MBR, click here – http://www.firstresponder.gov/Operational%20Field%20Assessments/Multi%20Band%20Radio%20Pilot%20Report.pdf
Created: 12/17/2012 2:59 PM
by Scott Reuter, President, Oregon Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD); Instructor, National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) Social Media in Disasters; member of the Virtual Social Media Working Group
I’m in the fortunate position of being connected to long-established disaster volunteer organizations, and to some of the new social media-based Virtual Technical Communities (VTCs).
The VTCs and ad hoc groups are born from and already up to speed on social media, and they bring new enthusiasm to disaster efforts. Communities have always responded spontaneously to their own disasters, but social media has now made it easier and faster for these new groups to form, organize, and deploy.
Unfortunately, social media also has a way of amplifying complaints – some legitimate and some unrealistic. Many in established emergency preparedness and response organizations struggle to adapt to the new "open" concept and haven’t yet embraced the interactive and open nature of social media. Most now realize the need, but don’t yet have a strategy or plan.
Many in the VTCs–and especially in the ever-newly-forming ad hoc groups which occur locally for every disaster–are new to the disaster process of delivery and long-term recovery, and don’t understand the complex web of disaster roles and responsibilities of local and federal governments, emergency management (EM) regulatory agencies, and utilities like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), and more. Therefore, the newcomers are frustrated that established agencies can’t move faster both on the ground and in engagement with them both on-site and on the Internet.
While there are many shining examples of social media use and crowdsourcing by some EM agencies, they are not yet the norm. Many have been slow to embrace social media and the open concept, and slower still to use collaborative docs and other new crowdsourcing tools. Both the VTCs and the public expect their government agencies to be accessible and expect to see active social media accounts.
Some of the frustrations from both sides have merit, and some of the frustrations from both sides about the other are based on misunderstandings and a lack of trust. Most of these issues will resolve themselves soon, so I look forward to the day when we can all work together.
One example of this struggle for which I’ve had a front-row seat is in the world of disaster recovery and VOAD. My social media colleague Marlita Reddy-Hjelmfelt and I are assisting National VOAD with social media during the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort. National VOAD was so busy with recovery coordination that their social media presence was briefly unattended, which resulted in some undeserved negative posts. This was easily and quickly remedied by regularly answering questions and comments, and posting.
The next step is to move toward active use of social media to collaborate with other VOAD organizations and cooperate with VTCs and spontaneous volunteers by coordinating recovery efforts via social media tools such as crowdsourcing, collaborative documents via emergency workflow models being developed by VTCs, the Social Media for Emergency Management (SMEM) Community, and Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) initiatives.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. government. Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users and the Department of Homeland Security is not responsible for any content on these websites. Furthermore, the placement of the links on this website does not constitute an endorsement of any programs, policies, or views of the organizations by the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government.
Created: 12/11/2012 4:04 PM
Last week, the Integrated Warning Team for Partners of National Weather Service (NWS) Northern Indiana established a community on First Responder Communities of Practice to help facilitate collaboration in planning, preparation, and response to adverse weather in the communities of Northern Indiana, Northwest Ohio, and Southwest Lower Michigan. On December 12, the DHS First Responder Communities of Practice will host two webinars, at 10am EST and 4pm EST, to introduce the community to those interested in learning more about this collaboration effort.
The Integrated Warning Team for Partners of NWS Northern Indiana is composed of partners with public safety responsibilities before, during, and after adverse weather strikes. These partners, who are critical conduits between the NWS and the public, include emergency management, fire and law enforcement, communications specialists, other first responders, and television meteorologists.
The National Weather Service Strategic Plan forms the basis of this community. This plan describes how the NWS provides weather, hydrologic and climate forecasts, and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters, and ocean areas, for the protection of life and property, and the enhancement of the national economy. NWS data and products form a national information database and infrastructure which can be used by other governmental agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community.
For more information on the webinars, e-mail Michael Lewis, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the NWS, at Michael.email@example.com. For more information on DHS First Responder Communities of Practice, visit www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
Created: 12/10/2012 10:36 AM
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is accepting fire prevention and safety (FP&S) grant applications from December 17, 2012 through January 18, 2013. Grants are offered to support projects in two areas:
1. Fire Prevention and Safety Activity – Projects designed to mitigate the incidence of fire-related death and injuries for high-risk target groups.
2. Research and Development Activity – Projects aimed at improving firefighter health, safety, and wellness through research and development that reduces firefighter fatalities and injuries.
FEMA also offers planning tools to assist organizations with completing grant applications. For more information on FP&S grants, visit http://www.fema.gov/fire-prevention-safety-grants.
Created: 12/10/2012 10:04 AM
By Mitch Erickson, Department of Homeland Security Science andTechnology Directorate, Senior Advisor, Northeast Operations, Interagency Coordination
The Frankenstorm that ripped through the east coast challenged the region’s response capabilities. In the aftermath, the government wants to know: how could technology have served us better during Hurricane Sandy?
It matters to me. I’m stationed in Manhattan and live in suburban New Jersey. We lost power at home for seven days and my commuter train was out for over a month. Luckily, my family and home are safe. (Among other things, I strongly recommend headlamps as a part of everyone’s preparedness kit.)
Since Sandy, I’ve been collecting ideas for ways to mitigate future disasters, using Sandy as a focal point. For example, we could investigate:
*A way to get water to residents in high-rise buildings
*Tools to mitigate storm surge
*Cost/benefit of burying power and communications cables
*Hyperlocal media (Where can I get gas? What roads are open?)
*Planting trees that have better root systems, stronger limbs, and/or shorter stature to reduce the threat of damage
Some of these ideas will require years of research and development, but many should be solvable in the near future.
Share your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org; please include “Sandy” in the subject line.
Created: 12/6/2012 4:06 PM
S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG) will host Innovating with Social Media to Advance Homeland Security, the next webinar in its Capacity Building Webinar Series on December 12, 2012 from 1:30- 3:30pm EST. Presenters include practitioners who have extensive experience using social media, including Mary Jo Flynn, Greg Licamele, and Hal Grieb. Flynn is the Assistant Director of Emergency Management for the city of Anaheim, California. Licamele is the Director of External Communications for the Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs in Virginia, and a member of FRG’s Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) — a group established by S&T to educate the emergency preparedness and response community on opportunities for social media integration before, during, and after an emergency. Grieb is a former member of the VSMWG and is currently the Emergency Management Coordinator at the University of Florida.
This webinar may be of most interest to public information officers, police, fire, emergency medical services, and emergency management services leadership.
The webinar is open to all who are interested in learning basic terms and concepts, using social media for homeland security missions, leveraging crowd-sourced information, and more. The Capacity Building Webinar Series aims to foster innovation and learning that addresses the evolving challenges of first responders and the Homeland Security Enterprise by sharing the latest information on emerging technologies, research, best practices, and lessons learned.
Registration is not required, and there is no cost to participate.
Created: 12/5/2012 1:00 PM
The Edmonton, Canada Fire Department got to try out a DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) system that locates and tracks lost firefighters inside buildings. On November 6, 2012, the fire department tested Geospatial Location Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders (GLANSER) location units (GLUs) at the Edmonton Training Center, in Alberta, Canada. The units were put to the test in Edmonton’s Pound Maker Tower, a seven-story burn building with solid walls up to 10 inches thick. Despite the wall thickness, the GLUs were able to communicate with each other without having to route through the base station, a capability dubbed “multi hop.”
Thanks to the success of the demonstration, the Edmonton Fire Department will support the adoption of the system, when commercialized, for Canadian fire departments. The GLANSER program is under development by S&T’s Resilient Systems Division within the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Created: 11/28/2012 1:06 PM
Late this summer, S&T released Version 2 of the Video Quality in Public Safety (VQiPS) Web Tool. This web tool helps public safety agencies’ system integrators and procurement officers identify their video quality needs with application-independent usage scenarios and a glossary of common terms.
The main objectives of the VQiPS project are to:
· educate end users about video system components and
· provide knowledge tools to help end users define their own use case requirements.
Such objectives came about as many practitioners had relied on manufacturers to provide video equipment specifications in the past. Yet, as video technology has evolved, the equipment options have become increasingly complex. As a result, many public safety agencies lacked the tools, support, and information they needed to make informed video system purchasing decisions. Unbiased guidance was critical for practitioners to clearly articulate their video quality needs.
DHS S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG), in partnership with the Public Safety Communication Research program (PSCR) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, formed the VQiPS working group to address this need for basic and impartial guidance in selecting key video system components. The result was Version 1 of the VQiPS self-assessment Web Tool. The tool is a living site and will be continuously updated as FRG and PSCR progresses in their research. The first update, Version 2, can now help agencies align their video quality needs with existing technical performance specifications and standards by matching a video user’s unique needs to use cases and provide a video system requirement recommendation. Additionally, the updated version of the Web Tool also offers a bandwidth and bit rate calculator, which provides agencies with all the information they need to procure the equipment needed to set up their systems. PSCR performed multiple phases of visual acuity tests and they incorporated their findings into Version 2.
Voila! Now, integrators and procurement officers within public safety agencies have a resource at their fingertips that assists them in making clear, informed video system purchasing decisions. For more information on VQiPS, view its technology profile on FirstResponder.gov.
Created: 11/19/2012 2:53 PM
Each year, millions of people are affected by disasters, including first responders and their families. It can be difficult to focus on the emergency mission and helping others when your own family is also impacted. To help in these all-too-common situations, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has designed a toolkit especially for first responders, their families, and their agencies.
The Ready Responder Toolkit aims to develop a culture of preparedness among first responder agency personnel and their families. The toolkit provides resources, templates, and information that can help first responder agencies develop their own organizational preparedness plan, as well as discuss procedures and decisions that could improve and quicken response.
First responders play a critical role in preserving lives, protecting property, and providing other essential services after an emergency incident. It is vital that first responders, their families, communities, and agencies take the necessary steps to prepare and plan for emergency events. To that end, the toolkit serves as an inclusive emergency planning document for first responder agencies and their personnel. It outlines exactly how first responder agencies can support their staffs and communities during the time of a disaster in a manner which allows first responders to remain focused on their emergency missions.
The toolkit also aims to help first responders prepare their families for emergency incidents. For example, on page 18, the toolkit lists ideas and tips to encourage emergency preparedness in the agency and department. It also provides an Individual/Family Plan template on page 15 that serves as a blueprint for how each family member should communicate with one another during an emergency. On page 61, there are Individual/Family Preparedness Discussion Questions to help guide conversations. Questions include: Does your city/county have an emergency alert system? If so, are you and your family signed up to get alerts? And do you and your family know the local radio station you would tune into to get emergency information?
From detailed family evacuation procedures to communication plans, the Ready Responder Toolkit is a free, useful resource to help first responders prepare themselves, their loved ones, and their organizations for emergency incidents.
Photo Courtesy of FEMA
Created: 11/19/2012 2:35 PM
Find everything you ever needed to know about the U.S.EMS system in a new report published by the Federal Interagency Committee for Emergency Medical Services (FICEMS). It’s the first ever national assessment of the country’s emergency medical capabilities, describing an estimated 19,971 EMS Agencies, their 81,295 vehicles, and the 826,111 EMS professionals licensed and credentialed within the United States. Over 200 data points provide detailed information and insight into EMS, emergency management, and 911 communications.
Created: 11/19/2012 12:44 PM
You are invited to participate in a new Webinar on “Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Special Events Management – A Case Study from the Democratic National Convention,” on November 20, 2012, 1:00-2:00pm EST. This is the first in a planned series of capacity-building webinars to be hosted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG).
The webinar will be presented by Jeff Dulin, Deputy Fire Chief of Charlotte, N.C., a 30-year veteran in emergency management, communications, and training. He will demonstrate how his community used GIS to monitor and manage the Democratic National Convention–a complex event that required a unique approach toward partnership building, information sharing, and planning.
In kicking off this series of capacity-building, FRG aims to address the evolving challenges of first responders and the Homeland Security Enterprise by sharing the latest information on emerging technologies, research, best practices, and lessons learned.
Attend the webinar at: https://connect.hsin.gov/capacitybuilding. Registration is not required and there is no cost to participate!
Created: 11/16/2012 10:00 AM
While many were not able to attend, those who did supported their colleagues remotely. For example, the IAEM Universities and Colleges Caucus (UCC) and Disaster Resilient Universities (DRU), two groups made up of public safety professionals working within an academic setting, offered to help higher education institutions impacted by the storm through a variety of activities.
DRU members served as a broker between impacted institutions and those with available resources by acting as a central point for information, guidance, and advice. From the Sandy Higher Education Resource Center, a mini-emergency operations center activated by the DRU at the conference hotel, DRU members could access resources, such as forecasts, phone bridges, and conference call lines; write situation reports; and coordinate with their institutions back home. Additionally, DRU member Pascal Schuback, International Travel and Security Manager at the University of Washington, and a member of the DRU and DHS Virtual Social Media Working Group, developed an online tool to collect information on closure impacts from Sandy that can be used in future events that impact higher education.
The mission of the Disaster Resilient University (DRU) network is to facilitate open communication, discussion, and resource sharing between university/college practitioners charged with making our campuses more disaster resilient. The DRU provides a unique online environment that brings together a diverse interdisciplinary group of practitioners.
According to DRU List founder/manager Andre Le Duc, "The goal is simple: to increase communication, coordination, and collaboration between universities and professions around the country and the globe. The power of the DRU is its members who are willing to assist each other in time of need but also share resources and insight to advance the concept of the DRU." Le Duc is also the IAEM-UCC Chair, and Executive Director of Enterprise Risk Services at the University of Oregon.
Created: 11/15/2012 4:11 PM
Hurricane Sandy destroyed or damaged the homes of as many as 1,000 FDNY families. These are the men and women who are the first to respond when a disaster strikes. The National Fallen Firefighters Association is accepting donations that go specifically to first responders affected by the hurricane. Go to www.FireHero.org/fdny to see a list of the items and to submit a donation form.
Created: 11/9/2012 4:13 PM
Originally posted at: Crisis Comms Command Post, by Patrice Cloutier; Team Lead, Strategic Communications, Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
There have already been a few solid analyses of the use of social media in emergency management (SMEM) as it applies to the response and early recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Few have been more to the point than this one from Gisli Olafsson of NetHope. We knew this was going to be different even as the exact extent of damages were unknown and as preparations were being made, as my good friend Kim Stephens points out.
Whereas I had plenty of time in the fall of 2011 to undertake a full review of the use of social media for Hurricane Irene, I don't have that kind of time now. So, very quickly, here are 10 reasons (in no particular order) why I believe this storm marks a turning point for the SMEM movement.
1. Yes, they are right! New York (and the surrounding area) is the center of the universe (at least in a legacy media sense). What was bound to happen was endless scrutiny of the preparation and the response. But also, many media outlets brought the use of social media during the storm to the front page. How people created their own networks to stay informed, ask for and receive help and much more. It's a New York kind of thing now (SMEM) and one that won't go away!
2. Crowdsourcing the truth. From collectively identifying fake pictures on Instagram and other visually-oriented social networks, to debunking false rumors on Twitter and outing people purposefully spreading misinformation, the online truth squad was on duty. Social networks are at once the hotbed of all sorts of crappy things and the canvas on which the truth can begin to emerge. More on this from Patrick Meier.
3. Crisis Mapping hits the big time. Media outlets, countless agencies, corporations and hundreds of digital volunteers produced a variety of maps on many topics: power outages, communications outages, availability of gas and many more. Volunteers gathered at crisis camps, hackathons and in many darkened living room to do some fabulous work. Whether all these maps made a valid contribution or not, the phenomenon cannot be overlooked.
4. Some requests for crowdsourcing situational awareness enhancements, aggregating existing databases and mapping incidents on maps came from "high-level official sources." More on that later but this adds to the legitimacy of expanding the emergency management family to digital volunteers.
5. Many governments, at all levels, used social media to communicate with their constituents before, during and after the passage of Sandy. Again, social networks (particularly Twitter) proved to be effective emergency information tools.
6. Social networks became a true lifeline for many. Calls for help, offers to assist, or messages to let friends and family know "I'm OK!" ... were abundant. What's clear is that people turn to social media to share their experiences during a disaster. More than ever they do so through their mobile devices ... especially when power is out. Individuals, businesses, anyone with some sort of power, became an invaluable resource if they could let you charge your phone.
7. Volunteer organizations with expertise in SMEM really made a difference. Whether they were officially requested (such as the NY Virtual Operations Support Team or NY VOST), or turned themselves into portals for all sorts of emergency and preparedness info (such as Humanity Road did) or remained the stalwart provider of life-saving, up-to-the-minute info (such as the New York City Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service or NY ARECS), their presence on Twitter and other social networks was essential to the safety of many residents of the impacted areas.
8. First responders and local emergency managers were very active. A new SMEM hero was born and she managed to help make the FDNY a beacon of hope for many New York residents in very difficult times. Dave Statter, from Statter 9-1-1 blog fame identified others who were active:
I know I am will be missing some, but here are few in my region I followed that seemed to be doing a very good job of keeping the public informed via Twitter: Alexandria, VA (@AFDCHIEF200), Arlington County, VA (@ARLINGTONVA), Fairfax County, VA (@FAIRFAXCOUNTY), Howard County, MD (@HCDFRS,@HCDFRS_CHIEF, @KENULMAN), Montgomery County, MD (@MCFRS, @MONTGOMERYCOMD), Prince George’s County, MD (@PGFDPIO, @PGPDJULIE, @COUNTYEXECBAKER ), Washington, DC (@MAYORVINCEGRAY, @IAFF36).
9. The Red Cross Digital Operations Center proved that organizations who dedicate resources to SMEM (especially social media monitoring) are best placed to play a role and fulfill their mandates during a disaster.
10. Finally, FEMA's decision to highlight its social media rumor control activities brought to the fore, this absolute necessity for the operations of any emergency info center or JIC. Countering rumors and misinformation, is now more critical than even, when news moves at the speed of social networks. False information can not only damage the reputation of any response organization, but it can also put lives in danger.
There, you have it. Still not convinced that we've reach a critical moment in the evolution of SMEM? Read this post from Jim Garrow a member of the Virtual Social Media Working Group. So, it's time for us who work in EM and crisis communications to catch up with our public and the pioneers in SMEM. We need to adjust our posture to be able to deal with a flood of information that comes with any disaster.
Are you ready for the age of social convergence in emergency management?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. government. Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users and the Department of Homeland Security is not responsible for any content on these websites. Furthermore, the placement of the links on this website does not constitute an endorsement of any programs, policies, or views of the organizations by the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government.
Created: 11/9/2012 2:03 PM
Start planning your fire prevention and safety (FP&S) grant request before the start of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s application period with newly-updated application tools. The application period for fiscal year 2012 fire prevention and safety grants will open later this fall, and specific dates for the application period will be announced soon.
In the meantime, the FP&S Grants Get Ready Guide and Grant Self-Evaluation Sheet will help you get started. The guide provides general background information about available grants and identifies the most important elements of the grant application questions. The self-evaluation sheet is based on the application scoring dimensions used by peer reviewers and will help to assess your organization’s readiness to apply for the grant.
Visit the FP&S Grants website to get more information about recent awardees and models of successful FP&S projects. Be sure to visit the FirstResponder.gov blog again soon for an announcement of the application period.
Created: 11/8/2012 2:28 PM
What does the next generation of personal protective equipment (PPE) look like? The Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology (DHS S&T Directorate wants to hear from industry, academic institutions, research facilities, trade/profession groups, standards development organizations, and other government agencies to discuss concepts for next generation PPE for the first responders of the future.
DHS S&T is preparing a strategic plan for the development of next generation PPE for the first responder disciplines (i.e. Fire, Law Enforcement, Emergency Medical Services).
The vision for “next generation PPE” includes but is not limited to:
Tracking and surveillance
Wearable power generation systems
Find the full solicitation here.
Created: 10/31/2012 12:17 PM
Do you know what to do in the event of a wide-area anthrax release? The Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate wants to make sure first responders do.
Check out “Guidance for Protecting Responders’ Health during the First Week Following a Wide-Area Aerosol Anthrax Attack,” a document that focuses on a specific scenario of a large-scale aerosol anthrax release in a major U.S. city and the immediate post-attack environment.
The guidance provides recommendations for responders risking high, moderate, and limited exposure based on their expected activities and their potential to travel through the affected area in the immediate aftermath of an attack. Pre- and post-event vaccination, the use of personal protective equipment, and personal decontamination (which may include disposal of protective clothing, laundering of all other garments and showering with soap after a work shift) are among the recommendations. The guidance is expected to evolve based on changes to understanding of risks, the availability of personal protections, stakeholder feedback, scientific developments, and new environmental monitoring techniques.
The federal interagency working group that helped craft the document consisted of subject matter experts in biodefense, infectious diseases, and occupational health and safety including subject matter experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Created: 10/31/2012 10:30 AM
Each year the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) hosts a conference on current trends and technology developments for the emergency management and homeland security community. This year, IAEM hosts its 60th annual conference (co-located with the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Expo) in Orlando, FL, October 26 - November 1, 2012, and S&T will be there to showcase the latest in first responder tools and technologies.
S&T’s booth will feature innovative technologies and projects, such as ambulance design standards, the wildland firefighter advanced personal protection system, and the FIRST bomb response application. S&T will also exhibit First Responder Communities of Practice, a secure online platform that provides professional networking and collaboration opportunities for active and retired first responders, emergency response professionals, government employees, and others working in homeland security and preparedness.
As part of the IAEM conference agenda of expert speakers, emergency management workshops and panel discussions on topics ranging from community resilience to program integration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will offer training as an additional way to maximize continuing education.
Whether you attend the IAEM conference or not, you still have the opportunity to network with your counterparts to discuss topics relevant to the first responder community and learn about the latest technology developments via First Responder Communities of Practice and www.firstresponder.gov.
For more information on the IAEM conference, visit www.iaem.com.
Created: 10/26/2012 12:36 PM
Detecting the source of radiation and whether it constitutes a threat to the general public is a dangerous and difficult job for first responders. To mitigate the risk of exposure to radiation, the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is funding the development of the next generation Standoff Radiation Detector (SRD). The next generation of SRDs will locate a radiation source from a safe distance of approximately 10 to 100 meters, depending on the application of the device.
Larger than personal or handheld radiation detectors, SRDs are usually mounted in vehicles, such as trucks, boats, and aircraft. They typically contain both gamma and neutron radiation detectors, since both types of radiation are emitted from special materials used in nuclear devices. SRDs have the ability to determine the direction of the source and distinguish potential threats from normally-occurring radioactive materials, such as potassium-40 and radium-226 that are found in soil.
SRDs are used by law enforcement and other first responder personnel in a wide variety of applications. On land, they can be used to scan a large area, such as a parking lot for a missing, stolen, or illegal radiological source. SRDs can scan vehicle traffic along roads and at chokepoints, as well as vehicle and pedestrian traffic at large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events. When mounted in boats, SRDs can scan harbors, marinas, other boats, and large ships. SRDs can also help protect coastline areas to prevent a nuclear device from being smuggled into the country. Aircraft-mounted SRDs can survey for radiological plumes, find radiation sources on the ground, and scan remote border crossings.
The DHS S&T National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) hosted a focus group in September 2012 to discuss current SRDs with emergency responders from six different agencies and subject-matter experts from DNDO. The focus group selected and weighted evaluation criteria to assess commercially-available SRDs. DNDO also provided information on the development of the next generation of SRDs. The feedback from first responders and subject matter experts will be used to guide refinement and further development of the these important devices.
NUSTL facilitated the focus group as part of S&T’s System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) program, which provides first responders with information to make informed equipment purchasing decisions.
Created: 10/23/2012 4:18 PM
There’s a coastal town in a thriving community with a population of 234 people who rely mainly on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods. Here’s the mission: protect as many people, buildings, and livelihoods as possible, while preparing for a serious hurricane.
This is just one scenario in the Stop Disasters game. Created by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), Stop Disasters is a single-player simulated game with three levels of difficulty intended to educate and challenge anyone, regardless of age and discipline, about disaster prevention and preparation. The game is not designed to train players in basic preparedness principles, but rather helps players to assess potential risks associated with natural disasters.
During the game, players are instructed to select one of four scenarios: tsunami, hurricane, earthquake, or wildfire. As an “emergency responder,” players can plan and construct a safer environment for the particular scenario, according to resources and livelihood. For 10-20 minutes, players click away building homes, hospitals ,schools, sand-dunes, and electric towers. For example, instead of viewing a forest as just a natural animal habitat, the player can plan to install fire-resistant rooftops in the surrounding communities or sprinkler systems, to prepare for a wildfire. With each click, the game reveals the pros and cons of each decision in terms of lessening the loss of property and lives for a specific disaster scenario.
No one knows the exact moment when a disaster will strike, but games like this may increase the chance of life and livelihood post-disaster.
Created: 10/23/2012 4:06 PM
Law enforcement agencies across the country are using Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technologies for a quick easy read on suspect and other vehicles of interest. APLRs automatically capture an image of a vehicle’s license plate, transform the image into alphanumeric characters, run the plate number through relevant databases, and then alert the officer to any matches. It all happens in a matter of seconds.
The report advises that, like all tools and technologies available to law enforcement, ALPR must also be carefully managed.
The ALPR report urges the adoption of policies that ensure the quality of the data, the security of the system, compliance with applicable laws
Created: 10/18/2012 12:14 PM
Take part in the first ever Great SouthEast ShakeOut – a regional earthquake drill where participants from the District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia will simultaneously practice how to respond during an actual earthquake. The Great SouthEastShakeOut, which will take place on October 18, 2012 at 10:18 a.m. (local time), encourages everyone to take just 90 seconds and practice how to “drop, cover, and hold on.” Similar earthquake drills will also take place on October 18 in Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and Washington.
In the event of an earthquake, it’s critical to have a plan and know what to do. When an earthquake strikes, you should:
*Drop to the ground;
*Take cover under a sturdy desk or table; and
*Hold on to the desk or table until the shaking stops.
If it’s not possible to get to the floor to safely take cover before the exercise, identify an inside corner of a room, away from windows and objects that could fall on you. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels, remain seated until the shaking stops, and protect theirhead and neck with their arms, a pillow, or a book.
To get involved in other Great ShakeOut drills across the country and globe on October 18, visit http://www.shakeout.org/.
Created: 10/17/2012 12:49 PM
The InterAgency Board is conducting a survey to assess the level of proficiency, education and response capability of hazmat teams. The goal is to gain a better understanding of possible gaps related to training for hazmat response to biological threats. The brief survey will be administered nationwide to hazmat teams, law enforcement and Laboratory Response Network Bio Terrorism Coordinators so that the perspectives of all three key groups can be captured. The survey will remain open until Wednesday, October 31, 2012. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the IAB Program Office at email@example.com. To access the survey, click here.
Created: 10/12/2012 2:03 PM
Fire Prevention Week - October 7-13 - is a time to reflect on the bravery of our local firefighters who risk, and sometimes sacrifice, their lives to save others. It is also a time to make sure you and your family have an emergency plan and know the steps to take if confronted by a fire or other emergency.
Before joining the FEMA team, I was the Director of the state of Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Executive Director for the city of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management. I have seen first-hand the devastating effects of fires. That is why FEMA Region V has joined with the city of Chicago Fire Commissioner, Jose Santiago, to provide some important information you need to know about fires.
Today, there are drought conditions in many parts of the United States. Chicago was also experiencing a similar situation during a very dry summer in 1871. The ground, wooden buildings and vegetation was extremely parched and left the city in a vulnerable state. On October 8, 1871, a fire broke out in the barn area of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary’s home on the west side of the Chicago River. The exact cause of the fire remains undetermined, but regardless of the cause, the fire continued to blaze for two-days devastating our great city. Exhausted firefighters were assisted on October 10, when much needed rain helped to extinguish the fire.
While the story of the Great Chicago Fire is one of the major events in our city’s history, fires are devastating events to individuals, families and businesses. Today, most people have very busy lives, but sitting down with your family for 20 minutes to talk about your fire escape plan, like U.S. Fire Administrator Ernie Mitchell said last week, can have a dramatic impact on your family safely exiting your home during a fire. As you discuss fire safety with your family, remember the different needs you may have. For example, do you have pets? Are there people with disabilities in your home or business? What is the best route for evacuation? Fires can rage out of control and become deadly in seconds. So planning now can save lives. And remember to practice your plan at least twice a year.
Take a moment to visit www.usfa.fema.gov to learn more about how you can prevent fires and keep your family safe.
Follow DHS S&T on Twitter @dhsscitech
Follow FEMA on Twitter @FEMA
Created: 10/11/2012 12:55 PM
Firefighters battling wildfires during an unusually busy season in California are getting a boost from an interactive technology that helps them transmit incident data in real time.
The Next Generation Incident Command System, or "NICS," funded by S&T and developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Lincoln Labs, was used in the Shockey fire, a devastating blaze that burned more than 2,800 acres in eastern San Diego near the Mexican border, in late September. It broke out on the Campo Indian Reservation, along Shockey Truck Trail and destroyed 20 homes and 15 buildings, damaged 10 other homes and caused the death of an 82 year old man who refused to evacuate.
CAL FIRE has had plenty of chances to test the technology this fire season, with historically dry conditions, above average temperatures and below normal rainfall resulting in a significant increase in fire activity. Already this year, CAL FIRE has responded to more than 5,300 wildfires, nearly 20 percent more than average.
NICS allows responders to see real time data and share it with operators in the field. The interface shows a map of the incident that is “marked up” with locations of hot spots, road closings and other information. The technology allows personnel in the field to send data to base camp using any computer, operating system, or browser. It helps pinpoint the fire’s perimeter more quickly; what used to take hours now takes only minutes.
While NICS is currently only being piloted in California, the plan is to eventually take the tool nationwide.
For more information on NICS, see our Technology Profiles section.
Follow DHS S&T on Twitter @dhsscitech
Created: 10/5/2012 12:15 PM
The annual Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) is the world’s largest firefighter training conference and exhibition. This year, FDIC is hosting a free online event on October 10-11, 2012 featuring several virtual classes and industry leading exhibitors. Get online training on topics such as tactical safety and fighting house fires, and virtually attend a keynote speech about firehouse excellence from the Fire Department of New York’s Captain Michael M. Dugan. Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Visit FDIC Online to register.
Created: 10/3/2012 3:38 PM
October 2012 features several events to honor first responders as well as to raise awareness about emergency preparedness. Please visit the event websites for more information
* National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation sponsors this annual national tribute to all firefighters who died in the line of duty during the previous year. A memorial service will be held at the U.S. Fire Administration campus in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The foundation also encourages the public to honor fallen firefighters in other ways, such as signing a virtual remembrance banner.
* National Fire Prevention Week
Fire Prevention Week was established in 1922 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which took place on October 9, 1871. Fire Prevention Week has been observed every year during the week in which October 9 falls. During this week, the National Fire Protection Association will focus public attention on the importance of preventing and preparing for fires with the theme “Have 2 Ways Out!”
* Emergency Nurses Week
The Emergency Nurses Association hosts this annual event in celebration of emergency nurses across the nation. The week also features Emergency Nurses Day on October 10, 2012. This year’s theme is “Every Patient + Every Time = Making a Difference.”
Created: 10/3/2012 3:20 PM
Originally posted to DARPA.mil
DARPA’s Cheetah robot—already the fastest legged robot in history—just broke its own land speed record of 18 miles per hour (mph). In the process, Cheetah also surpassed another very fast mover: Usain Bolt. According to the International Association of Athletics Federations, Bolt set the world speed record for a human in 2009 when he reached a peak speed of 27.78 mph for a 20-meter split during the 100-meter sprint. Cheetah was recently clocked at 28.3 mph for a 20-meter split. The Cheetah had a slight advantage over Bolt as it ran on a treadmill, the equivalent of a 28.3 mph tail wind, but most of the power Cheetah used was to swing and lift its legs fast enough, not to propel itself forward.
To contribute to emergency response, humanitarian assistance and other defense missions, a robot needs to negotiate difficult terrain. Most rough-terrain robots use wheels or tracks to ride over bumps; however, the most difficult terrain demands the use of legs, as legs can step over both high obstacles and deep ditches. But coordinating the swing and lift of mechanical legs is more difficult than making wheels turn or tracks roll, and previous legged robots have been slow compared to wheeled or tracked ones. DARPA is working to create legged robots that don’t sacrifice speed for mobility on rough terrain.
Cheetah is being developed and tested under DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program by Boston Dynamics. One of the program’s main goals is to enhance robot movement and capabilities in natural and degraded manmade environments where defense personnel often operate. DARPA intends to test a prototype on natural terrain next year, but for now Cheetah runs on a treadmill in a lab to allow researchers to monitor its progress, refine algorithms and maintain its moving parts. The current version of the Cheetah robot is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill. The increase in speed since results were last reported in March 2012 is due to improved control algorithms and a more powerful pump. The robot has a ways to go before it can come close to matching the speeds of its living and breathing cheetah kin (the Cincinnati Zoo’s cheetah, Sarah, was recently clocked at 61 mph), but that really isn’t the point.
“Modeling the robot after a cheetah is evocative and inspiring, but our goal is not to copy nature. What DARPA is doing with its robotics programs is attempting to understand and engineer into robots certain core capabilities that living organisms have refined over millennia of evolution: efficient locomotion, manipulation of objects and adaptability to environments,” said Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager. “Cheetahs happen to be beautiful examples of how natural engineering has created speed and agility across rough terrain. Our Cheetah bot borrows ideas from nature’s design to inform stride patterns, flexing and unflexing of parts like the back, placement of limbs and stability. What we gain through Cheetah and related research efforts are technological building blocks that create possibilities for a whole range of robots suited to future Department of Defense missions.”
To see Cheetah in action, click here.
Created: 10/2/2012 1:50 PM
You gave us feedback, and we listened. First Responder Communities of Practice members can now log onto the website using a Google user name or ID and password. By providing members with the ability to use their Google ID, individuals will be able to log into the sitemore easily, and no longer need to remember long and confusing passphrases.
Google supports the OpenID single sign on (SSO) standard and allows users of websites like First Responder Communities of Practice to authenticate with their Google credentials.Users link their Google accounts to First Responder Communities of Practice by clicking a link on the First Responder Communities of Practice homepage and then verifying their Google credentials. First Responder Communities of Practice never stores a user’s Google password or user name, just the Google generated token.
To link your Google account to First Responder Communities of Practice, you’ll need to log in with existing First Responder Communities of Practice credentials. After authenticating, you can log into FRCoP using your Google credentials, by clicking the “Sign in with Google” button on the login screen.
Not currently a member? Simply request membership today via FirstResponder.gov.
Created: 10/2/2012 11:49 AM
Originally posted to the Blog @ Homeland Security
Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, members of the emergency response community – police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel came together, in conjunction with the Federal government, to strengthen emergency communications capabilities through enhanced coordination, planning, training, and new equipment. Through the President’s Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative, the Administration outlined its commitment to the development and deployment of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network for use by emergency responders throughout the country.
The establishment of the FirstNet Board represents an important milestone in the implementation of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, and today, I had the privilege of joining my fellow board members at the inaugural meeting to provide our nation’s first responders with a dedicated communications network to help them share information and communicate during emergency situations. The FirstNet Board will work directly with first responders to ensure that the design, construction, and governance of a nationwide network is done efficiently and effectively.
The FirstNet Board is ready to tackle the challenge before us, and DHS is committed to ensuring that the establishment of a nationwide network meets the needs of our nation’s emergency responders. To that end, DHS is providing technical assistance to states to update their Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans, and engaging federal, state, local, territorial and tribal public safety groups in the development of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.
For more information on the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network please go to www.dhs.gov/PublicSafetyBroadband.
Created: 9/28/2012 1:04 PM
Originally posted to the FEMA blog by Shannon Arledge
At FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, there is now a new venue where first responders can receive invaluable, hands-on training: a subway. The subway features four full size cars complete with lighting, smoke, seating, video capability, and even realistic commercial signage that is common in subways.
CAPTION: The CDP created a rail system that uses four cars. One car features a tunnel collapse scene, while another is damaged by an improvised explosive device. The subway system requires a response by emergency personnel to triage and extricate survivors, and mitigate the scene from hazardous chemicals or biological materials.
During training, emergency responders will have the opportunity to enter one car breached by falling concrete and threatened by simulated electrical hazards, and given the task of properly triaging survivors and transporting them to the appropriate medical personnel. They will also be required to find the source of any contamination that may be present and mitigate that threat so law enforcement, rescue, and emergency medical services can assist survivors.
CAPTION: A subway car displays results from a simulated tunnel collapse that will require the triage and extrication of survivors. The subway system gives training personnel the option to also include lighting malfunctions, smoke, and realistic sounds depicting the chaos expected in an actual event.
CAPTION: Smoke fills the room in a railcar during a simulated subway accident at the CDP. The CDP created a subway system, complete with full size railcars, lighting, seating, and even the commercial signage common on subways.
Here’s what Chuck Medley, CDP branch chief for training management, had to say:
We created the subway system based on the actual size of passenger transportation systems found in the United States. It provides us an opportunity to present hazards that responders may encounter when responding to a mass casualty incident associated with public transportation systems. In addition to the tunnel collapse and explosion, we can also simulate potential chemical and biological threats.
The CDP develops training based on potential threats, and the threat to our cities’ public transportation systems is real. This venue, while simulating a subway, also replicates the complexity of response to other public transportation modes including busses, trains, and even street cars. This training will increase the edge for emergency responders to successfully respond.
For first responders, practicing in simulated environments like those at the CDP can mean a faster, more efficient response to a real-world event. If you’re an emergency response provider, emergency manager, or healthcare professional, check out cdp.dhs.gov for training courses that can lead to on-the-ground results if an emergency should strike. If you’ve attended CDP training in the past, share your experience and leave a comment below.
Created: 9/27/2012 1:26 PM
Get a free preview of the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) 2013 during a one-day virtual trade show on October 24, 2012! Hosted by IWCE and Urgent Communications, this interactive event will provide you the opportunity to learn about the sessions and exhibits planned for IWCE 2013 – all without ever leaving your desk. Join this free event to network with peers and to learn about the latest advances in communications technology, including informative webinars on nationwide broadband. All registrants will automatically be registered to receive a free exhibit hall pass to IWCE 2013 in Las Vegas, NV from March 11-15, 2013.
Created: 9/25/2012 1:40 PM
By Bill Delaney, Manager, Social Media and Life Safety Education, Montgomery, MD Fire and Rescue
September is National Preparedness Month – a time to encourage preparedness initiatives among all community stakeholders, from emergency management officials and first responders, to businesses, schools, and other community members. Collaboration among all stakeholders can help identify community needs, existing resources, and potential gaps that may help to improve overall preparedness.
Recent events like wildfires; Hurricane Irene; the Joplin, MO tornado; and others illustrate a trend in information sharing and collaboration among community members during emergencies via outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Given the rise in the popularity of the regular use of these tools, it is essential that government and response officials use them to encourage and enable collaboration and communication among the community to improve preparedness. Social media provides the means to engage, solicit, and encourage input and feedback directly from the community on its needs, interests, and priorities. It can also help response organizations educate, train, identify, and allocate resources appropriately; in addition, it can be used to leverage existing social networks and community structures before, during, and after an incident, empowering individuals to participate in their own preparedness and safety.
Social media can also be used during large-scale incidents to gather situational intelligence and to learn what media, and those in and around the incident, might be saying or doing. During the Discovery Channel Headquarters hostage situation that occurred in my jurisdiction almost two years ago, I was able to monitor Twitter feeds associated with the incident to see that people in and around the building were Tweeting photos, including several of the SWAT team members getting into position; I was then able to send that information to the command post to make them aware. Further monitoring revealed the existence of several official Discovery Twitter feeds being used to Tweet critical information that media was picking up on and sharing. Again, this information was sent to the command post and on to the on-scene public information officer who was able to quickly identify his Discovery counterparts doing the Tweeting and get them to stop so that only one common message was coming from public safety.
I have been a member of S&T’s Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) for two years, and have served as chair of the group since the fall of 2011. In the last two years, the group has discussed and developed guidance and recommendations on how to successfully implement and leverage social media for public safety purposes. Most recently, we developed a document addressing the need to engage the community regarding preparedness, and how to do so successfully via social media.
As a follow up to the VSMWG’s Social Media Strategy, which provides a high-level introduction to social media and its benefits to public safety, the VSMWG recently published Community Engagement Guidance and Best Practices, a guide for the first responder community. Just in time for National Preparedness Month, the document shares best practices on how to use social media to successfully engage community members and stakeholders, for use by public safety agencies and partner organizations.
In addition, Community Engagement Guidance and Best Practices:
*Defines and discusses various goals for community engagement to enhance the efforts of public safety agencies and partner organizations;
*Discusses various purposes for community engagement and how they can inform tool choice, activities, messaging, materials, and more;
*Outlines challenges and considerations associated with community engagement; and,
*Offers recommendations and use cases for agencies attempting to promote engagement and collaboration among community members and groups for the purposes of public safety, preparedness, and resilience.
While community engagement may occur for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways, social media provides a means to proactively communicate directly with everyone in the community, and empowers each individual to participate in their own preparedness. Strong communication and collaboration leads to resilience, and the stronger and more resilient we are, the more likely we are to not only survive the next crisis, but to thrive in spite of it.
Created: 9/18/2012 1:09 PM
Originally posted to the FEMA blog by Lars Anderson, Director, Public Affairs
As we often say at FEMA, emergencies can strike at any moment, anywhere which is why it’s so important to be prepared for an emergency. The Center for Domestic Preparedness provides responders with knowledge to prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from chemical, biological, explosive, radiological, or other hazardous materials incidents. This training has proven to be a critical investment in ensuring responders, individuals, and communities are prepared for an emergency.
We wanted to share the recent experiences of Sutter Health employees that completed the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents last month. Here's a quick recap from Robin Montgomery of Sutter Health on their training at the CDP:
The week-long emergency response training for natural disasters, terrorism and hazardous material accidents, covered a variety of disciplines including nursing, ancillary services, administration and support services. As with many of the classes at the CDP, the training combined classroom instruction, table-top discussions and exercises, followed with hands-on simulation drills.
Sutter Health spokesman Sy Neilson described his impression of the training, “they push your critical thinking abilities to the limit by overloading the system, withholding the resources you need and then watching how you respond. After the drills you discuss what worked well, what didn’t and what you plan to implement when you go back home. It’s a very worthwhile training for anyone who might respond to a disaster situation.”
Read more about this training at the CDP.
Visit the Center for Domestic Preparedness website for more information on available courses.
Created: 9/18/2012 1:01 PM
By Milt Nenneman. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), First Responders Group Program Manager
On August 18, 2012, lightning struck and ignited a wildfire in California’s Mendocino County. The fire, which was ultimately named the North Pass Fire, began on State of California land and under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). When it migrated into the Mendocino National Forest, the US Forest Service (USFS) was brought in to assist. A unified command was established with the USFS Southern California (SoCal) Interagency Incident Management Team 3 as the lead. As a program manager within the S&T First Responders Group, I was invited to observe, arriving on the scene on August 23.
As a former city police officer, I had never seen a response to a wildfire and had no idea what to expect. The scope and structure of this operation were impressive, in both size and level of organization. You could tell this wasn’t their first wildfire. Right after I arrived in Covelo, California, I noticed frustrated fire command officers and support staff struggling with accessing the Internet – an essential tool for basic and rapid communication. In responding to an emergency incident, the role of communications cannot be understated, and the Internet plays an ever-increasing role in that communication. First responders rely on communication tools like the Internet on a daily basis as a critical means to effective and swift response and recovery efforts.
In an attempt to mitigate the issue, I saw members of the Incident Command Post try different ways to access the Internet. They tried air cards, hotspots, cell phones, and other devices to get Internet access so they could get information about the status of the fire to contacts outside of Covelo. However, the situation only got worse as people competed for bandwidth.
Thinking about how I could help, I remembered that S&T had funded a hastily-formed disaster response network for Internet capability at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) called the Independently Powered Command Control Communications System or IPC3. With the approval of the on-site Incident Commander (all of our actions were conducted in concert with, and approval from, the Incident Commander) I called the IPC3 S&T Program Manager, Linda Vasta, and requested assistance by having the team deployed.
Brian Steckler, Director of the Hastily-Formed Networks Center at the Cebrowski Institute at NPS in Monterey, California, and technology lead for the project, quickly put together a team that included trained firefighters, and, as soon as they received authorization to travel, got on the road. They left Monterey for Covelo at 7 PM on August 24.
The IPC3 integrates systems to create networks that can provide Internet access and establish voice, video and data communications for large numbers of people. This is critical in an austere environment like wildland fires where the normal infrastructure is degraded, denied or doesn’t exist, such as where there are no cellular service, no surviving copper/fiber data networks, and no push-to-talk radio infrastructure. IPC3 uses satellites to achieve broadband Internet access, which is then put out as a mesh Wi-Fi cloud with multiple access points. Using alternate power, including solar, wind, and hydrogen fuel cell generators, IPC3is not reliant on generators or wall outlets for power (although in this instance we had plenty of power, just very limited Internet).
Although the IPC3 equipment is small enough to be portable and looks pretty unassuming, the results are powerful. Steckler arrived at the scene at 1:30 AM on August 24 with the system, and within just a couple of hours, the Incident Command Post was online with functional Internet capability.
At S&T, it’s important to us that we fund the development of technologies that first responders need and will actually use. This is definitely the case with the IPC3. This was a very cost-effective technology to develop, costing less than $200,000 for the R&D, but having a huge impact. The fact that we were able to provide this service free for the incident commander of the North Pass Fire was a bonus.
My experience at the North Pass Fire was eye opening. Everyone at the incident was professional, cooperative, focused on the mission, and worked together as a unified command. My experience also exemplified the importance of DHS S&T program managers’ getting a first-hand understanding of the needs of first responders. Ultimately, getting out in the field, seeing first responders in action, and learning how they operate helps us find solutions to the challenges they face.
Created: 9/12/2012 10:27 AM
Earlier this month, General Motors announced a recall of over 35,000 Chevy Impala police vehicles because the front lower control arms may fracture. GM posted the details of the recall on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s safecar.gov website. According to the posting, a broken control arm can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, and thereby increase the risk of a crash. GM is contacting vehicle owners and dealers and will replace the ‘at-risk’ part free of charge.
Created: 9/5/2012 12:55 PM
Join fellow first responders at the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 2012 Workshop from November 27 – 30, 2012 in Hollywood, Florida. PPE 2012 will highlight emerging technologies in personal protective equipment, including an exhibition of new technologies from PPE vendors, focused briefings on emerging PPE capabilities, and a seminar series on standards and next-generation tools. The event will also provide extensive networking opportunities and break-out session discussions on the future directions for PPE research and design.
The Technical Support Working Group in partnership with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, the National Institute of Justice, the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and the National Fire Protection Association are sponsoring the event. For more information or to register for the event, visit http://www.cttso.gov/.
Created: 9/4/2012 1:47 PM
Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson, originally posted to the Coast Guard Compass.
There’s been a report of an active shooter. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) South members are called to respond. They maneuver down a hallway, lined with bright orange lockers. Pivoting, scanning and clearing columns and doorways, they stalk the shooter. Classrooms and a gym pass by as they search the scenario area at the Miami-Dade Police Department Training Center during Law Enforcement Active Shooter Emergency Response, or LASER, training.
“An active shooter response is faster and more aggressive than our counter-drug interdictions,” said Lt. Chris Guy, TACLET South’s training officer.
“When we conduct a drug interdiction, everyone aboard is a smuggler; we’re able to be more methodical. During an active shooter incident, the faster you engage a suspect, the more lives you protect,” said Guy. “It’s effective training for our teams that deploy to the Gulf of Aden, rapidly engaging pirates before they have the chance to seize control of a vessel or become an active shooter is key to protecting mariners before they become victims.”
The Gulf of Aden is an important part of the Suez Canal shipping route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, with more than 21,000 vessels that pass through carrying 11 percent of the world’s seaborne petroleum and commercial goods.
Through the first nine months of the current fiscal year, TACLET South detained 20 suspected pirates. During counter drug operations, they also interdicted more than 15 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of more than $390 million.
During LASER training, a TACLET South law enforcement detachment worked with Miami Police Department officers. The class, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, trains law enforcement officers to respond to active shooter events like the recent Colorado movie theater shooting, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Mumbai shootings.
“The LASER course definitely adds to the capabilities we bring to the maritime domain,” Guy said. “Increasing our knowledge base and tactical proficiency is an important part of ensuring we’re always evolving and able to continue stopping drug smugglers and pirates.”
To learn more about the Coast Guard Law Enforcement Tactical Team South, click here.
Created: 8/29/2012 10:23 AM
Taking a coffee break today? In the few minutes it takes to drink a cup of coffee, first responders can learn about the signs of human trafficking. The U.S. Fire Administration, in conjunction with the Blue Campaign, released coffee break training designed especially for first responders on the critical issue of human trafficking. Each year thousands of men, women, and children are smuggled into the United States, and first responders of different disciplines, including local law enforcement and emergency medical services, may encounter a human trafficking incident. For more resources on this topic, visit the human trafficking page on DHS.gov.
Created: 8/27/2012 10:30 AM
Hurricane preparedness tips and the latest on Hurricane Isaac can be found at www.ready.gov
Created: 8/24/2012 2:58 PM
At the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) 78th Conference and Expo this week, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank announced the members of the newly established FirstNet Board. Two individuals from the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responder Resource Group (FRRG), Paul Fitzgerald, chair of the FRRG and Story County Iowa’s Sheriff, and Kevin McGinnis, chief and CEO of North East Mobile Health Services, were appointed to the 15-person board. They will represent public safety’s interest in FirstNet, a nationwide wireless broadband network that enhances first responder communications.
The FRRG is S&T’s premier mechanism for continuous dialogue with and the coordination of research, development, and delivery of technology solutions to first responders and the emergency preparedness and response community at the local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal levels. As part of the FRRG, more than 120 responders from around the country are engaged throughout S&T’s established solution development process to identify, validate, and facilitate the fulfillment of first responder needs through the use of existing and emerging technologies, knowledge products, and standards.
Created: 8/22/2012 1:19 PM
The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) marked the successful conclusion of the multi-band radio (MBR) pilot project and transitioned more than 100 new radios to local and state emergency response agencies who partnered in the pilot phases. The MBR technology allows police officers, firefighters, and other emergency management and response personnel to communicate with partner agencies regardless of radio band. Fifteen emergency response agencies across the country participated in S&T’s MBR pilots. The announcement was made today (August 21, 2012) at the 78th Annual Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Conference & Expo, held in Minneapolis, MN.
S&T’s MBR initiative has helped solve long-standing issues in first responder communications and interoperability. During an emergency incident, first responders rely heavily on communications equipment to share critical information. However, with typical hand-held emergency response radios that operate on only one band, first responders could not communicate across agencies and jurisdictions. This meant they often had to carry multiple radios, swap or share them, use a patching system, relay messages through dispatchers, or use runners to hand-carry messages.
With the development and successful transition of the MBR technology, first responders no longer have to deal with those challenges. MBRs can operate on multiple, noncontiguous bands. First responders can use an MBR in bands between 136 and 870 Megahertz (MHz), including the primary public safety very high frequency and ultra high frequency bands and the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands. When authorized, it also operates in the Department of Defense bands and two Federal bands.
S&T’s MBR program sparked industry involvement and development of the technologies and now MBRs are commercially available from three manufacturers, and more companies are soon to be getting involved in this new market. One manufacturer has already reported sales of more than 20,000 radios. The Department of Interior has also purchased $90,000 worth of MBRs, while the United States Marine Corps is expected to buy $49 million worth of MBRs.
S&T plans to release an MBR Procurement Guide, which will be available early next year. The guide will provide all lessons learned from the project and pilots and provide emergency response personnel with direction on how to identify which radio model will best fit their needs. For more information on the MBR, visit http://go.usa.gov/7DM .
Created: 8/21/2012 1:29 PM
Originally posted on DHS.gov.
Chemical facilities across the country research, produce, process, and store chemicals that help support our food, medicine, energy, and fuels. However, if they fall into the wrong hands, many of the important chemicals used at these facilities could present security risks. DHS is committed to working with public and private sector partners to build preparedness for accidents and instances where these products could be used with malicious intent.
Last week, representatives from international, public and private sector participated in the 2012 Chemical Sector Security Summit in Baltimore to discuss ways to improve security at chemical facilities. At the meeting, I spoke about the importance of the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, which works to secure high-risk chemical facilities through risk-based performance standards.
Since the inception of CFATS, more than 1,800 facilities have removed chemicals of interest, and more than 900 other facilities have reduced their holdings of chemicals of interest to levels resulting in the facilities no longer being considered high-risk. These actions have helped reduce the number of high-risk chemical facilities located throughout the nation.
Implementing a program of the size and scope of CFATS is no small task. We’re working every day to make it more effective and efficient. Collaborating across government and industry, we will continue to improve security at the nation’s chemical facilities in order to safeguard our communities.
For more information on chemical security, visit www.dhs.gov/chemicalsecurity.
Created: 8/14/2012 1:00 PM
On July 20th, 2012, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reported that the Robbers Fire in Placer County, California was 100 percent contained and transitioned back to local firefighter units. The wildland fire, which began on July 11, threatened 170 residences, burned 2,650 acres, and injured a dozen people. Throughout the fire, CAL FIRE used the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS), a tool critical to successfully containing the fire. Funded by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG), NICS aids on-scene situational awareness during emergency incidents.
When the wildfire rapidly escalated, CAL FIRE sent a 50-person Type 1 Incident Management Team, only deployed for large-scale and complex incidents, to respond to the incident using S&T’s new technology. NICS, an online incident map that provides timely situational awareness for first responders, allowed CAL FIRE to use validated maps to view the fire perimeter in real time – a vast improvement from the 12- to 24-hour-old maps previously used that quickly become obsolete as a fire evolves. CAL FIRE officials found that the technology’s ability to share data in real time helped firefighters save lives and property by allowing responders to make decisions on the most current information available. For example, NICS displayed the location of spot fires outside the containment lines hours before conventional mapping methods would allow. Through the use of NICS, CAL FIRE officials also discovered that a bulldozer line, dug to prevent the fire from spreading, did not hold, and after discovering the breach, they added a second line.
In addition, CAL FIRE used NICS to command, control, and coordinate the response among multiple agencies at the local, state, and federal levels to improve situational awareness of the location, size, and complexity of the wildland fire. NICS shared critical information about the fire perimeter in relation to various data layers, including power grids, vehicle accidents, evacuation routes, and road closures. CAL FIRE officials stated that the success would not have been possible without the open feedback loop with S&T and their ongoing support. Throughout the development process of NICS, S&T has leveraged CAL FIRE’s feedback to capitalize on lessons learned and enhance the technology.
Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory in partnership with CAL FIRE, NICS helps first responders work together effectively during a disaster or other large-scale event. During an incident, NICS manages real-time feeds of vehicle locations, airborne images, video, weather, critical infrastructure, and terrain. These feeds are integrated as selectable layers onto a map using a geographical information system. NICS works as a virtual whiteboard where responders can then use this information to team up, pool resources, and plot strategies. Any credentialed responder can mark up the map or type a message on the whiteboard.
For more information on NICS, please view its technology profile here.
Created: 8/10/2012 1:19 PM
Originally posted to the Blog @ Homeland Security by Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Director Connie Patrick
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) recently completed its latest iteration of the Women in Law Enforcement Leadership Training Program in Lima, Peru where 38 female police officials from Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay participated in a five-day program on topics such as work-life balance, leadership, and effective communication skills. The program started at the U.S. Embassy in Lima with opening remarks from Ambassador Rose M. Likins, who underscored the importance of fostering the development of female law enforcement leaders around the world.
To date, 218 women from 25 nations have benefited from the knowledge and skills conveyed in this program. The wide spectrum of individuals we are reaching makes me confident that we are making a difference in advancing the rights of women across the globe and developing future leaders that will strengthen international security.
Already, we have heard feedback from some participants on how the program has had a positive impact on both their personal and professional lives. Thessa, a prosecutor from the Philippines, wrote in an email to our team here at FLETC applauding the program for “the great opportunity, the priceless knowledge, tools and insights.”
I have had the honor to be able to take part in several of the training programs and saw firsthand how much the participants value our efforts. The heartfelt enthusiasm and motivation of these women at the end of each training session truly shows the value of the program, and I look forward to the next session in Budapest later this year.
Created: 8/2/2012 2:09 PM
FEMA is offering a self-paced course that aims to arm participants with best practices for the use of social media in emergencies. IS-42, Social Media in Emergency Management, instructs on tools, techniques and how to foster two-way communication between emergency managers and major stakeholders. The course is designed for local, state, tribal, and territorial emergency managers and emergency management staff, including Public Information Officers and all FEMA personnel. For more information, click here - http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/is42.asp
Created: 7/30/2012 12:54 PM
In the event of an emergency, first responders, emergency management agencies, and citizens increasingly turn to social media to send and receive information. Such was the case during the severe windstorm that struck the National Capital Region last month. The extreme high winds that accompanied a widespread, fast moving line of thunderstorms on June 29 caused major power outages across the region, citizens, companies, and government agencies in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia used social media to communicate because of its easy accessibilityvia mobile devices. To capture best practices and lessons learned for using social media during emergencies, nearly 130 communicators in the fields of public safety, emergency management, transportation, and health convened at the National Capital Region Social Media in Emergencies Summiton July 19, 2012. The summit also allowed for virtual participation via Twitter, where attendees and Twitter users discussed challenges, tips, and ideas on the use of social media during emergencies. The conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #NCRsmem ultimately reached 30,000 people.
Thought leaders in the use of social media for emergency management, including members of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG), shared their insights and experiences with summit participants. VSMWG members discussed community engagement through social media and practical social media uses for public safety. The VSMWG plans to release a guidethis fall for public safety agencies of all disciplines that addresses best practices regarding the use of social media for meaningful and successful engagement of community members and stakeholders.
Weren’t able to attend the summit and want to learn more? Visit http://www.capitalregionupdates.gov/go/doc/4063/1498703/for more information.
About the Virtual Social Media Working Group
Recognizing the need to address the challenges associated with social media for emergency response and public safety, DHS S&T established the VSMWG in 2010. The mission of the VSMWG is to provide recommendations to the emergency preparedness and response community on the safe and sustainable use of social media technologies before, during, and after emergencies.
Drawn from a cross-section of subject matter experts from local, tribal, state, territorial, and Federal responders from across the United States, VSMWG members are establishing and collecting best practices and solutions that can be leveraged by responders throughout the Nation’s first responder and emergency preparedness and response community. For more information and to participate in the discussion, sign up for an account with DHS First Responder Communities of Practice via www.firstresponder.gov.
Created: 7/27/2012 10:31 AM
A new open-source cybersecurity tool offered by the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate secures information shared across the Internet. Government agencies required to use cryptographic software validated to Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), will now have access to Open Secure Socket Layer (OpenSSL v2.0), a free, publicly available security software that meets federal security guidelines.
“OpenSSL is a widely-used component in many software security applications,” said Luke Berndt, DHS Program Manager for the Homeland Open Security Technology (HOST) program. The mission of the HOST program is to identify viable and sustainable open source solutions that support national cybersecurity objectives. “With this program available for government use, the nation’s critical online information will be safer while the government will find greater cost savings.”
The National Institute of Standards and Technology validated the Open SSL using the FIPS 140-2 security standard for testing cryptographic modules. This validation is required for cryptography used to protect sensitive or valuable data within the federal government. The validation process was funded by DHS S&T, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and private sector partners.
“DHS S&T’s investment in the validation process for OpenSSL will help government users access the latest security software, and allow software developers to integrate OpenSSL into the products they offer to government clients,” said Berndt. “This collaborative effort is a great example of how government and industry can both benefit from the use of open source software.”
Created: 7/20/2012 1:09 PM
More than 30 international tall ships and naval vessels will sail into Boston Harbor for OpSail Boston 2012 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the composition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Millions of spectators are expected to attend the event, which will take place between June 30 and July 5. To help manage the event and keep attendees safe, city, state, and Federal public safety agencies will use two S&T- funded technologies, Reality Vision and the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS).
The U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police Department, and Boston Fire Department will all use Reality Vision, a prototype software system, to assure public safety in and around the harbor. The system allows law enforcement officials and other first responders to send, receive, and view live video and geospatial coordinates from a field command post using cellular phones and other handheld devices.
The Massachusetts National Guard will use NICS, an online incident map that users can mark up like a whiteboard, to provide situational awareness during OpSail Boston 2012. The Massachusetts National Guard will also evaluate the system’s ability to facilitate coordination with their civilian counterparts.
For more information, contact SandTFRG@dhs.gov.
Created: 6/29/2012 10:52 AM
Originally posted to the Blog @ Homeland Security by Lars Anderson, Director, Public Affairs, FEMA
Over the past few weeks firefighters from local, state, and federal agencies have been tirelessly working to battle several large fires across the country. Most importantly, we want to recognize their sacrifice and determination to protect lives and property. Thousands of first responders from all levels of government have come together to bravely fight the blazes on the front lines.
FEMA continues to coordinate closely with our state, local, and tribal partners as the fire fight continues. In 10 instances since June 1, FEMA has made financial assistance available to support the firefighting efforts for fires in Montana, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. This assistance is provided through Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs).
FMAGs provide financial assistance so firefighters and first responders can focus all their efforts on reducing the negative impacts of the fire. An FMAG authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs, under an approved grant structure.
Items eligible for FMAGs can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.
In case you’re interested in the specifics, the program allows for the “mitigation, management, and control” of fires burning on publicly or privately owned forest or grasslands which threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. FMAGs are provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster.
A note on FMAGs: These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.
Other federal partners, such as the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior, are working through the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) to provide the necessary assets such as fire engines, helicopters, air tankers and military support to help suppress the fires. You can find more about the federal government's role at inciweb.org.
Due to summer temperatures and dry conditions, the threat of wildfires will likely continue in the coming weeks and months. If you’re in an area that may be impacted by wildfires, remember these safety tips:
- Create a emergency kit and plan to ensure your home, family, or business is prepared for wildfires.
- Listen to and follow the guidance of state and local officials. If authorities order an evacuation, leave immediately, follow evacuation routes announced by local officials.
- Create an area of “defensible space” around your home. Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc.
- If you’re caught in the open during a wildfire, the best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes.
For more tips on staying safe before, during and after a wildfire, visit Ready.gov/wildfires and our mobile site (m.fema.gov).
Created: 6/28/2012 2:22 PM
The National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) provides the framework for collecting, storing, and sharing standardized EMS data from States nationwide. The new NEMSIS database will help EMS stakeholders get the information necessary to accurately assess EMS needs and performance today - and strategically plan for tomorrow.
The NEMSIS Project is an effort to create a National EMS Database that will contain data from local and state agencies from across the nation. The effort aims to improve patient care and EMS curriculum and define a standard with which to measure care. Agencies across the nation will be able to share the key elements of their data nationally.
For more information on NEMSIS, click here: http://www.nemsis.org/
Created: 6/26/2012 2:45 PM
The U.S. Fire Administration offers a place where fire and safety organizations can find public education materials to share with their communities. The Prevention and Public Education Exchange has more than 400 items on topics including wildfires, escape planning, juvenile fire setting and burns.
The library is regularly updated, so check back for updates. You can find the Exchange here: http://www.lrc.fema.gov/exchange.html
Created: 6/22/2012 12:37 PM
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in partnership with Transport Canada (CANUTEC) and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation of Mexico (SCT), released the 2012 Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) on May 31, 2012. Intended for firefighters, emergency medical technicians, police officers, and other emergency services personnel, the ERG provides vital information for those who arrive first at the scene of a transportation incident involving hazardous materials. The guidebook helps first responders quickly identify the material’s specific or generic classification and initial protective measures to take to safeguard themselves and the public. Updated every four years to accommodate new products and technology, the ERG is free of charge to public safety agencies and responders through designated state coordinator offices.
With a vision of putting put a guidebook in every emergency service vehicle nationwide, , DOT began distribution of more than two million copies of the 2012 ERG to designated state coordinators in late May 2012. DOT is also partnering with the National Library of Medicine to develop a free smartphone application version that is expected to be available this summer. For distribution information in Canada, contact CANUTEC at 613-992-4624 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For distribution information in Mexico, call SCT at 52-5-684-1275. Copies also are available commercially through the GPO Bookstore and other commercial vendors. For more information, visit the DOT’s ERG webpage.
Created: 6/15/2012 11:17 AM
Do you want to better understand federal initiatives in the Emergency Services Sector (ESS), connect with ESS colleagues, and learn best practices and advancements in the field? Attend this year’s ESS Security Summit in Denver, Colorado on August 1.
The Summit, to be held at the Colorado Convention Center, will provide a forum for representatives from the ESS community to exchange information and network with other first response professionals, share best practices, learn about issues affecting the sectors, and gain insight into the roles of the local, state and Federal agencies and departments involved in sector security.
The 2012 ESS Security Summit will be co-located with the 2012 Fire-Rescue International (FRI) Conference. For those of you who wish to attend the FRI conference as well, please feel free to visit: www.iafc.org/fri.
Register for free at: http://EmergencyServicesSectorSummit.eventbrite.com/
For general questions, please contact ESSSummit@hq.dhs.gov
Feel free to send this conference information along to your colleagues.
Created: 6/8/2012 2:37 PM
On June 3, live rock and roll bands and cheerleading teams lined the streets of downtown San Diego to motivate runners during the 15th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. Each year, the race attracts nearly 30,000 participants and 60,000 spectators. With tens of thousands of runners and a massive crowd, how exactly did local first responders manage to ensure public safety?
This year, the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS) was used to help manage the event and assure the safety of participants and spectators alike. It was used by all public safety partners, including the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, City of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Council, San Diego County Board of Supervisors (Ron Roberts, Fourth District), California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), San Marcos Fire Department, North County Dispatch Joint Powers Authority, and the Competitor Group, Inc.
S&T funded the development of NICS, an online incident map that provides timely situational awareness for first responders. Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory in partnership with CAL FIRE, NICS helps first responders work together effectively during a disaster or other large-scale event. During an incident, NICS manages real-time feeds of vehicle locations, airborne images, video, weather, critical infrastructure, and terrain. These feeds are integrated as selectable layers onto a map using a geographical information system. NICS works as a virtual whiteboard where responders can then use this information to team up, pool resources, and plot strategies. Any credentialed responder can mark up the map or type a message on the whiteboard.
During the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, public safety partners used NICS to display critical information including the locations of emergency incidents, such as collapsed runners and nearby fires and robberies, weather updates, and the location of water stations.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon wasn’t the first time the city of San Diego turned to NICS. The week prior to the marathon, CAL FIRE used NICS to provide situational awareness on three fires in San Diego.
For more information on NICS, please view its technology profile here.
Created: 6/7/2012 10:58 AM
June 2012 features events to raise awareness about the safety of first responders and the public. Please visit the event websites, linked below, for more information.
National Safety Month (June 2012)
Each June, the National Safety Council launches National Safety Month to educate and raise public awareness of the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths. With unintentional injuries and deaths tending to increase during the summertime, each week in the National Safety Month has a specific theme related to critical safety issues. This year’s themes include employee wellness and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Plus challenge; ergonomics; preventing trips, slips, and falls; and driving safely.
International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week (June 17-23)
A joint initiative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week focuses on the importance of first responders taking care of themselves both on and off the emergency incident scene. This year’s theme, “Rules You Can Live By,” will focus on the rules of engagement for firefighter safety, health and survival. During this week, fire and EMS departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity in an effort to focus on safety and health training and education. The IAFC and NVFC aim to reduce preventable injuries and deaths among fire and emergency services and to increase awareness and action so that safety and health become a priority in all fire departments.
Created: 6/7/2012 10:50 AM
The new Funding Alternatives for Emergency Fire & Medical Services document offers updated information on sources of federal funding as well as other new and innovative funding sources for Fire and EMS departments. Supported by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Health Affairs (OHA), the document is offered by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), in partnership with the International Fire Services Training Association (IFSTA). To create the document, the agencies studied critical funding issues for fire and non-fire service based EMS systems. EMS and fire departments require funding for expenses, including equipment, training, and salaries, in order to provide necessary protection to their respective communities.
Further information on USFA's EMS research initiatives may be found on the USFA website. FEMA is offering webinars on its Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program. For a schedule, click here: http://www.fema.gov/firegrants/tools/workshop_schedule/index.shtm
Created: 6/1/2012 3:25 PM
Originally posted by Douglas A. Smith, Assistant Secretary for the Private Sector to the Blog & Homeland Security
I am pleased to release the newest update of the Private Sector Resources Catalog. Originally created two years ago, this document centralizes resources from the 23 different DHS Components into one location and categorizes them for easy access. The Catalog has information on the training, publications, guidance, alerts, newsletters, programs, and services available to the private sector from across the department.
This comprehensive document provides access to all the Department’s resources to make your organization – and our country – more secure. As Secretary Napolitano has said, homeland security begins with hometown security.
Appropriate for all audiences in the private sector from emergency managers at academic institutions to critical infrastructure owners and operators, the Private Sector Resources Catalog (PSRC) also includes a comprehensive index organizing resources by issue (such as Protection) and by type (such as Risk Assessment).
As we continue to improve the document over time, we welcome your comments and feedback – please email email@example.com with any suggestions.
Find the catalog here: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/pso-private-sector-resource-catalog-May-2012.pdf
Created: 6/1/2012 2:55 PM
Robots are no longer just characters from science fiction movies. Today, robots are a reality and already usedto assist in emergency response. To advance the field of robotics, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) plans tohost a Robotics Challenge in October 2012. By launching this competition, DARPA aims to spur innovation in humanoid robotic technology that could lead to better robots for use in high-risk situations and mayultimately save human lives and help contain the impact of natural and man-made disasters.
Teams will compete in challenges based onmock disasterresponse scenarios where robots will have to successfully navigate a series of tasks corresponding to real-world disasterresponse needs. The challengewill consist of both robotics hardware and software development tasks. The competition is designed to foster diverseandcreative solutions by encouraging participation from individuals and teams around the world, including those from universities and businesses of all sizes. DARPA will award a $2 million prize to the team that furthest advances the state-of-the-art in robotics in support of the Department of Defense’s disaster recovery mission.
For more information on the DARPA Robotics Challenge, please read the full DARPA press release.
Created: 5/25/2012 3:09 PM
The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), in partnership with the DHS Office of Health Affairs (OHA), released a new resource for physician medical directors of local departments and agencies involved in emergency medical services (EMS) response. Published in March 2012, the Handbook for EMS Medical Directors covers a wide range of topics, including occupational health and safety, apparatus and equipment, liability issues, and types of response service.
The handbook aims to help both new and experienced medical directors provide the highest quality of out-of-hospital emergency medical care to their communities and promote excellence within their organizations. It offers new medical directors a fundamental orientation to the purpose and responsibilities of this role within an agency. For experienced medical directors, the handbook serves as a useful reference tool.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs developed the handbook, as part of a cooperative agreement with USFA and OHA. Many national-level EMS and fire organizations also contributed to the handbook's development.
Created: 5/22/2012 12:12 PM
On Tuesday, May 22, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will host the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS) Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) Town Hall at the upcoming 6th Annual National Homeland Security Conference in Columbus, Ohio, which is hosted by the National Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). This town hall will focus on preparing the nation for enhanced alerts and warnings capabilities.
The CMAS Town Hall will convene UASI officials, alert and warning practitioners, and industry representatives to gather input to ensure CMAS RDT&E products are valuable and helpful to the alerts and warnings community. During the town hall, participants will help clarify the challenges and opportunities for aligning CMAS RDT&E initiatives to their needs.
View the high-level agenda.
The CMAS Town Hall will be held on May 22 from 3:00-5:00 PM EST in Room C120-122 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and is the second in a series of discussions hosted by S&T in 2012. Please register by clicking here.
Created: 5/16/2012 4:27 PM
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the recruitment of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board of Directors. Congress recently allocated 20 megahertz of spectrum and $7 billion to establish a single nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network. FirstNet is being established as an independent authority within NTIA to build, deploy, and operate the network, and to hold the single public safety license granted for wireless public safety broadband deployment. The Board will have 15 members, including three permanent members: the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. The Secretary of Commerce will fill the remaining slots with experts in public safety, technical, network, and financial areas. If you would like to be considered as a FirstNet Board Member, you can find more information on NTIA’s website. Expressions of interest are due by May 25.
Created: 5/15/2012 1:12 PM
May 2012 features several events to honor first responders as well as to raise awareness about emergency preparedness. Please visit the event websites, linked below, for more information.
Arson Awareness Week (May 6-12)
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), in partnership with the International Association of Arson Investigators, Safe Kids USA, USAonWatch, National Volunteer Fire Council, and the National Association of State Fire Marshals, is pleased to announce the theme for the 2012 Arson Awareness Week: "Prevent Youth Firesetting." During May 6-12, USFA and its partners will focus public attention on the importance of a collaborative effort with fire and emergency service departments, law enforcement, mental health, social services, schools, and juvenile justice to help reduce the occurrence of juveniles engaged with fire.
National Police Week (May 12-17)
In 1962, President Kennedy signed a proclamation that designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week in which that date falls, as National Police Week. Each year, National Police Week draws between 25,000 and 40,000 law enforcement officers from around the world to Washington, DC. Attendees participate in several events that honor fallen police officers, including the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, sponsored by the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
National Emergency Medical Services Week (May 20-26)
National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week brings together communities and medical personnel to honor EMS personnel and raise awareness about public safety. This year's theme is "EMS: More Than A Job. A Calling." The American College of Emergency Physicians supports the production and distribution of EMS Week promotional materials as a public education service.
Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 27-June 2)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Hurricane Center are collaborating again this year to spread the message about the importance of preparedness for hurricanes and other disasters. Learn more about how to prepare yourself and your family against various hurricane hazards by reviewing the tropical cyclone preparedness guide, listening to podcasts, or watching videos available on the Hurricane Preparedness Week website.
Created: 5/11/2012 12:14 PM
Originall posted to the FEMA blog by: Tim Manning, Deputy Administrator, Protection and National PreparednessToday, we released the 2012 National Preparedness Report. The report identifies significant progress the nation has made in areas of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. Overall the report found that the nation has increased its collective preparedness, not only from external threats, but also for natural and technological hazards that face its communities.
The report is part of Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness.
PPD-8 aims to strengthen the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.
The report focuses on five mission areas as outlined in the National Preparedness Goal released in September 2011. Those areas are prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. These mission areas include 31 core capabilities essential to preparedness. The NPR offers an assessment of each of these 31 core capabilities.
Overall, the NPR found the nation has made significant progress in enhancing preparedness and identifies several significant areas of national strength. For example, the nation has built the foundation for an integrated, all-hazards planning architecture that considers routine emergencies and catastrophic events.
Operational coordination has also improved with the adoption of the National Incident Management System, which provides a common doctrine for incident management. In addition, intelligence and information sharing capabilities are stronger thanks to a national network of fusion centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces that bring together federal, state, and local law enforcement, Intelligence Community resources, and other public safety officials and private sector partners.
The report also identified opportunities for national improvement in cybersecurity, long-term recovery, and integrating individuals with access and functional needs into preparedness activities.
Everyone plays a role in preparedness and continued progress depends on the whole community working together. FEMA developed the NPR in close coordination with leaders of federal departments and agencies, and the report reflects inputs from state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, private and nonprofit sector partners, and the general public.
The National Preparedness Report is the next step in implementing PPD-8. Since the President signed the directive in March 2011, FEMA and its partners have released the first edition of the National Preparedness Goal, the National Preparedness System description, and the working drafts of the National Planning Frameworks. For more information on PPD-8 and to download the report, visit www.fema.gov/ppd8 or contribute your ideas on our online collaboration forum.
Created: 5/10/2012 12:20 PM
Citizens play an important role in public safety. Key to this role is the reporting of suspicious activity. To that end, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recently released two new publications about how law enforcement can effectively engage with community members to help raise awareness about their role in public safety.
The first publication is Improving the Public’s Awareness and Reporting of Suspicious Activity: Key Research Findings. This report shares highlights of independent research on the motivations and challenges that impact community member awareness and willingness to report suspicious activity. The goal of this research effort was to identify successful strategies for implementing local, tribal, state and territorial initiatives aimed at improving the public’s awareness and reporting of suspicious activity related to terrorism. The study reviews contemporary and historical research, trends, and practices related to community-based terrorism prevention efforts during the spring of 2010. It found that law enforcement should advertise clear and concise methods to report suspicious activity and use local leaders to spread the word about the importance of reporting such activity as effective outreach strategies.
The second document is A Resource Guide to Improve Your Community’s Awareness and Reporting of Suspicious Activity: For Law Enforcement and Community Partners. This publication provides recommendations to build and maintain community-based education and awareness programs. It also outlines research-based strategies, such as developing partnerships with community organizations and leveraging technology to receive anonymous tips, and existing resources to help law enforcement agencies achieve successful results in this effort.
Both documents are also available on the IACP Website, www.theiacp.org.
Created: 4/26/2012 12:42 PM
The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) has announced a funding opportunity for research related to Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS), as referenced in the 2012 DHS S&T Long Range Broad Agency Announcement (LRBAA).
CMAS enables geographically targeted alert messages to reach people on their mobile devices, enhancing the nation’s capability to deliver emergency messages to the public. To support this mission, S&T is looking for academic institutions, private sector organizations, government laboratories, and other entities to perform RDT&E activities that improve CMAS geo-targeting capabilities and enhance understanding of public response to CMAS messages. These research and development initiatives will improve the functionality of CMAS both in reaching geographically targeted recipients with CMAS alerts and by enabling CMAS alert recipients to act in a way that increases individual and collective safety and security.
S&T is looking for research in the following priority areas (referenced by topic area in the 2012 LRBAA):
Public Response (FRG.03): Research to better understand how the public will respond to alert and warning messages on mobile devices
Diverse Populations (FRG.04): Research to better understand how to ensure the same timely and effective access to alerts and warnings for diverse populations including persons with functional and access needs, transients/tourists, elderly/older, isolated/rural populations, institutional populations, and non-English speaking people
Geo-Targeting (FRG.05): Research to better determine when more granular geo-targeting is appropriate and how broadly targeting should be extended from the point of an incident as well as Identification, testing, and evaluation of technologies that provide the capability of more granular geo-targeting.
More information about this funding opportunity, including links to the LRBAA, application, research areas of strategic interest, submission requirements and processes, and evaluation criteria can be found here.
Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to submit white papers by May 24, 2012.
Created: 4/24/2012 11:39 AM
Runners and spectators from all over the world will descend on Boston for the 116th annual Boston Marathon on April 16, 2012. As the world's oldest annual marathon, the event draws more than 20,000 participants and nearly 500,000 spectators each year.
This year, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), Massachusetts National Guard, and eight localities along the marathon route, will use the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS) to help manage the event and keep everyone safe.
S&T funded the development of NICS, an online incident map that provides timely situational awareness for first responders. Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory, in partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), NICS aims to help first responders work together effectively during a disaster or other large-scale event. During an incident, NICS manages real-time feeds of vehicle locations, airborne images, video, weather, critical infrastructure, and terrain. These feeds are integrated as selectable layers onto a map using a geographical information system. NICS works as a virtual white board where responders can then use this information to team up, pool resources, and plot strategies. Any credentialed responder can mark up the map or type a message on the whiteboard below it.
For the Boston Marathon, NICS will display information like the marathon route, the locations of aid stations and water stations, and the GPS coordinates of the lead and trailing vehicles. Additionally, the NICS team is working with the BAA to access runner chip data along the marathon route. This information will provide a density map of runners so that first responders can better understand where the packs of runners are located and better prepare for potential incidents. NICS will also test the integration of local road opening and closing data to give neighboring towns better situational awareness of race conditions and route planning for emergency vehicles.
For more information on NICS, please view its technology profile here.
Created: 4/16/2012 3:51 PM
Originally posted to the FEMA blog Robin Finegan, Regional Administrator, Region 8I’ve been following the progress of the upcoming Great Utah ShakeOut and I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen to date. Perhaps what’s most impressive is the number of participants, which continues to climb daily.
With less than one week to go, the Great Utah ShakeOut has already enlisted a record number of Utahns for what promises to be the largest such exercise in state history. The number of participants – 840,000 and counting – represents a full third of the state’s population. I wonder if any state has achieved such a high percentage of participation in their ShakeOut drill.
The level of participation may not come as a big surprise to Utahns, who have traditionally embraced a culture of preparedness and who pride themselves in being able to take care of themselves and their neighbors when disaster strikes. That’s really what we mean when we talk about a culture of preparedness—broad buy-in from the whole community, beginning at the individual level, to the point at which being prepared becomes a behavioral norm, like buckling your seat belt.
I really enjoyed one of the articles posted on the ShakeOut website and on a local newspaper. It was written by Joe Dougherty, who is a Public Information Officer for the Utah Department of Emergency Management, and it uses coach speak to advise participants to “practice how you will play.” We know that nothing we do can begin to approximate what would happen if the Wasatch Fault earthquake should occur – especially when estimates predict a temblor in the 7.0 range. But we do know that people who have actually practiced drop, cover, and hold on drills, prepared a disaster kit and made a communications plan will come through the event in much better shape than the unprepared.
Disaster experts tell us that after any traumatic event, the initial stages of shock and denial is followed by the impulse to action—or inaction. Those who have already practiced in a simulation are far more likely to choose actions that will not only increase their chance of survival but also make them more resilient, so they can recover faster.
I like to remind folks that we need to quit practicing for the disaster that just happened, and instead take a harder look at how we’re going to deal with the really big ones that will happen sooner or later. That’s why I like ShakeOuts.
Way to go, Utah. Keep up the good work.
And if you haven’t already registered for the ShakeOut on April 17 at 10:15 a.m. MDT, visit the Great Utah ShakeOut website and sign up today!
Created: 4/16/2012 3:06 PM
Originally posted to the FEMA blog by Marcie Roth, Director, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination.
Disasters can strike anywhere, anytime and can impact anyone, so everyone must be involved in emergency planning, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts. This is a message that FEMA’s senior leadership brings to the table at every opportunity. Deputy FEMA Administrator Richard Serino drove this point home during the Think Tank conference call in Atlanta at the Georgia Institute of Technology, March 22, 2012. Introducing the topic to an audience of over 30 community leaders in the room and more than 500 callers nationwide, he stressed the benefits of the call. “Talking with teachers, leaders in the access and functional needs community, non-profit and community organizers – all of which are the epitome of whole community – gives me, and everyone, a better understanding of the reality – on the ground,” Serino said.
Topics discussed during the call included a focus on the importance of having access to electrical power and alternatives during disasters, especially for individuals with disabilities and other types of access and functional needs. Carolyn Phillips, program director at Georgia’s Pass It On Center, Tools for Life, the state’s Assistive Living Technology Program, noted that as smartphones have many different types of alternating current electrical power adapters, medical and assistive devices also have the same variability.
To demonstrate this point, Liz Persaud, Phillips’s colleague from Tools for Life, brought the chargers she’d need to keep her equipment fully functional. It required a suitcase to carry all of the items and weighed over 30 pounds. Other speakers noted that individuals need to proactively plan for major power losses by including alternate sources of power such as solar power or generators. “We need to think more creatively about power and how we convert power for people with access and functional needs,” said Phillips. She also stressed the need for including power access issues in drills and assessing those outcomes in after-action reports.
Deputy Administrator Serino then introduced Dr. Helena Mitchell, project director of the Wireless Emergency Communications project at Georgia Institute of Technology, to discuss the next Think Tank topic. Serino reminded participants that “FEMA needs to use the best technology available to communicate with disaster survivors and those with disabilities and access and functional needs.” He also noted that the Emergency Alert System test held in November of 2011 revealed several areas of improvement necessary for modernizing our national alerting systems, including problems with speed of the content and message accessibility.
As FEMA develops the next-generation system, lessons from the test will be applied to ensure a more accessible experience for everyone. In her remarks, Dr. Mitchell noted that the explosion of devices and software platforms in the market gives wireless manufacturers and developers “a perfect opportunity for [them] to involve end users in creating new devices that will have accessible features at the front end.” Dr. Mitchell also noted with the explosion of social media, 65% of all Americans and 63% of those with disabilities use platforms like Facebook and Twitter, emergency managers have begun looking at those systems for enhancing the delivery of emergency alerts. As I mentioned during the conversation, when people have access to emergency alerts, they can actively participate in preparedness efforts. This, in turn, optimizes emergency response resources for individuals who truly need assistance. During the event, folks on Twitter joined the conversation with over 100 tweets using the hashtag #FEMAThinkTank:
Everyone should have access to emergency alerts – @mkelly007
Incorporating social media into emergency communications systems – @CACPGT
Serino closed the session by saying, “Community is a crucial part of all preparedness plans. It requires effort from the whole community to get through a disaster.” He also encouraged people to continue participating in the Think Tank, sharing and discussing the ideas posted. A full transcript of the event is posted at www.fema.gov/thinktank.
Created: 4/12/2012 12:07 PM
Members of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (DHS S&T) Directorate’s Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) will present a webinar entitled, “Using Social Media for Emergency Management Practices,” to the bi-annual National Volunteer Fire Council’s Board of Directors meeting on April 27, 2012. The webinar will present the definition of social media, emerging trends and best practices in using social media applications (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) during all phases and with all disciplines involved in an emergency. The webinar will also provide a brief tutorial on how to access and work within these social media applications, concerns and challenges associated with social media, and an overview on how response personnel can help their organizations leverage new technologies in a safe and effective manner.
About the Virtual Social Media Working Group
Recognizing the need to address the challenges associated with social media for emergency response and public safety, DHS S&T established the VSMWG. The mission of the VSMWG is to provide recommendations to the emergency preparedness and response community on the safe and sustainable use of social media technologies before, during, and after emergencies.
Drawn from a cross-section of subject matter experts from local, tribal, state, territorial, and federal responders from across the United States, VSMWG members are establishing and collecting best practices and solutions that can be leveraged by responders throughout the nation’s first responder and emergency preparedness and response community. For more information and to participate in the discussion, please join DHS First Responder Communities of Practice at www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
Created: 4/10/2012 1:43 PM
What do first responders really need to do their jobs effectively?
The Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wanted to know.
S&T and FEMA, embarked on Project Responder --- a multi-year effort which started in 2004 to identify and prioritize first responder capability gaps and to outline “lanes of responsibility” between S&T, FEMA, and state/local response agencies for investments in technologies to fill those gaps. This month, the project generated a formal report of nationwide emergency response capability gaps and a “roadmap” on how to address them, including a set of recommended programs and related timetables, estimated technological risks, and budget requirements, based on today’s challenges.
Since 2001, Project Responder researchers from the Homeland Security Studies & Analysis Institute have led facilitated discussions with responders throughout the United States, including leaders from law enforcement, emergency medical services, emergency management, and the fire service, to identify existing response capability gaps. Through these discussions, participants identified 40 capabilities that they deemed necessary to fill existing gaps. Among these 40 capabilities, responders identified 12 capabilities as those of the highest priority:
• Personal Protection and Equipment
• Detection, Identification, and Assessment
• Unified Incident Command, Decision Support and Interoperable Communications
• Response and Recovery
• Emergency Management Preparation and Planning
• Medical Response
• Public Health Readiness for Biological Agent Events
• Logistics Support
• Crisis Evaluation and Management
• All-Source Situational Understanding
• Criminal Investigation and Attribution
• Mitigation and Restoration for Plant and Animal Resources to determine and document technology needs.
To read the full report, click here.
Created: 3/29/2012 2:06 PM
Originally posted to the Emergency Management magazine website, Disaster 2.0 blog, by Adam Crowe.
If previous major disasters teach us anything about social media, it is that local government and emergency managers must already be engaged within the community on systems like Facebook and Twitter to truly leverage these tools and be the trusted, go-to source when an actual disaster strikes. While many emergency managers have accepted the need to use Facebook and Twitter, many still are unsure how to leverage these tools when "nothing is happening." So, I thought I'd share a few ideas for pre-disaster engagement:
PRE-IDENTIFIED HASHTAGS: Hashtags are one of the primary mechanisms to search and classify information on Twitter. Unfortunately, in most disasters hashtags are complete organic and defined by the crowd. However, there is a new strategy to pre-identify hashtags for use. For example, a few days ago, the City of Houston adopted this very strategy for impending severe weather. They identified hashtags like #powerout, #debris, #hail, and #wind to help filter their social media information.
TWITTER TOWNHALLS: Public gatherings (aka townhall meetings) have long been the standard to engage the general public on topics of interest. However, as the general public becomes more dependent on the availability and time-saving possibilities of technology, physical meetings have become less effective. As a result, there is a growing trend for Twitter Townhall meetings. President Obama utilized this functionality in 2011 as did several emergency management offices looking to engage communities before disasters occur.
STREAMING AND RECORDED VIDEOS: The ability to record a video or stream activity to an online video outlet (ex: Ustream or YouTube) has become nearly ubiquitous with inexpensive technologies and integration with cell phones. But emergency managers are often reluctant to use these technologies for anything more than traditional public service announcement videos. These technologies can be utilized (before the disaster) to introduce local staff, highlight activities, or introduce "behind the scenes" components of emergency management.
Adam Crowe is a Certified Emergency Manager who currently serves as the Director of Emergency Preparedness for Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He has spoken at numerous regional and national conferences including the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and the National Severe Weather Workshop. He has also been published numerous times in professional journals and is scheduled to have his first textbook "Disasters 2.0: The Application of Social Media in Modern Emergency Management" published by CRC Press in May 2012. He resides with his wife, son, dogs, and goldfish "Fluffy" in Richmond, Virginia.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. government. Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users and the Department of Homeland Security is not responsible for any content on these websites. Furthermore, the placement of the links on this website does not constitute an endorsement of any programs, policies, or views of the organizations by the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government.
Created: 3/28/2012 11:32 AM
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) invests in scientific research that leads to the development of new and innovative technologies to help first responders do their jobs better and more safely.
If you have an idea, need, or offering, you can request a “Full Response Package” by email at SndT_RDPartnerships@hq.dhs.gov. This package contains additional background information on partnership opportunities with DHS S&T, as well as a vehicle by which your organization can share detailed information about your capabilities and offerings.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about doing business with S&T:
“I have a product or service that I want to sell to DHS!”
S&T invests in research and development programs/projects that lead to the eventual development of new technologies, not current acquisitions or procurements for DHS components. So, if you already have technology-based products and/or services that are on the market and ready to go now, visit the Contracting with the Department of Homeland Security section on the DHS Website. You’ll find all the information you need to identify and bid on current acquisition opportunities. You can also find current opportunities at www.fedbizopps.gov.
“I’ve never sold anything to the government before. How do I start?”
Everything you need to know about getting started doing business with DHS is available the Contracting with the Department of Homeland Security section on the DHS Website. Note that if you have never done business with the government before, you must register in the Central Contractor Registration. This site will also lead you through the process of getting a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number if you don’t already have one.
“I’m a small business. Is there extra help for me?”
If you are a small business, additional assistance is available to you. For more information about the Department SBIR Program, contact Elissa (Lisa) Sobolewski, Department of Homeland Security SBIR Program Director, at 202-254-6768 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact the SBIR Program Office at email@example.com
You should also learn all you can about the DHS Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program that helps companies develop and commercialize their solutions in partnership with DHS S&T. Please visit https://sbir2.st.dhs.gov/portal/SBIR/ or e-mail STSBIR.Program@dhs.gov.
“I have a great new invention or idea that will help DHS!”
If you are an inventor or developer with a great idea or current technology that needs further development, your first step is to find out if DHS is looking for what you have in mind. We recommend you first look at our broad agency announcement or BAA. There are other solicitations at this site as well. Check out: https://baa.st.dhs.gov.
“What if my idea is not identified as a high priority technology need?”
There is a Long Range Broad Agency Announcement solicitation also listed on https://baa.st.dhs.gov that covers additional research topics of interest to DHS S&T. This is a useful vehicle to consider if your idea fits one of those research topics. If your idea is still not covered, you may send your idea via an unsolicited proposal to Unsolicited.Proposal@dhs.gov.
“I am a first responder, and I have a great idea for my colleagues. But frankly, it’s not quite ready yet. Any hope for me?”
Our new First Responders Group is here to help with several resources. www.FirstResponder.gov is a practical portal for the first responder community to leverage federal Web services on products, standards, best practices, and other resources in a collaborative environment. In addition, First Responder Group’s TechSolutions program is funded to develop prototypes quickly and economically. Visit www.dhs.gov/techsolutions to learn more and to apply.
“I think I have exactly the right technology for one of DHS’s high priority technology needs right now! How do I get someone to look at it, and perhaps test it, to see if I’m right?”
The Commercialization Office pages on the DHS S&T Web site lists several programs and a number of publications that will get you started, including detailed operational requirements and potential available market estimates for some top challenges that DHS S&T is trying to address through the public-private partnership SECURE program. E-mail the Commercialization Office at SandT_Commercialization@hq.dhs.gov.
“Are there other engagement opportunities across the Department?”
The Private Sector Office, part of the DHS Office of Policy, is responsible for outreach and to interface with the private sector on a range of topics to foster a positive dialogue with the Department. The Private Sector Office has developed the Private Sector Resources Catalog which provides access to the many resources necessary to support your engagement with DHS.
“Is there anything else I should know about technologies for homeland security?”
As you develop your product, you will want to check out the provisions of the SAFETY Act (www.safetyact.gov). The SAFETY Act offers liability protection for certain qualified anti-terrorism technologies, products, services, or other equipment if they are used to support the homeland security mission.
“I have a question you didn’t answer!”
We hope this guide has made it easier for you to start doing business with DHS S&T. The staff of the S&T Research & Development Partnerships Group is always willing to help wherever we can. You can e-mail us at SandT_RDPartnerships@hq.dhs.gov or give us a call at 202-254-6749. Follow us on Twitter @dhsscitech!
Director Research & Development Partnerships Group
Science and Technology Directorate
Created: 3/27/2012 11:43 AM
In the past year, the use of social media for public safety purposes has increased in popularity. However, concerns regarding the safety and security of these new social media technologies themselves may require further discussion. On March 5, Fairfax County Police announced the launch of its Twitter profile (@fairfaxpolice) to encourage a culture of engagement and gain valuable public feedback through two-way communications. Additionally, the agency will tweet news releases, updates to the website, information on public meetings, and other information of interest to the county’s one million-plus residents who register.
The agency will hold a roundtable discussion with Fairfax County Police personnel and regional Public Information Officer partners in Northern Virginia featuring veteran tweeter and Director of Public Affairs for the Baltimore Police Department, Anthony Guglielmi. With an extensive background in communications for law enforcement, government agencies, and the private sector, Guglielmi will share the highs and lows of his agency’s Twitter use and offer advice on Twitter messaging during crisis situations and day-to-day management. He’ll also discuss the details of a high-profile SWAT case last year where Twitter made a major positive difference in the incident’s outcome.
For more information and resources on the use of social media in public safety, please visit DHS First Responder Communities of Practice at https://communities.firstresponder.gov, home to the DHS Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG). The VSMWG is comprised of first responders and homeland security professionals from various disciplines, localities, sectors, and government agencies across the country whose mission is to provide recommendations to the emergency preparedness, response, and homeland security communities on the safe and sustainable use of social media technologies before, during, and after emergencies.
Created: 3/20/2012 2:57 PM
In March, numerous groups of first responders are planning visits to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Dates and short event descriptions are listed below. Please visit the event websites, linked below, to register and get more information.
• EMS on the Hill Day March 20-21
Description: Hosted by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, this event will help educate congressional leaders on EMS issues and advocate for the passage of key EMS legislation. All EMS professionals are invited and encouraged to participate.
• International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference March 25-29
Description: The IAFF has won significant legislative victories on Capitol Hill due largely to the relationships that local IAFF leaders have with their elected officials. The Legislative Conference provides members with the opportunity to both strengthen those relationships and advocate for IAFF-priority legislation. www.iaff.org
• 9-1-1 Goes To Washington March 26-29
Description: Presented jointly by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the 9-1-1 Institute, 9-1-1 Goes To Washington is a forum with educational sessions, keynote speeches, and outreach on today's most critical 9-1-1 and emergency communications policy issues. Attendees will hear directly from Members of Congress, FCC Commissioners, and Administration officials, and can represent their state in meetings on Capitol Hill. www.nena.org
• International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Day on the Hill March 27
Description: IACP members will have an opportunity to meet with their elected officials on issues important to the law enforcement community. A briefing will be held in the afternoon on the day before to update attendees on legislative activities and issues in Congress. www.iacp.org
Created: 3/16/2012 4:51 PM
Originally posted to the Blog @ Homeland Security.
Along with our partners at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), we announced the creation of FEMA Corps, which sets the foundation for a new generation of emergency managers. FEMA Corps leverages a newly-created unit of 1,600 service corps members from AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps who are solely devoted to FEMA disaster response and recovery.
The full-time residential service program is for individuals ages 18-24, and members will serve a one-year term including a minimum of 1,700 hours, providing support working directly with disaster survivors. The first members will begin serving in this August and the program will reach its full capacity within 18 months.
The program will enhance the federal government’s disaster capabilities, increase the reliability and diversity of the disaster workforce, promote an ethos of service, and expand education and economic opportunity for young people.
At a press conference, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, remarked:
...[FEMA Corps], helps communities recover, it trains young people, helps them pay for college, and it doesn't cost taxpayers an additional dime. Whether you're a young person looking for work, a member of the community that's been hit by a flood or a tornado or just a citizen who wants your tax dollars to be spent as wisely as possible, this is a program you can be proud of. This is really government at its best.
And it's part of the president's larger vision for an America built to last. Today, so many of our young people have shown that they're willing to do their part to work hard, act responsibly and contribute to their communities. But in tough economic times, it's up to all of us to make sure that their hard work and responsibility still pays off.
We have to preserve what President Obama has called the basic promise of America, that no matter who you are, where you come from, you can make it if you try, if you fulfill your responsibilities and you make a contribution.
During the event, Secretary Napolitano described the program: First and most important, it will help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters by supporting disaster recovery centers, assisting in logistics, community relations and outreach, and performing other critical functions.
We know from experience that quick deployment of trained personnel is critical during a crisis. The FEMA Corps will provide a pool of trained personnel, and it will also pay long-term dividends by adding depth to our reserves -- individuals trained in every aspect of disaster response who augment our full-time FEMA staff.
Second, the Corps will help us make the best use of taxpayer funds as we bring in FEMA Corps members at a significantly lower cost.
Third, FEMA Corps will provide participants with critical job skills and training. Emergency management is a growing field, much larger than FEMA alone. The recent high school and college graduates entering this program will emerge with the training and the on-the-ground experience that provides a clear pathway into this critical profession.
And finally, this Corps -- it encourages and supports the ethic of public service tapping the energy and dedication to helping their communities that we see among so many young adults today. Many here today, myself included, know that a career in public service presents opportunities and rewards far beyond paychecks.
The new initiative will promote an ethos of national service and civic engagement by mobilizing corps members and community volunteers to provide critical disaster services. Once trained by FEMA and CNCS, members will provide support in areas ranging from working directly with disaster survivors, to supporting disaster recovering centers, and sharing valuable disaster information with the public.
Robert Velasco, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, spoke about this new chapter in national service: By opening up new pathways in emergency management, this partnership will give thousands of young people the opportunity to serve their country and gain the skills and training they need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. This is a historic new chapter in the history of national service that will enhance our nation's disaster capabilities and promote an ethic of national service while achieving significant cost savings for the taxpayer.
Deputy Administrator Serino discussed the importance of FEMA Corps: People have asked, why is this important? Looking into the eyes of survivors, looking at communities that are devastated, having young people that can step up and help out in the time of a disaster who are trained will make a difference in people's lives. That's why we're doing this.
As we continue to move forward and we look for opportunities to be more efficient, to look for opportunities to get young people involved in government, to get young people involved in service to their country, [we] will make a difference. We've had the opportunity to work with CNCS in AmeriCorps in the past, and this is broadening that -- expanding it, so we have the opportunity to bring this talented, young, will-be-trained workforce to help our staff.
They are augmenting our reservists, augmenting our full-time employees. This will be an opportunity for us to strengthen our nation's disaster response capabilities, create pathways for young people and really help the ethos of national service.
Mayor Walter Maddox, Tuscaloosa, Ala. also attended today’s announcement, and from the perspective a mayor of a town still recovering from a major disaster last year, the mayor expressed his excitement about the new agreement:
This new partnership between FEMA and the Corporation for National and Community Service will be crucial in supporting cities, counties and states in their time of need. I commend FEMA and CNCS for understanding that to effectively respond during a crisis, we have to extend beyond political, geographical and even bureaucratic boundaries to ensure all resources are made available to the citizens we serve.
To recap, the purpose of the program is:
Strengthening the Nation’s Disaster Response Capacity: The partnership will provide a trained and reliable resource dedicated to support disaster operations, while enhancing the entire emergency management workforce.
Creating Pathways to Work for Young People: By providing training, experience, and educational opportunity, the partnership will prepare thousands of young people for careers in emergency management and related fields.
Promoting an Ethos of National Service: The partnership will strengthen our nation’s culture of service and civic engagement by mobilizing corps members and community volunteers to provide critical disaster services.
Modernizing Government Operations to Improve Performance: By working together, CNCS and FEMA will advance the President’s management goals of working across government, managing across sectors, and promoting efficiency.
To learn more about the new program, visit the AmeriCorps website or our FEMA Corps page.
Created: 3/14/2012 11:38 AM
DHS released Program Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 FEMA Grant Programs last month, which can be found online on the DHS/FEMA Grants Web page.
Stakeholders are encouraged to read grant guidance and appendices carefully, and to work closely with their respective State Administrative Agency (SAA) to identify funding opportunities. Information on SAAs can also be found on the DHS/FEMA Grants page. In addition, the page provides two documents on grants recently issued by DHS, including “Guidance to State Agencies to Expedite the Expenditure of Certain DHS/FEMA Grant Funding” and “FY 2013 National Preparedness Grant Program Vision Document.” If you have a question after reading and reviewing these documents, please contact your FEMA Program Analyst at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 368-6498.
For more information on other grant opportunities for first responders, please visit the FirstResponder.gov Grants page.
Created: 3/14/2012 10:22 AM
The wait is over. After several years in the making, a national interoperable communications network for first responders is slated to become a reality. In a tremendous victory for first responders and the emergency response and preparedness community, Congress recently approved a bill that reallocates the portion of 700 MHz wireless airwaves, known as the “D Block,” to public safety and away from a commercial auction. The legislation also promised a $7 billion grant to develop a nationwide wireless broadband network on the D Block of the 700 MHz spectrum.
The legislation allotted the D Block, the 10 MHz of spectrum adjacent to airwaves licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, for use by first responders across the country. This means that first responders will have the full, contiguous 20 MHz of broadband spectrum necessary to deploy proposed networks and meet both current and future wireless broadband needs. Public safety will not be required to return its 700 MHz narrowband spectrum.
The legislation also provides for the establishment of an independent First Responder Network Authority to create and manage the network, and gives first responders nine years to transition to the new network. Although it will reside within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration under the Department of Commerce, the First Responder Network Authority will have separate leadership, including a board to oversee the D Block license and the network’s creation.
The legislation was part of the payroll tax cut agreement that President Obama signed into law February 17. For more information, read the articles in Urgent Communications or Government Security News.
Created: 3/12/2012 12:31 PM
In January, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) hosted the 25th New York Area Science & Technology (NYAST) Forum. With more than 60 representatives from the emergency response and homeland security communities in attendance, the event featured a presentation entitled “Hostile Intent and Suspicious Behavior Detection” by Larry Willis, senior science advisor and program manager in S&T’s Human Factors Division. Mr. Willis spoke about research programs that demonstrate how applying behavioral sciences creates new insights and tools that in turn support real-time suspicious behavior detection, operational screening, and credibility assessments.
Weren’t able to attend the NYAST forum? No problem. A webcast of this meeting will soon be available on NYASTon.tv. To view the webcast, you must be a member of the NYAST community on First Responder Communities of Practice. Not a member? Request membership today at https://communities.firstresponder.gov/.
NYAST is a consortium of local, state, and federal government organizations and private sector groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss advances in homeland security capabilities and solutions. NYAST provides a unique opportunity for S&T to gather valuable feedback from field operators and to get information about operators’ most pressing issues and needs in homeland security.
For more information on NUSTL, visit http://www.dhs.gov/files/labs/gc_1223664506703.shtm.
Created: 3/12/2012 12:26 PM
Emergency preparedness is everyone’s responsibility, and mobile apps are here to help. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently provided funding to St. Clair County, Michigan, to create a mobile app for the public that assists with local emergency preparedness efforts. DHS S&T provided the county’s emergency management agency with a $23,000 grant to develop the app called "Be Ready St. Clair County."
St. Clair County has plans for the app to include several different and useful features. Current plans will have the app not only provide information about local alerts and warnings to users, but also provide them with resources like links to an emergency preparedness kit checklist, contact information for the emergency preparedness manager, the locations of shelters, and road closure information. Users will be also able to store information about themselves, their families, and their pets to access during an emergency. In the event of a disaster, the app will allow county residents to send a photo of storm damage to their home to the local emergency management agency, so that the agency can survey the damage in the area. Finally, the app will provide a venue for users to send tips about suspicious activity or other non-emergency situations.
St. Clair County plans to unveil the app in May 2012. Stay tuned. For more information on this story, read the article in the Times Herald.
Created: 2/29/2012 2:17 PM
Have you visited First Responder Communities of Practice lately? Membership on the professional networking and information sharing platform now tops 4,000, with new groups and practitioners joining every day!
There is no longer a need to search multiple sites for answers to questions because the conversation is already happening on the Communities of Practice, a resource for professional networking with a site built specifically for the first responder and emergency preparedness and response community. It’s easy to stay in touch with distant colleagues, seek and provide answers as experts, access critical documents, form communities around specific projects or areas of interest, and stay informed about the latest developments in your field.
Curious about what members are up to? Join the site and explore for yourself – whether it’s a working group focused on social media in public safety, information for the volunteer fire services, or discussions about ways emergency operations centers can improve performance – it’s the best way to get the latest information you need.
It’s easy to join the First Responder Communities of Practice and begin networking with experts on issues that are important to you. Simply visit http://Communities.FirstResponder.gov and request an account!
Created: 2/27/2012 3:57 PM
Originally posted to the FEMA Blog by Denis Campeau, Director, Training and Education, Center for Domestic Preparedness
Wednesday morning, February 8, at 9:57 a.m. CST, as most people were probably going about their workday, a historic event happened at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. At that moment, the first group of state, local, and tribal responders went through live agent training inside CDP’s Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological, or COBRA, training facility using biological materials.
Since the CDP opened in 1998 the facility has provided the only location in the U.S. where civilian responders could train with chemical agents GB and VX. As of Wednesday, those same responders can now include biological materials in their training repertoire.
Wednesday’s inaugural training was the result of more than a year of preparation, planning, remodeling, internal training, curriculum development, and practice by CDP staff. The CDP embarked on this journey because it was the right thing to do for our nation’s responders, it meets a growing threat to the nation, and it can be done safely using the CDP’s live agent training facility and experienced staff inside the COBRA. In recent years, responders coming through the CDP consistently expressed the desire for enhanced biological agent training to accompany the existing chemical agent training at CDP.
As recently as Nov. 1, 2011, the FBI arrested four men in Georgia accused of plotting terrorist attacks on U.S. cities using Ricin. Additionally, the Feb. 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report stated that, among others, the threats and hazards that challenge U.S. interests are “high-consequence weapons of mass destruction.”
While we can’t always predict when or where such attacks might occur, we can make sure our nation’s local, state and tribal responders are prepared in case the unthinkable does happen. That is why the CDP trains more than 12,000 responders a year at our facilities here in Anniston, Ala. I take great comfort in knowing that the responders who train at the CDP can now return to their own communities with the added confidence that they can respond safely and effectively to a biological incident in their hometown. That is the kind of training that truly enhances our nation’s preparedness.
As part of its training CDP will be using two biological materials: Ricin A-chain and Bacillus anthracis delta Sterne. These materials will allow our first responders the opportunity to detect biological agents they might encounter. However, the CDP will only be using the nonpathogenic forms of both materials. These two strains will help us maintain the safety of everyone associated with the training because they do not produce the same toxins/disease as the uniquely different sister forms of these materials.
Created: 2/24/2012 11:58 AM
Last week, the Justice Department announced the posting of the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS), a comprehensive grant solicitation to support improvements to public safety, victim services and crime prevention in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
More than $101.4 million is available through the 2012 CTAS. This year, funding can be used to conduct comprehensive planning, enhance law enforcement, bolster justice systems, support and enhance tribal efforts to prevent and control juvenile delinquency and strengthen the juvenile justice system, prevent youth substance abuse, serve victims of crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as support other crime-fighting efforts.
CTAS is a critical part of the Justice Department’s ongoing initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities. This is the third year for CTAS, which provides tribal governments and tribal consortia with a single application to reach all of the department’s grant-making components, including the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Office on Violence Against Women. It allows these grant-making components to assess the totality of the public safety needs of each tribe or tribal consortia. The FY 2012 CTAS reflects improvements developed as a result of tribal consultations, listening sessions, and other feedback.
Commenting on the announcement, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli said:
“We are committed to helping strengthen and sustain safe and healthy American Indian and Alaska Native communities with a funding process that is responsive and coordinated. This effort to streamline the grant application process, with multiple purpose areas, offers tribes and tribal consortia an opportunity to develop a comprehensive and community-based approach to public safety and support for victims.”
The Community Partnerships Grants Management System will begin accepting electronic applications on Monday, January 23, 2012. The deadline for submitting applications is 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, April 18, 2012.
For more information on the department’s efforts to strengthen public safety in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, visit the Tribal Justice and Safety website at www.justice.gov/tribal or download the Fact Sheet on the FY 2012 CTAS (PDF).
Created: 2/17/2012 11:20 AM
Clean, drinkable water is essential for human life. When that water is not available, due to a natural or manmade disaster that damages the water infrastructure, the consequences can be devastating. A hurricane, sewage spill, or chemical or biological attack to a reservoir could render the water contaminated and unusable. Broken pipes or power outages can prevent water from reaching homes, offices and even hospitals.
Today’s methods to provide water to an emergency site are inefficient, expensive and dependent upon a robust truck delivery system. If a bridge is taken out by an earthquake, tornado or bomb, transport trucks carrying bottled water or large water tanks may not be able to access emergency areas.
To provide a solution, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is seeking to develop a stand-alone water treatment system that can be flexibly transported by land, air, or water. Since water can become contaminated at the source, during treatment or during distribution to the point of use, having potable water available immediately is a necessity. The desired easy-to-use and easy-to-deploy system would start producing drinkable water from an appropriate on-site raw water source in less than 30 minutes.
Recently, S&T’s Commercialization Office released the newest Commercial Applications Requirements Document (CARD) that explains the requirements for this water purification system. S&T collaborated with emergency response and recovery communities under the System Efficacy through Commercialization Utilization Relevance and Evaluation (SECURE) program to come up with the system requirements. The Mobile Water Purifications CARD will result in a system that is functional for up to seven days without refueling and readily deployable to produce 30,000 gallons of drinkable water per day on site.
According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, American homes collectively use 3,830 million gallons of water per day. Our society relies on this nation’s interconnected and complex water infrastructure system, both to provide drinking water and to remove and treat wastewater.
In the wake of an emergency, a self-contained, transportable water purification system is crucial. This system will provide a reliable cost-saving technology that can be deployed anywhere from a rural town to a busy city where potable water is no longer available through traditional methods.
Created: 2/16/2012 3:59 PM
Originally posted by Lt. Stephanie Young to the Coast Guard Compass.
While scores of boaters in colder parts of the country have put their boats into storage until spring, many still rely on their vessels for hunting, fishing and transportation. But what happens when a lake or river freezes over and a snowmobiler falls through the ice, or fishermen become stranded on an ice floe?
The Coast Guard, Always Ready, responds with an airboat.
Being at the wheel of an airboat is rare, as they are found at only 11 units across the Coast Guard. While there are few airboats, they are operated by exceptional coxswains who operate on frozen lakes and rivers – an environment that is constantly in flux.
There are many variables that any smallboat coxswain must keep in mind when they are at sea, but an airboat coxswain has to be aware of all that and more.
“Land, water and ice affect the handling of the boat differently. Add wind, current, fog and snow and, the fact that the boat doesn’t have reverse, and you realize handling is a unique challenge,” said Lt. Warren Fair, the Coast Guard’s ice rescue program manager.
An airboat’s handling characteristics challenges many coxswains due to the diversity of terrains and missions the platform is used on. But before a coxswain even gets a turn at the wheel, they must first become certified as an ice rescuer.
Beginning with the basics of ice terminology and protective equipment, potential airboat crewmembers learn the movements required of teams in ice rescues. Airboat crews must also learn about the factors that affect how the ice forms, including water current, depth, snow cover and temperature.
Continuing their training, coxswains are required to exhibit in-depth knowledge of the airboat itself, including mechanical characteristics, mission performance, boat operations and hard and soft water handling skills.
The skills these Coast Guard members learn requires a commitment to proficiency, as airboats are highly sought after to conduct emergency relief missions in environments other than ice. Due to their mission diversity, airboats serve as a perfect platform when responding to natural or man-made disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, Red River flooding and Deepwater Horizon.
As maritime search and rescue professionals, the Coast Guard understands the dangers of cold water as well as the dangers of venturing out on the ice. While the airboat crews are ready to respond, those who live on or near the ice should always consider ice safety.
If people choose to go out on ice, Lacy encourages keeping the acronym “ICE” in mind.
I – Intelligence: Know the weather and ice conditions, know where you’re going and know how to call for help.
C – Clothing: Have proper clothing to prevent hypothermia. Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.
E – Equipment: Have proper equipment including marine radio, life jackets, screw drivers, ice picks, etc.
The Coast Guard performs missions in the most extreme of environments and ice is no exception. As you make a serious investment and commitment to ice safety, the Coast Guard makes a serious commitment to being Always Ready.
Created: 1/30/2012 4:36 PM
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate invites you to
participate in a Webinar on Cutting Edge Resiliency on February 1 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm EST.
The Webinar will feature three new tools developed to improve the security and resilience of our nation’s buildings and infrastructure. The tools provide scores for risk and resilience and are capable of analyzing and compiling a range of high-performance requirements, including safety (earthquakes, floods, winds, and fire), security (explosives, ballistics and chemical, biological and radiological), environmental footprint and energy conservation, sustainability, durability, and continuity of operations.
The tools featured during the Webinar include Integrated Rapid Visual Screening (IRVS), an easy-to-manage tool designed to prepare risk assessments based on visual inspection only. It is available for buildings, mass transit, and tunnels. During the Webinar the most prominent features of the IRVS for buildings will be showcased. The web-based Owners Performance Requirement (OPR) Tool allows owners to analyze the full range of performance objectives from baseline to high-performance that meet their business case/model or mission. And the Urban Blast Tool (UBT) helps to quantify the effects of blast in urban environments, including the influence of buildings on blast pressures propagating from explosions located in urban settings. The current version of the UBT is designed for the New York City Financial District and Mid Manhattan. Expanded versions will incorporate collapse prediction algorithms and data fields to accommodate building specific performance characteristics. A generic version of the UBT will be prepared for the use of other metropolitan areas in the United States.
Please register at: https://connect.hsin.gov/cutting_edge_tools/event/registration.html
Created: 1/27/2012 12:37 PM
Originally posted to The Blog @ Homeland Security by the Office of Public Affairs (slightly modified).
The Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) turns 50 this year. After the first hijacking of a U.S. aircraft in 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation to enhance the penalties for crimes committed aboard aircrafts in flight. To help enforce this act, FAA safety inspectors received additional training for duty aboard airlines. The first training class of inspectors were appointed and sworn-in by Attorney General Robert Kennedy in March of 1962. After September 11, 2001 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the service was rapidly expanded and became the law enforcement arm of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Today, the FAMS continues to promote confidence in the nation’s civil aviation system through the effective deployment of Federal Air Marshals to detect, deter, and defeat hostile acts targeting U.S. air carriers, airports, passengers, and crews.
For more information on FAMS, click here: http://www.tsa.gov/lawenforcement/programs/fams.shtm
To read the original post on the Department of Homeland Security Blog and watch a short video about FAMS, click here: http://blog.dhs.gov/2012/01/video-federal-air-marshal-service.html
Created: 1/27/2012 11:23 AM
Tipsters calling into the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip Line have helped officials crack down on criminal activities, such as an Austin, Tex. human smuggling ring and the arrest of a dangerous gang member in Maryland.
Tipsters dropped a dime on a human smuggling ring that was targeting illegal aliens. The group was taking victims from their home countries wihtout their consent and holding them until family members paid up.
Another caller revealed that an alleged MS-13 gang member, who was in the country illegally, was living and working near Silver Spring, MD.
Last year, about 172,500 people tipped off ICE HSI by calling (866) DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423). On the receiving end, a team of special agents, intelligence research specialists, and law enforcement specialists receive the information. They are all highly trained in laws related to worksite enforcement, document and benefit fraud, intellectual property rights, money laundering, drug smuggling, child pornography, and human trafficking.
The Tip Line is also available in an online form. Since its launch, more than 1,500 individuals have logged onto ice.gov/tips [CH1] to report suspicious criminal activity.
"When reporting a crime, a person should report the nature of the crime and be specific and detailed as possible," says David Palmatier, Tip Line unit chief. "If we have more details, we can more efficiently investigate a tip."
Callers can expect minimal wait times to speak to a tip line specialist. Average phone calls take less than five minutes to complete. The ICE HSI Tip Line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Created: 1/20/2012 3:42 PM
The DHS Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) released two documents developed with input from the public safety community through online engagement hosted on the DHS First Responder Communities of Practice portal and other social media channels. These documents are intended for use by all public safety disciplines and all types of agencies to better understand and utilize social media and other Web-based tools without having to reinvent the wheel or spend hours searching for examples or policy templates and use cases.
The first document, entitled “Social Media Strategy," provides a high-level introduction to social media, its benefits for public safety, and best practices from agencies already using it. It also serves as a good starting point for developing an agency’s detailed social media strategy. The second document, entitled "Next Steps Strategy," serves as follow up to the Social Media Strategy. It presents challenges and provides both next steps and best practices for public safety agencies developing and implementing social media.
For more information and to download the documents please visit www.FirstResponder.gov or DHS First Responder Communities of Practice at www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
The DHS Virtual Social Media Working Group
Recognizing the need to address the challenges associated with social media for emergency response and public safety, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate established the VSMWG. The mission of the VSMWG is to provide recommendations to the emergency preparedness and response community on the safe and sustainable use of social media technologies before, during, and after emergencies.
Drawn from a cross-section of subject matter experts from local, tribal, state, territorial and federal responders from across the United States, VSMWG members establish and collect best practices and solutions that can be leveraged by responders throughout the nation’s emergency response community. For more information and to participate in the discussion, please join DHS First Responder Communities of Practice at www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
Created: 1/17/2012 4:13 PM
In an emergency, how do we know you are who you say you are? The Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state and local emergency management agencies to streamline the process of exchanging and verifying credentials during emergencies. The goal is cheaper and easier identity authentication and more seamless emergency management.
An upcoming exercise at the S&T Identity Management Test Bed at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab will test the use of Interoperable Personal Identification Verification (PIV-I) cards, for the exchange of identification and required emergency response attributes across these agencies and levels of government. In the exercise scenario, FEMA personnel will arrive at Chester County with PIV cards, which a mobile hand-held card reader will authenticate. The handheld device will utilize a standards-based Service Provisioning Markup Language (SPML) protocol to retrieve each responder’s entitlements from the Federal Emergency Response Official (F/ERO) Repository. F/ERO is the authoritative data source to identify and verify federal employees/contractors, and participating non-federal employees/contractors likely to respond during times of response and recovery for natural disasters, terrorism, or other emergencies. It allows for immediate electronic verification of an employee/contractor’s personal identity and emergency management attribute at a given disaster zone. Another scenario will focus on the reverse, with FEMA authenticating state and local officials with PIV-I cards. The goal is cheaper and easier identity authentication and more seamless emergency management.
Emergency response situations frequently require coordination between federal, state, and local jurisdictions and representatives in their role supporting the Federal and mutual aid emergency response/recovery official (F/ERO) communities (state, local, Tribal, territorial, critical infrastructure/key resources (CIKR), and private sector) by identifying and organizing IdM standards and technologies.
Created: 1/13/2012 11:23 AM
Originally posted to the USFA Chief's Corner blog.
One of the more common New Year’s resolutions is to improve our health and wellness through losing weight, eating better, beginning an exercise program or exercising more, stopping smoking, etc.
USFA recently released our 2011 provisional report of on-duty firefighter fatalities. While the 81 on-duty fatalities in 2011 reflect a decrease from 2010, heart attacks were responsible for the deaths of 48 firefighters (59%). This is nearly the same proportion of firefighter deaths from heart attack or stroke (60%) in 2010.
Every year, the leading cause of fatalities to firefighters is heart attack. Effective health and wellness programs can reduce this number one cause of firefighter deaths. As a whole and individually, we need to embrace health and wellness.
USFA and many other fire service organizations have developed many programs to support you and your department’s efforts to enhance firefighter health and wellness. These include the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters Fire Service Labor Management Wellness Fitness Initiative and the Heart Healthy Firefighter Program of the National Volunteer Fire Council.
While health and wellness programs are effective, they do not work unless they are implemented. USFA encourages fire departments to provide physical exams to each firefighter and responder in the department in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582 – Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments. In addition, USFA encourages fire departments to implement a comprehensive fitness program per NFPA 1583 – Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Members.
As a firefighter, here are some things you can do starting now:
- Physicals on a regular basis
- Quit smoking
- Daily exercise
- Healthy eating
However, as with any fitness program, there are no instant results and positive impacts in this area take time. USFA recognizes the essential role of health and wellness programs in the fire service. I encourage all responders and departments to learn more about USFA’s programs and partnerships in this area by visiting the firefighter health and wellness section of our website.
Created: 1/12/2012 3:49 PM
Originally posted to the FEMA blog, by: David Kaufman, Director, Office of Policy and Program Analysis
At FEMA and in the emergency management community, we often talk about the importance of engaging the whole community in how we prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate against disasters. Experience has taught us that we must do a better job of providing services for the entire community. This means planning for the actual makeup of a community and meeting their needs, regardless of demographics, such as age, economics, or accessibility requirements.
Over the last eighteen months, we engaged many of our partners, including tribal, state, territorial, local, and Federal representatives, the academic sector, the private sector, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, the disability community and the public in a national dialogue on a Whole Community approach to emergency management. The recently released document, A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action synthesizes what we heard through research, conferences, listening sessions, and direct feedback from our partners about how this Whole Community approach is successfully working around the country.
Woven throughout the document and supported by several examples are three key Whole Community principles that emerged through the national dialogue: understand and meet the actual needs of the whole community; engage and empower all parts of the community to define their needs and provide ways to meet them; and strengthen what already works well in communities on a daily basis to improve resiliency and emergency management outcomes. Below are just a couple of the examples collected in this document that show the Whole Community approach being driven from community identified needs.
- Support Alliance for Emergency Readiness Santa Rosa (SAFER) was developed in order to bring together local businesses, faith-based, and nonprofit organizations to provide a more efficient service to disaster survivors after Hurricane Ivan devastated northwest Florida. The relationships SAFER formed while serving community residents provided the foundation for collective action when disaster strikes. During non-emergency periods, SAFER worked closely with other agencies to address the needs of the county’s impoverished and vulnerable populations.
- Days after the devastating series of tornadoes and severe storms that swept through Alabama this past spring, various agencies, organizations, and volunteers came together to form the Alabama Interagency Emergency Response Coordinating Committee. Understanding the community’s capabilities and needs, the committee united to locate recovery resources and communicate information about available resources to individuals. The committee also worked to ensure that individuals with disabilities received important recovery and assistance information. Conference calls were held daily to provide critical information to individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Additionally, volunteers continuously scanned broadcast media, print and electronic newspapers to obtain the most accurate information on resources for disaster recovery. The committee worked together with many organizations including FEMA, American Red Cross, Alabama’s Governor’s Office and numerous others to ensure that all members of the community received information on disaster recovery and assistance resources available.
We hope you find this document useful as we continue working to strengthen the resiliency and security of our nation through a Whole Community approach. And as we continue our national dialogue, we encourage you to exchange ideas, recommendations, and success stories. If you have a good idea or example to support the Whole Community approach, let us know. Leave a comment below or submit your idea to the FEMA Think Tank or email FEMA-Community-Engagement@fema.gov.
You can learn more about the Whole Community approach by visiting http://www.fema.gov/about/wholecommunity.shtm.
Created: 1/6/2012 3:45 PM
Critical to protecting national security and the homeland is identity verification, and the DHS Science & Technology Directorate’s Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division (HFD) is testing new technologies that show great promise in the area of iris and face recognition.
From facilitating high-throughput screening to improving the security of existing processes, new generations of dual iris and face technologies work faster and improve security over conventional identification tools. Under HFD’s Iris and Face Technology Demonstration and Evaluation (IFTDE) project, HFD researchers and analysts are taking emerging iris recognition technologies to the field. The technologies being put to the test in challenging DHS operational environments are easy-to-use, non-invasive cameras.
Here’s how it works: An operator captures the iris and facial images of an individual for matching with previously captured images or, if there is no match, for storing in a database for future reference. If the image matches up with another, then relevant information of the individual — fingerprints, criminal history, active warrants, immigration records — will pop onto the computer screen.
Recently, HFD researchers examined three dual iris and face recognition technologies in both indoor and outdoor settings. The accuracy, image quality, and ease of use of the cameras were all tested. At CBP’s Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, cameras were positioned around the station to examine the feasibility of different-use cases. For example, a camera positioned at the entrance to the station could capture each detainee’s iris and face images to jumpstart the identification process before they entered the facility. If the individual had a history of violence, CBP officers would know early on to isolate that person from the general population.
For one outdoor site survey, HFD researchers and analysts boarded a Coast Guard cutter and went out to sea. From intensely bright days to completely dark nights, the Coast Guard and S&T wanted to see how effective cameras would be in supporting identity operations in varying light and sea state conditions. During these activities, analysts observed several obstacles: the affect of direct sunlight and inconsistent lighting, camera flashes in the dark causing people to blink or look away from the camera, and on the cutter, the waves rocking the ship which affected picture quality.
Improving camera technology for iris and facial recognition to better handle various DHS operational settings is the purpose of IFTDE. Fingerprints are sometimes time consuming and difficult to collect. The unique pattern of irises, however, remains protected throughout a person’s life. Overall, iris recognition is a promising technology that may allow for faster, more accurate screening while improving the security posture in a variety of DHS settings.
Created: 1/5/2012 1:30 PM
In 2011, 173 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, up 13 percent from 2010 and 42 percent over 2009, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) Of the 173 officer fatalities in 2011, 68 were shot and killed. For the first time in 14 years, more officers were killed by firearms than in traffic accidents. Read the full report here - http://www.nleomf.org/assets/pdfs/reports/2011-EOY-Report.pdf
To stop this terrible trend, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) are working together to develop protocol and strategies across the criminal justice system. IACP is focusing on research and analysis and disseminating recommendations to the field. DOJ’s Body Armor Safety Initiative addresses the reliability of body armor used by law enforcement personnel. As part of this initiative, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has examined Zylon®-based bullet-resistant vests (both new and used) and is reviewing the process by which bullet-resistant vests are certified. The IACP/DuPont Survivors Club has recorded that 3,142 officers’ lives have been saved because they were wearing their vests. In 2011 alone, departments reported 70 saves. For more information on the Body Armor Safety Initiative, click here - http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bvpbasi/
Created: 1/4/2012 4:23 PM
Originally posted to the FEMA blog, by: Dan Stoneking, Director, Private Sector Division
It has been a long and productive year working together with the private sector and we’re excited to continue to build on this progress in 2012. As we get ready to head into a new year, I am pleased to announce the release of a free, web-based training course that will help the entire team continue to build and strengthen public-private partnerships in emergency management – FEMA IS-660: Introduction to Public-Private Partnerships.
What makes this course particularly exciting is that it was designed in collaboration with both the public and private sector, and anyone can enroll in the course – for free! The target audience for this training includes emergency management and community planners, senior-level personnel from response agencies, representatives from private-sector organizations, and federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government agencies that may participate in collaborative continuity planning efforts.
To whet your appetite, this new training will:
- Provide learners with an overview of the importance of public-private partnerships to emergency preparedness, response, and planning;
- Highlight best practices on identifying roles, and establishing and sustaining public-private partnerships;
- Require only two hours of your time.
So if you have an interest in how the private and public sectors can continue to work more closely together in emergency management, I strongly encourage you to take the course. It’s available through the Emergency Management Institute’s Independent Study Program, so check it out today.
This training is another great example of what we can achieve by working together. Many thanks to all of you who contributed to this dynamic tool, and thanks in advance to all of you who will enroll.
More information on EMI ISP courses is available at: http://training.fema.gov/IS.
Created: 12/30/2011 12:51 PM
As part of the DHS Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) developed a web-based human trafficking training course that teaches law enforcement officers how to recognize human trafficking encountered during routine duties, how to protect victims, and how to initiate human trafficking investigations. The training is law enforcement sensitive and available on the FLETC Electronic Learning Portal for law enforcement officials with a Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) account. RISS is a secure intranet that facilitates law enforcement communications and information sharing nationwide. To establish training authorization and apply for account with RISS, visit www.riss.net/Centers.aspx. Select the RISS Center based on your agency’s physical location. Click on the email address and send a request to establish an account. Please reference your need to access the Electronic Learning Portal as the basis for establishing a RISS account.
You can also visit the Blue Campaign Facebook page, sign up for the Daily Human Trafficking and Smuggling Report and order Blue Campaign materials here.
Created: 12/30/2011 12:31 PM
Originally posted to the Blog @ Homeland Security at DHS.gov. Written by Louis F. Quijas, Assistant Secretary for the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement and January Contreras, Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the U Visa Law Enforcement Certification Resource Guide. This guide is a new tool being made available to law enforcement officials to support investigations and prosecutions involving qualified immigrant victims of crime. Included in the guide is information about U visa requirements, the law enforcement certification process, and answers to frequently asked questions from law enforcement agencies. In a department-wide effort, DHS is providing this guide in response to requests for more guidance from law enforcement officials and domestic violence advocates alike.
In our roles, we hear about the challenges in ensuring that all victims of crime, regardless of immigration status, can step forward to report a crime. Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa specifically to address this with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women's Protection Act) in October 2000 (TVPA). This legislation strengthened the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other crimes, while also protecting qualified victims of crimes. In the TVPA, Congress noted one of the reasons for creating the U visa: All women and children who are victims of these crimes committed against them in the United States must be able to report these crimes to law enforcement and fully participate in the investigation of the crimes committed against them and the prosecution of the perpetrators of such crimes.
Along with unprecedented efforts by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to make training and related resources more accessible to state and local law enforcement officials, and field guidance issued by Immigration Customs and Enforcement, this Guide is one more part of DHS efforts to support victims and law enforcement through the protections established in the TVPA.
Created: 12/29/2011 1:37 PM
Want to learn why terrorists think and behave as they do and how to respond to those types of actions? The University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) offers cutting edge research and resources on everything from package bombs and anthrax attacks to deradicalization and counter approaches.
The University of Maryland (UMD) received a five-year grant from the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate to remain the DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for the Study of Terrorism and Behavior (CSTAB). UMD was selected as part of an open solicitation and rigorous competition process, which began in October 2010. This award provides $3.6 million for the COE’s first 18 months. The CSTAB will use these funds to expand efforts initiated by the UMD’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which is dedicated to advancing the understanding of terrorism and providing DHS relevant knowledge, analytical tools, and access to leading terrorism researchers. START’s research efforts have focused on terrorist recruitment and the formation of terrorist groups, terrorist group persistence and dynamics, and behavioral responses to terrorist threats and attacks. This COE uses a full range of social, behavioral and physical sciences to improve understanding of the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological impacts of terrorism. START also maintains the Global Terrorism Database, the world’s largest open-source database on terrorist events, which is used by analysts from all levels of government as well as the international intelligence community.
The COE program is managed by the S&T Directorate’s Office of University Programs, which leverages the unsurpassed research capabilities and intellectual capital of U.S. colleges and universities to fill knowledge and technology gaps for the Department. By congressional authorization, each COE is responsible for conducting multidisciplinary research and developing education initiatives in areas important for homeland security.
For more information about University Programs and a description of the current Centers of Excellence, visit www.dhs.gov/universityprograms.
Created: 12/22/2011 1:14 PM
Originally posted to The Blog @ Homeland Security by Suzanne Spaulding, Deputy Under Secretary for the National Protection & Programs Directorate. Modified for timeliness.
President Obama declared December National Critical Infrastructure Protection Month. Our Nation’s critical infrastructure includes everything from power plants, chemical facilities and cyber networks to bridges and highways, stadiums and shopping malls, as well as the federal buildings where millions of Americans work and visit each day.
Protecting these assets is a shared responsibility. As required by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. The Department of Homeland Security leads this effort through a framework of public-private partnerships in close collaboration with the 18 critical insfrastructure sectors which include federal, state, and local governments as well as private sector infrastructure owners and operators.
Since September 11th, DHS has made great strides to improve the security and resiliency of national critical infrastructure. One of the most significant developments has been the linking of physical and cyber infrastructure. Businesses, governments, and individuals all rely on a vast and interdependent network of physical and cyber systems. At DHS, we continue to work with industry to identify and mitigate threats to the industrial control systems that operate everything from the power supply to water filtration.
An aware and vigilant public is a critical part of securing critical infrastructure. As Secretary Napolitano has said, “Homeland security starts with hometown security and everyone has a role to play.” The Department’s "If You See Something, Say Something™" campaign is a simple and effective program to raise public awareness of suspicious behavior and to emphasize the importance of reporting such activity to the proper state and local law enforcement authorities.
Throughout this month, the Department will reach out to our partners and the public to raise awareness of what we can all do to protect and improve the resiliency of the nation’s vast array of critical assets and systems. It will take all of us working together to ensure these resources remain strong for the next generation.
Follow the Department’s critical infrastructure protection and resilience programs at www.dhs.gov/criticalinfrastructure
Created: 12/21/2011 10:24 AM
Adapted from a post by Director Connie Patrick, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, to the Blog @ Homeland Security.
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) [recently] hosted 21 women in law enforcement as part of FLETC’s Women in Law Enforcement Leadership Training Program at our headquarters in Glynco, GA. FLETC hosted a week-long leadership training program to help promote and support women’s leadership in law enforcement, discuss current leadership challenges for women in law enforcement, and help facilitate career planning.
During the training program, I had the great privilege to join U.S. Secret Service (USSS) Chief of Staff Julia Pierson and FLETC Assistant Directors Cynthia Atwood and Dominick Braccio for a panel discussion on law enforcement leadership topics.
USSS Chief of Staff Pierson began her career as a police officer in Orlando, Florida and then served as a USSS Special Agent assigned to the Miami Field Office. FLETC Assistant Director Atwood was a special agent at the United States Department of Agriculture before coming to FLETC 15 years ago to promote law enforcement training excellence. FLETC Assistant Director Braccio has 32 years of law enforcement experience and recently received the Outstanding Advocate for Women in Federal Law Enforcement Award for his contributions in areas of recruiting, retaining, and promoting women in law enforcement from the Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) Foundation.
During the panel discussion, we noted that, while the law enforcement officers in attendance represented a diverse spectrum of agencies and functions, they shared common experiences as women in law enforcement. Although women make up 47 to 50 percent of the workforce in the United States, they constitute only up to 20 percent of the law enforcement workforce and are underrepresented in the management ranks.
We at FLETC understand that the law enforcement profession as a whole will continue to improve as women bring their skills and experience to leadership roles in law enforcement organizations across the country and around the world, and we look forward to being a part of their good work.
Connie Patrick is Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), DHS’s law enforcement training organization. Last year, FLETC trained more than 70,000 law enforcement professionals in skills including fingerprinting, tracking financial transactions, counterterrorism tactics, securing a building and searching a crime scene.
Created: 12/16/2011 3:30 PM
The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and wireless carriers—including Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon—conducted an end-to-end test of the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS) within New York City’s five boroughs. Throughout the day, OEM sent out test messages directed toward pre-determined locations across New York City between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM EST. Each test message read, “This is a test from NYC Office of Emergency Management. Test Message 1. This is a test.”
CMAS, also known as the Personal Localized Alert Network, is a FEMA-owned emergency notification system that has been created to deliver relevant, timely, effective, and targeted alert messages to mobile devices. CMAS will deliver critical emergency alert information to mobile devices once deployed nationwide in April 2012. By using CMAS, local, tribal, state, and Federal government officials will be able to send 90-character, geographically-targeted critical alert messages to the public warning of imminent threats to life and property. In addition, CMAS will support the dissemination of a Presidential Alert during times of national emergency or disaster as well as AMBER Alerts.
Throughout 2012, S&T and FEMA will be partnering with volunteer originators and disseminators to conduct four regional pilots and a national test. In addition, three CMAS Forums will be held to address how stakeholders representing government and industry can best work together to prepare for CMAS deployment. The next forum CMAS Forum is scheduled February 21, 2012, in conjunction with the 2012 IWCE Conference and Expo in Las Vegas.
For more information on CMAS, please visit the following links: http://www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws/cmas.shtm.
For more information on the test, please visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/pr/11_12_14_wirelessalert_test.shtml.To receive regular updates about CMAS, please create an account at the DHS S&T First Responder Communities of Practice website: https://communities.firstresponder.gov.
Created: 12/15/2011 6:08 PM
Want to learn more about social media and its applications in emergency management and response? Tune in January 18 from 4-5 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute (EMI) webinar “Using Social Media for Emergency Management Practices. Members of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (DHS S&T) Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) will present topics to include the definition of social media, emerging trends and best practices in using social media applications (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, etc.) during all phases of emergency management The webinar will also provide a tutorial on how to access and work within these social media application and an overview on how emergency management and response personnel can help their organizations find a unique voice in social media.
Nearly 300 individuals participated in last webinar via online chat, audio, and other platforms. For more information, go to http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/webinars/
About the Virtual Social Media Working Group
Recognizing the need to address the challenges associated with social media for emergency response and public safety, DHS S&T established the VSMWG. The mission of the VSMWG is to provide recommendations to the emergency preparedness and response community on the safe and sustainable use of social media technologies before, during, and after emergencies.
Drawn from a cross-section of subject matter experts from local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal responders from across the United States, VSMWG members are establishing and collecting best practices and solutions that can be leveraged by responders throughout the nation’s emergency preparedness and response community. For more information and to participate in the discussion, please join DHS First Responder Communities of Practice at www.communities.firstresponder.gov.
FEMA EMI Webinar Series
The FEMA EMI Mission Support Branch offers a series of online webinars designed for tribal, state, and local emergency management personnel. The webinars are presented on the first Wednesday of each month at 1:00 PM Eastern Standard Time via the worldwide web. For more information on EMI’s webinar series, visit http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/webinars/.
Created: 12/14/2011 3:13 PM
At DHS Science & Technology First Responder Communities of Practice (FRCoP), we listen to our users. That’s what social media is all about– an open dialogue. Based requests from users, we have implemented a new daily digest email that will come to users once a day to alert them of the activities from the Communities to which our users have subscribed. The email highlights new blog posts, discussion questions, document uploads, wall posts and more.
If you’re already a member you should automatically be receiving these emails. You can turn this feature off or individually subscribe to content at any time by managing your subscription elections at https://communities.firstresponder.gov/group/guest/manage-subscriptions.
The idea for the email digest surfaced during a live demo at this summer’s DHS S&T First Responder Resource Group (FRRG) inaugural meeting. One of our users, Tom Sorley, suggested adding such a feature. Sorley is Deputy Director, Radio Communication Services, with the City of Houston’s Information Technology Department and a member of the FRRG, which is composed of a group of over 120 professionals representing the emergency preparedness and response community. Members speak for the needs of their respective disciplines, many of them representing major national associations as they provide feedback to DHS.
We value your feedback, so keep it coming by emailing the Communities of Practice team at FR.Communities@hq.dhs.gov.
Created: 12/8/2011 5:37 PM
Have you or anyone you know ever been transported to a medical facility while strapped to a backboard? Chances are if you’ve required medical attention and paramedics had had to come to your aid to move you, you’ve been carried out on one of these devices. A single backboard carries many people over the course of a single year. To the naked eye, the backboard might look clean, albeit a bit scuffed up from repeated use. But what’s really on that hard plastic surface where your body is resting?
In a study of 55 backboards from central and south Florida, retired firefighter and paramedic Scott Neusch, along with the University of Miami, found that every one of the “in-service” backboards they tested were contaminated with infectious microbes, such as MRSA, left by the board's contact with blood, vomit, and other biological matter. These organisms reside on the surface of the boards and especially in the gashes, scrapes, and adhesive residue on backboards – even after the boards go through hospital scrubbers.
Would you want to be lying on a dirty backboard? Neusch and his colleagues, Joe McCluan and Mark Steinert, think not. That's why they submitted an idea for a disposable backboard cover to the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate’s (DHS S&T) TechSolutions program. TechSolutions worked with these first responders to make their idea a reality. In the end, they produced a new product: Board Armor, a non-porous, medical grade Tyvek material, which was finalized and commercially released in September.
Board Armor fits all sizes of commercially available backboards and is disposable – it's meant for one-time use for each new patient. Cuffed at the ends to afford a better grip to the backboard edges and with adhesive strips to help it stick to the surface of the board, Board Armor offers a solution to contaminated backboards by:
Preventing bodily fluids and other matter from seeping into the backboard surface;
Preventing contaminants on the backboard surface from being transmitted to the patient; and
Reducing the turn-around time for paramedics and “out of service” backboards by eliminating the need to clean the boards after each use.
By partnering with Neusch, McCluan, and Steinert, DHS S&T addressed a critical technology capability gap for EMS practitioners nationwide, as well as patients who require the use of backboards. Learn more about Board Armor at www.advancedemsdesigns.com.
Are you a first responder with a technology idea that would make your job safer and easier to do? Submit your idea to TechSolutions and DHS S&T may partner with you to make your idea into something tangible!
Created: 11/21/2011 2:38 PM
By G. Thomas Steele and M. L. Kingsley
In recent years, car makers have been introducing a new breed of vehicles designed specifically for law enforcement. Ford unveiled a new version of its longstanding Police Interceptor; Chevrolet revived and modified its Caprice model for law-enforcement use. Newcomer Carbon Motors is marketing its “purpose-built” LE-specific E7, and Chrysler’s new 2012 Dodge Charger Pursuit V8 model has reportedly clocked the fastest lap time in the history of the Michigan State Police annual Police Vehicle Evaluation Test.[i]
As expected, all of these are equipped with powerful engines, modifications for high performance, and improved safety features like ballistic door panels. But beyond that, this emerging generation also offers a variety of high-tech capabilities and equipment options that cater to law enforcement needs, such as license-plate readers, infrared cameras, and communications technologies that link the car into public safety information networks.
If you're considering upgrading your department's fleet to take advantage of the new capabilities on the market, you will have to evaluate more than just price, safety, performance, and fuel economy. Today’s average car has over 10 million lines of computer code in its operating system; a specialty police car, far more. Plus, as you add technology options, you must ask certain questions: When adding equipment, has the computer code been tested thoroughly to ensure that it works under unusual conditions? Is that code encrypted? Who maintains it and what is the cost? What happens if a vital component/system fails?
Data interconnectivity is also a significant part of the appeal of the new cars. With the latest technologies, a cop on the street might be able to send license-plate identification data to headquarters instantly or plug into the geographic information system (GIS) used by local partner agencies. It's important, therefore, to check that any new equipment is fully interconnective with your local agencies. It's also important to check other compatibilities and compliances, such as making sure data transmitted to and from the car doesn’t violate local, state, tribal or federal privacy regulations or agreements.
The new breed of law enforcement-specific vehicles is becoming increasingly impressive, with attributes playing up improved safety, better power and handling, and technologies to make street work more effective. Selecting intelligently from constantly morphing high-tech vehicles and equipment will also take a new breed of evaluation.
G. Thomas Steele is a communications staffer at the University of Maryland, College Park and a life member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). His past work includes President of the IACP Law Enforcement Information Management Section, Chief Information Officer (Retired), Alexandria, Virginia, Police Department, and Delaware Department of Homeland Security; M. L. Kingsley is freelance writer and consultant in Bethesda, Maryland.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. government. Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users and the Department of Homeland Security is not responsible for any content on these websites. Furthermore, the placement of the links on this website does not constitute an endorsement of any programs, policies or views of the organizations by the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government.
Created: 11/1/2011 4:04 PM
by Stephanie Slater
Law enforcement now has plenty of resources for communicating with the public online; the past few years have seen an explosion in the use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others. But where do I go to communicate with others in my field or find advice when an issue arises?
Lately, I’ve been using a great tool called the First Responder Communities of Practice, and it is increasingly the place I turn for networking and sharing information with others in the field. After joining the site, located at http://Communities.FirstResponder.gov, members have unprecedented access to practitioners across the country representing nearly every expertise imaginable. I’ve been impressed with how easy it is to locate and ask questions of other public information officers and first responders whose years of experience well surpass mine.
Site members use discussion boards, shared document repositories, wikis, and other tools to collaborate on projects and share information with one another. The site was created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate to foster information sharing across all homeland security related fields. I’d encourage anyone who is interested to sign up for an account and begin exploring what’s available. It’s also easy to share your own resources and get your name out in front of a nation-wide audience.
You will quickly notice the unique chance for cross-disciplinary information sharing, meaning that you can discuss common issues with groups such as the fire service or non-profit organizations. As the world becomes more interconnected and strained budgets force further coordination of operations and resources, I think the site is an impressive place to connect on these efforts. It’s hard to imagine the wealth of knowledge and potential for collaboration opportunities on another site. And the best part, especially in today’s budgetary environment, is it’s free!
In addition to the Communities of Practice site, I am also participating in the DHS S&T led Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG). It has been fascinating to explore the potential of social media tools and to hear from other practitioners across the country regarding the integration of these technologies into their agencies. Our discussions so far have reinforced the fact that social media for law enforcement is all about engaging the community, humanizing the agency, and keeping citizens informed at all times. What better way is there to achieve these goals than for agencies to come together across geographic regions and public safety disciplines to share best practices?
Soon, the working group will release to the public a Social Media Guidance document containing a breakdown of all the issues to consider when implementing social media in a public safety organization. It is a great resource for users of any skill level who want to get an overview of the benefits and strategies for social media in police work. As the world embraces social media and the technology is integrated further into the lives of our community, I feel confident that the members of this working group will keep public safety at the forefront of these changes.
Both of these initiatives have me more excited than ever about how these tools will shape the way we work online, engage our community and most importantly, keep them safe!
To join DHS S&T First Responder Communities of Practice and learn more about the Virtual Social Media Working Group, visit http://Communities.FirstResponder.gov.
Stephanie Slater became the Boynton Beach Police Department’s Public Information Officer in April 2007, following seven years as a newspaper reporter. Slater, a New York native, is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she majored in print journalism. Slater is the spokeswoman for the Boynton Beach Police Department, serving as the liaison between the officers, the media and the public. She writes the department’s press releases, provides television news interviews, maintains the department’s Web sites (bbpd.org, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and oversees the department’s Officer of the Month program. Slater is a member of the National Public Information Officers Association and an executive board member with the Florida Law Enforcement Public Information Officers Association. Follow the Boynton Beach Police on Facebook (www.facebook.com/boyntonbeachpolice) and Twitter (@bbpd).
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government. Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users and the Department of Homeland Security is not responsible for any content on these websites. Furthermore, the placement of the links on this website does not constitute an endorsement of any programs, policies or views of the organizations by the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government.
Created: 10/27/2011 12:15 PM
This summer’s Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness (TCIP) conference brought together first responders, government officials, academic experts and others to share their knowledge of technological advances made over the past 10 years that strengthen our nation's ability to handle emergencies. Presenters, invited by the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the Department of Defense focused on the use of technology in prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. Topics included responses to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, personal location and tracking technologies, new aviation systems and tools, biosurveillance, addressing the active shooter threat, social media alerts and warnings, and more. To view presentations from this year’s conference, click here: http://www.justnet.org/Pages/2011-TCIP-Presentations.aspx To learn more about the conference, click here http://www.tcipexpo.com/
Created: 10/26/2011 12:25 PM
Do you want to get started sharing emergency information with nearby jurisdictions? Have you heard about Virtual USA? Check out the Virtual USA Implementation Tool at https://vusa.us/doc/bvusa/index.html. It outlines a methodology for leaders from local, state, tribal, regional or Federal entities who are developing their own information-sharing and visualization strategies, in line with the Virtual USA Model. Virtual USA is a federal initiative that promotes cross-jurisdictional information sharing and collaboration among the homeland security and emergency management community. The Implementation Tool offers lessons learned from Virtual USA’s Southeast and Pacific Northwest Pilots.
Virtual USA is developing a technical system and operational guidelines for sharing incident response information through existing systems and geospatial platforms. A number of Virtual USA pilot programs are focused on deploying this capability within the homeland security and emergency management community to save lives, protect property, and improve operational efficiencies. Virtual USA is using a participatory model to link the government at all levels. Users will be able to access information based upon their role and define how to display that information on a web-based map. Get the tool now here: https://vusa.us/doc/bvusa/index.html
Created: 10/19/2011 2:12 PM
Emergency Management requires a tremendous amount of coordination between agencies, and often requires working across borders and jurisdictions. Toward that end, the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) is leading an effort to develop a regional information sharing capability that will allow its member states to share data instantly and seamlessly. On May 16-20, 2011, the CUSEC states participated in the National Level Exercise (NLE) led by FEMA to demonstrate its newly built information sharing capability. The states shared information leveraging the technical components of Virtual USA, a product supported by DHS S&T. To give it a proper test, the exercise simulated a 7.7 magnitude earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone – an area that lies at the junction of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, and Kentucky – and then, within in each state's emergency operations center, simulated the responses.
The timing of this exercise proved excellent.
Just a few days before the NLE began, heavy rains had led to flooding in Missouri, and the day after the exercise ended, tornadoes hit throughout the Midwest. These tornadoes caused devastation throughout the CUSEC states, most notably in the city of Joplin, Missouri, where over a hundred people were killed. To respond to and recover from these disasters as efficiently and best as possible, the CUSEC states put to use various components of the newly established regional information sharing capability, as well as the processes and relationships developed during its creation.
To monitor and assess the situation on the ground, the Missouri National Guard and Emergency Management Agency (EMA) used a workflow that had been developed for the CUSEC information sharing pilot by the Tennessee EMA. To get accurate high-level views of critical infrastructure and key resources, the Missouri EMA put to use a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) tool that had been created during the CUSEC pilot. The CAP tool collected post-disaster aerial reconnaissance photos of critical infrastructure taken by the CAP, and then placed those pictures into Web-enabled feeds of geo-referenced pictures of the areas, creating up-to-date composite maps of the affected areas. The composite maps data feed was shared with other entities in Missouri, and was made available to representatives in Iowa, Virginia, and CUSEC member states, providing valuable situational awareness and decision support intelligence for stakeholders in the region.
The information collected by the Missouri EMA and National Guard was also shared immediately with operators and decision makers in the region. The shared information became part of the planned and coordinated response efforts in at least five different cases, including:
· Securing the area around the overtopped Sugar Tree Levee;
· Monitoring the water levels at the Peteseau Bend Levee;
· Surveying a power plant and railroads surrounded by water and re-routing traffic to sustain the delivery of coal and personnel to the plant;
· Assessing damage at key hospitals in the area; and
· Determining road closures along I-29 that runs through Missouri and Iowa.
In the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, the Missouri EMA and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) together identified both the tornado’s path and the location of structural damage four days before either the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Weather Service provided such reports.
For the participating states, the CUSEC pilot has brought lasting benefits. They now have a sustainable process for more coordinated response efforts, improved real-time situational awareness and coordination of preventive measures and response and recovery efforts during a real event. In addition, the development of the process has led to strong partnerships that foster further regional collaboration between all levels of government. And the timing couldn't have been better.
Created: 10/11/2011 12:46 PM
With the plethora of detection equipment on the market nowadays, it is difficult for facility and security managers to know what chemical, biological or other types of sensors may or may not meet their needs. That’s because there have been no official standards for this type of equipment. The recently published National Strategy for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Standards, produced by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate[m2] (S&T) and the Department Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will ultimately make it easier to make these determinations and protect an organization’s people and assets.
The dilemma has been a challenge. Take for example, a facilities manager at a prominent company headquartered in New York who was looking to protect employees from a variety of threats. One of many protective recommendations was to purchase and install CBRNE detection units for the building. The company’s CEO approved the purchase and the facilities manager searched for the best option. Unable to find local, state, or Federal standards for the CBRNE detection equipment, he asked colleagues for recommendations, then, ultimately ordered and installed the technology.
Soon afterward, the CRBNE equipment proved to be effective, setting off an alarm when chemical fumes were detected in the hallways. The fumes, however, were from the solvents the cleaning crew uses to mop and polish the floors. The false alarm caused local emergency responders and a HAZMAT team to scramble to the building and assess the situation. This scenario repeated itself over and over again for a few weeks. Finally, New York State officials recognize the problem — the faulty CBRNE detection unit. The system has to be shut down to stop the expensive nightly response.
Similar stories spurred the state of New York to mitigate the expensive issue by developing a standard for companies to purchase and manage CBRNE equipment. The NY CBRNE detection equipment regulation requires companies planning to procure and install these systems to submit applications that include equipment details, standard operating procedures, and how they plan to manage emergencies with local responders and the state Department of Health. The New York State regulation requires companies to evaluate the technology against state requirements. Further, the company must have a certified technician on staff full-time to manage the equipment.
Currently, the Federal government is working to coordinate the development of these much-needed CBRNE standards. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on Homeland & National Security chartered the Subcommittee on Standards (SOS) to serve as an interagency forum to gather CBRNE Federal stakeholders to develop CBRNE standards. The SOS is co-chaired by DHS S&T and NIST. The National Strategy for CBRNE Standards document is the first of a number of planned publications by the SOS. The Strategy covers equipment used by Federal, State, local, and tribal responders for CBRNE detection, protection, and decontamination.
The Strategy provides an outline to develop CBRNE standards by 2020 for:
· standard operating procedures, and
· A National infrastructure for Test and Evaluation of CBRNE Equipment.
The Strategy provides a framework for coordinated CBRNE investment activities among:
· agency leaders,
· program managers,
· the research and testing community, and
· the private sector.
Learn more about the National Strategy for CBRNE Standards on the White House Office for Science and Technology Policy Website.
Created: 10/11/2011 12:33 PM
Even heroes can fall victim to the dehydration and overheating. A new mobile application from the Department of Labor helps first responders and others working in extreme conditions avoid heat-related illness. The app lets workers and supervisors calculate the heat index, pulling together air temperature and relative humidity to determine how hot it really feels to a human being. With one click, users can get reminders about protective measures, including reminders about drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. The app is already available for Android, coming soon to the Blackberry and iPhone. To get it, go to http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.
For more information about safety while working in the heat, see OSHA’s heat illness webpage, including new online guidance about using the heat index to protect workers.
Created: 10/11/2011 11:12 AM
The integration of social media and emergency management for enhanced communications and situational awareness has been a topic of national discussion increasing in popularity with each emergency or large-scale event. A returning concern is the credibility and accuracy of data collected via public channels. Another is how to sift through the volumes of information available during a crisis or other large-scale event to discover information that is useful to you. Leveraging lessons learned and best practices identified by the emergency response community (including volunteers, non-profits, academia, and private sector partners), the DHS Science and Technology Directorate was able to aggregate Twitter feeds from local, state, federal, NGO, and private sector officials from every state on the Eastern Seaboard into a web service during the recent response to Hurricane Irene.
Using a web service makes the data dynamic; in other words, data feeds generated with a “web services” approach ensures that the information provided is automatically updated in real time and represents the most up-to-date information possible. There are two ways to digest the data we’ve provided:
• Within Your Own Mapping Capability
The web services are discoverable on the Virtual USA (vUSA) website, https://web.vusa.us, and can be viewed in any EOC’s existing map viewer, such as Google Earth or an ArcGIS based viewer. Users need only to have a vUSA account to access the information. These feeds enable Emergency Operations Centers or anyone with a common smartphone to utilize geo-enabled services and/or files in conjunction with their own situational awareness data in their native mapping environment.
• Public Data
For those without a central mapping capability, a Representational State Transfer (REST) service is viewable courtesy of the Florida Division of Emergency Management at http://map.floridadisaster.org/Gator/.
Development of the service was inspired by another crowd-sourcing effort, in which the location of Twitter profiles of social media experts, government agencies, the media, and other response organization on the Eastern Seaboard were mapped in preparation for Hurricane Irene. This map represents the efforts of a growing community of emergency managers and practitioners who are focused on the integration of social media and emergency management - the Social Media and Emergency Management (SMEM) Initiative.
For more information, follow #SMEM on Twitter. Volunteers also lead weekly chats on a variety of topics relating to the integration of technology and emergency management, including social media, geospatial capabilities, policies, and more by following #SMEMchat on Fridays at 12:30 P.M. EST.
The Virtual Social Media Working Group
DHS Science and Technology facilitates the Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG), whose mission is to provide recommendations to the emergency preparedness, response, and homeland security communities on the safe and sustainable use of social media before, during, and after emergencies. Members of the group represent several agencies, disciplines, and sectors from across the country and are currently working on developing a social media guide to assist agencies who are just getting started in the implementation of social media through examples and use cases. For more information on the VSMWG, please request membership to DHS First Responder Communities of Practice and join the “Make America Safer through Social Media” community (www.communities.firstresponder.gov).
Created: 9/11/2011 4:23 PM
A new web-based toolkit helps local fire departments defend against budget cuts and advocate for continued investment in fire prevention programs. Every day, a fire department responds to a fire every 23 seconds, someone is injured every 31 minutes, and every three hours someone dies, according to the Strategic Fire project, funded by a DHS Fire Prevention and Safety Grant to the Institution of Fire Engineers USA Branch (IFE-USA). Fires cause $15.5 billion in property damage each year and can damage a community and its economy through loss of business, jobs and tax revenue. The kit helps departments show their elected leadership what that really means. It offers tips on developing relationships with community leaders, telling your story, implementing an advocacy program and working with the media. You can find the Vision 20/20 Fire Prevention Advocacy Toolkit at StrategicFire.org. You can also learn more about Vision 20/20 by following the project on Twitter @strategicfire and Facebook at www.Facebook.com/strategicfire.
Created: 7/19/2011 10:27 AM
Vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of firefighter deaths each year, killing hundreds and representing 25 percent of all on-duty fatalities. Safety Tops Our Priorities (STOP), a new campaign sponsored by the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) offers educational resources on the dangers of riding sans seatbelt, on the job, and off. The first training in the program – STOP: Seatbelts Top Our Priorities – is now available online here (access code 6832). The free 30-minute training module focuses on vehicle safety with an emphasis on seatbelt use. STOP offers completion tracking capabilities so departments can make sure their members have completed the course, and certificates of successful completion can be printed. The NVFC also encourages departments to have all their members sign the International First Responder Seat Belt Pledge. The pledge was created in 2006 in memory of firefighter Brian Hutton, who died after falling from his fire truck on the way to a call. More than 850 departments and 150,000 firefighters – including the NVFC Board of Directors – have signed the Seatbelt Pledge.
Created: 7/15/2011 10:24 AM
Screams and taunts erupt from inside prison walls on a dark rainy day in West Virginia. Inside the cafeteria, inmates are loose, yelling, cursing and throwing things. A response team arrives in full riot gear, brandishing shields and launching flash bangs that blast purple smoke into the air as they advance. It’s probably the only time you’ll see an inmate pat a corrections officer on the back after being tackled, pepper sprayed and even hit with paintballs. That’s because the inmates are enthusiastic student volunteers from area colleges dressed in orange prison jumpsuits – and safety glasses and mouth guards – and the officers are training and testing new law enforcement technologies at the Mock Prison Riot.
The Mock Prison Riot is held once a year for four days at the West Virginia State Penitentiary, a gothic style, 100-year-old former prison that was decommissioned in 1996. An actual, deadly riot occurred on the grounds in 1986. At this year’s Mock Prison Riot, more than 1,200 correctional and law enforcement officers attended from 35 states and 11 countries. They viewed, or tested, 97 different technologies in 60 scenarios. Foreign visitors included delegates from Canada, Bahamas, Singapore, Brazil, Australia, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Estonia, Finland and Israel.
The Riot is a great chance for officers to play with new masks, non-lethal weapons, smoke cannons and other gear. The Department of Homeland Security’s HS S&T’s Patti Wolfhope brought along a new biometric reader known as the “Four Finger Slap.” The handheld device is designed to identify inmates, disaster victims or anyone else using biometric markers including fingerprints, facial characteristics and iris. The riot allows for technology developers to gather immediate feedback on their tools for consideration and modification to the product prior to production.
The week’s events kick off with a competition that tests marksmanship, endurance, teamwork and even hostage rescue skills. During the following days, teams react to a series of realistic scenarios involving inmate volunteers acting up in the cell blocks, the cafeteria, the infirmary and even a school bus. As a finale, a helicopter landed in the yard, under SWAT cover, as a medical crew rescued a corrections officer (dummy) amidst an inmate disturbance. If you and your team are interested in participating in the next Riot, go to www.mockprisonriot.org.
Created: 6/16/2011 2:17 PM
During wildfire outbreaks, first responders need a tool that quickly delivers information and imagery to help them contain and combat wildfires. There are automated systems currently available which use low resolution satellite imagery to detect wildfires, but these satellites see the earth as a grid of 1 kilometer-by-1 kilometer squares, which limits their ability to precisely locate the fire. Funded by the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center Pacific is developing a toolset that quickly and automatically detects wildfires from wide-footprint, high resolution commercial satellite imagery. Systems that use high resolution imagery generally require image analysts to manually search for fires, which takes up valuable time. Depending on fire size and image size it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours to use a satellite image to determine where the fires are, when every second counts. The RAPIER Fire Detection System (FDS) gets it done in under a minute. Additionally, certain satellites provide information that allows the RAPIER FDS to even locate fires through thick smoke. The RAPIER FDS creates small, high quality files that are easy to email or transfer. To download RAPIER Fire, try it out and comment on it, log into your First Responder Communities of Practice account, join the Fire Community, click on Documents and in the second folder, see the subfolder, RAPIER Fire Detection System. Don’t have a First Responder Communities of Practice account? Click here to apply for one. To see a demonstration video, click here.
Created: 1/27/2011 12:18 PM
1. Because you’re part of a community working to ensure the safety of our nation…
Solving today’s challenges requires collaboration and information-sharing across the entire public safety community. First Responder Communities of Practice is the fastest growing collaboration platform developed specifically for those working in homeland security and public safety. Site membership is open to those working in public safety or homeland security, including government-sponsored citizens, government employees, and academia.
2. Because you are facing limited time and resources…
Time constraints and limited resources make it difficult to schedule face-to-face meetings, especially when travel is required. First Responder Communities of Practice offers its members a place to chat in real-time, email, develop documents, share calendar events, ask questions and respond to discussion threads, upload and access shared documents through discussion boards, email and online chat, blogs, wiki, calendar, document library, and bookmarking.
3. Because the nature of your work requires a trusted environment…
To join First Responder Communities of Practice, members must provide a sponsor and are vetted by DHS to verify their identity. And unlike most social media Websites that are often blocked by government firewalls, First Responder Communities of Practice is accessible from all government and non-government locations. The trusted nature of the site also allows for the storage of “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) and “Sensitive But Unclassified” (SBU) materials.
4. Because you want to find and stay in touch with colleagues in your field and across disciplines and jurisdictions…
Members of First Responder Communities of Practice represent a wide range of homeland security and public safety professionals, from all 50 states and across many disciplines. Members can update their profile with a photo, bio, certifications and education, and expertise, and can connect with other members. The site also offers email and real-time chat.
5. Because you’re always on the go and need to stay in touch with colleagues on tasks, projects, and key deliverables…
On First Responder Communities of Practice, staying connected while on travel or in the field is simple and quick. Members can subscribe to content being published from all tools and receive email alerts of replies to new discussion threads, blogs, document uploads, calendar events, and messages. Subscriptions help you to stay up to date on site activities without having to log-in.
6. Because you’re an expert in your field and want to share your expertise with other professionals and/or wish to seek expertise from others…
The nation’s public safety and homeland security professionals face similar challenges; often, documents or templates created by one agency can be used for another. But, it can be costly and complicated to share these resources, especially when the nature of the work requires additional security protections. First Responder Communities of Practice is developed specifically for this purpose. Become recognized in your field by sharing your expertise and contributing to the development of documents, replying to questions and discussion within Communities, or uploading and sharing templates and plans, while soliciting expertise, lessons learned, and best practices from others.
7. Because you want to contribute and learn about a variety of topics relating to your profession…
On First Responder Communities of Practice, you can join Communities that interest you, or create your own Community for a specific topic or project. DHS can help you get started. The site offers two types of Communities: Open Communities for discussion and collaboration on a general topic like Emergency Management, Law Enforcement, or Search and Rescue; Restricted Communities are for specific projects or initiatives. Membership is controlled by the Community administrator (site member who request to create a new Community) who can add or remove members as necessary.
8. Because you’re looking for a better way to work with your colleagues…
Conflicting schedules make it difficult to plan meetings and solicit feedback in an organized manner. Email isn’t always the best solution for sharing documents (many agencies limit message size to 12 MB or smaller) or for maintaining version control. And it’s often tough to quickly find messages or information in your inbox or shared folders. Site members can upload files up to 25 MB per instance and then store in one central location for easy access, and can edit and collaborate via the site’s wiki, discussion threads, and blogs.
9. Because you want to quickly find information, contacts, and resources in one place…
Finding and sharing important documents and contact information can be cumbersome, especially across agencies and departments. First Responder Communities of Practice members can search for site content, Communities, and colleagues by keyword, location, or discipline and expertise. The site’s member directory, tagging, and dynamic search make it easy to locate and share content and documents and maintain accurate contact lists.
10. Because you need a way to stay in touch and engaged with colleagues in between conference calls and meetings…
Continuing the conversation, gathering and managing feedback on documents, and following up on action items isn’t easy, especially when conference calls or meetings are infrequent or cancelled. On First Responder Communities of Practice, you can ask project members to add comments or make edits to documents, reply to discussion and questions, or upload resources. Members can chat with colleagues in real-time, subscribe to receive notification of site activities, and Community Administrators can message Community members through the site’s email capability.
Created: 1/17/2011 8:13 AM
Learn for free at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness
If you’re a first responder you can learn how to handle chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive weapons at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Ala. It’s the only federally chartered Weapons of Mass Destruction training center in the United States. Training is free for state, local and tribal government first responders. CDP will fly you into Atlanta airport, pick you up, take you to the facility and provide all meals and lodging. For more information, click here.
Created: 1/13/2011 12:49 PM
The DHS First Responder Communities of Practice team is getting to know first responders in various disciplines across the country who are actively using social media for emergency preparedness and response. We’ve been learning how these energetic individuals are beginning to capitalize on the multitude of free, fast and efficient social media tools that are available to anyone, with just the click of a button.
Take Edward Vassallo for example. As Ready Coordinator for the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management , Vassallo has helped the department launch remarkably active websites on Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, YouTube, Blogger and Twitter – where they have accumulated over 2,800 followers. Vassallo regularly posts a “tip of the week” to keep Philadelphia citizens engaged – on topics ranging from events in the city to barbeque safety. During emergencies, the department utilizes a regional emergency text and email alert system by connecting the RSS feeds from that system with their Facebook and Twitter accounts. This allows the messages generated remotely from the alert system to be automatically and seamlessly pushed out to their department websites.
In Boca Raton, Florida, Mark Economou has helped place the city police department at the forefront of the social media field, using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a ‘Chief’s Corner’ page – where visitors can view all social media activities of the police department Chief in one place. As Public Information Manager, Economou actively engages the community in constant conversation via Twitter, posting about recent arrests, major road closures, and how to stay safe. On their Facebook page, he posts items ranging from short, news-style videos to stories detailing local crimes. Are you a first responder using social media? Do you have advice to share with the first responder community? We encourage you to contribute! Whether you’re just starting to dabble in social media and Web enabled technologies or already well on your way, we’d love to hear about your experiences. Visit First Responder Communities of Practice to sign-up for an account and get involved in the discussion happening in the “Make America Safer through Social Media” Community.
Created: 11/23/2010 12:29 PM
FEMA’s Responder Knowledge Base (www.rkb.us) contains a ton of great information. To bring the breadth and depth of the RKB’s information to users’ attention, a new feature was added to the site’s homepage: RKB Highlights. RKB Highlights provides a single link that describes a topic first responders encounter in the field. Clicking on it sends users to a page that provides a list of links to all of the information the RKB has on that particular topic. The first RKB Highlight focused on content concerning communications and interoperability. Upcoming topics for RKB Highlights include CBRNE, EMS, firefighting, law enforcement, and safety notices. For more information on the Highlights tool offered on the RKB Website, or to recommend a topic, please e-mail RKBMailbox@us.saic.com or call 1-877-FEMA-RKB (1-877-336-2752).
The goal of the Highlights feature is to provide users with as much information as possible about a specific topic in a single location, helping the RKB’s more than 73,500 users quickly find what they need. Within each RKB Highlight, users can find information about related certifications and declarations, operational assessments, publications and references, standards, training, and Weblinks.
Created: 10/25/2010 6:15 AM
Membership on First Responder Communities of Practice exceeded the 1,000-user mark in September 2010. Created by the Science & Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS S&T), this vetted community of members focuses on emergency preparedness, response, recovery, resilience and other homeland security topics and issues.
More than 1, 100 First Responders, First Receivers, and homeland security personnel are connecting and collaborating on the DHS S&T First Responder Communities of Practice – why aren’t you? The site is a professional networking, collaboration, and communication platform designed specifically to focus on creating active communities around key issues, topics, and projects that First Responders, First Receivers, and homeland security personnel across the country are discussing. We have created a national dialogue via a trusted platform that can assist you in solving your homeland security problems, as well as help you find solutions that will assist you in conducting your missions more safely, efficiently, and effectively. Responders are looking for the ideas and wealth of experience that new members can bring to the discussion. To get involved, go to https://Communities.FirstResponder.gov and request an account. Current members can use the “Invite Colleagues” function on the site to ask their peers to join and weigh in on important topics. Don’t be the last of your colleagues to join!
Created: 10/7/2010 7:50 AM
First responders collect a great deal of information on paper in the field, which is where it often languishes before it’s more broadly available for analysis and decision making. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) TechSolutions program recently held a focus group to explore digital pen technology as a tool to speed data capture and sharing without requiring mobile computers or workflow changes. The focus group brought together first responders from across the country representing law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, and emergency management, and gave them a chance to test out a digital pen solution. The digital pen, used like a regular ballpoint pen, captures and stores written information via scanning technology and specialized software.
First responders can use the digital pens to write on paper forms, maps, and building plans. Teams print forms, maps, and PDF files from their native applications using office printers and ordinary paper. The digital pen creates a unique digital watermark –like a 2D barcode—on each print that enables the digital pen and software to track and associate handwriting on each print with the original source files. Printed pages are filled out or marked up with ink using the digital pen, which also has a sensor, processor, and memory. As the pen writes, handwriting is digitized and stored on the pen. Data can be uploaded directly into agency databases using Microsoft Office, SharePoint, PDF, or ArcGIS files through a USB connection or uploaded through a BlackBerry device using Bluetooth. Testing is currently underway to support data transfer using iPhones and Android-based cell phones.
First responder participants in the focus group provided feedback on how the digital pen solution could be used and improved upon. TechSolutions will use the results of this focus group to determine its next steps.
The TechSolutions program was established by the DHS S&T First Responder Technologies (R-Tech) program to provide information, resources, and technology solutions that address mission capability gaps identified by the emergency response community. The goal of TechSolutions is to field technologies that meet 80 percent of the operational requirement, in a 12- to 15-month time frame, at a cost commensurate with the proposal. Goals will be accomplished through rapid prototyping or the identification of existing technologies that satisfy identified requirements. To submit a capability need or to learn more about TechSolutions, please visit www.TechSolutions.DHS.gov.
Created: 10/7/2010 7:46 AM
"It can't happen to me! I'm a good driver!" That's what too many first responders think when it comes to vehicle accidents and roadway injuries and deaths. But a new report from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the U.S. Fire Administration says that law enforcement officers are more likely to be killed or injured by a vehicle than a weapon, according to the report, Best Practices for Emergency Vehicle and Roadway Operations Safety in the Emergency Services. And the number of firefighter deaths and injures related to roadway incidents “vastly exceeds” those in caused by scene entrapments and rapid interventions.
Crashes are “a major cause of on-duty fatalities,” says Acting U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn A. Gaines. And the number of police officers, firefighters, EMTs and others struck and killed by vehicles as they work by the roadside is “disturbing and unacceptable,” says IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger.
In one case study, two Fort Lauderdale fire fighters managed to survive a high speed rear collision that ended up tipping their ambulance on its side because they were wearing seatbelts. The two cut themselves out, extinguished the flames shooting out of the car that hit them, and called for help using a radio that had been ejected from their rig.
Other first responders profiled in the study weren’t so lucky. An Illinois State Police Acting Master Sergeant began his work day at 7 a.m. in Champaign. The 16-year veteran was called to assist with an investigation into a local police department’s SWAT situation that ended with a subject shooting himself. The Sergeant worked well over his normal eight-hour shift and reported for his next shift less than six hours later. On his way home from that shift – and while talking on his cell phone – he missed a stop sign, skidded through the intersection and was struck on the passenger side by a pickup truck. His car than struck a utility pole and landed in a ditch. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The report urges first responders to drive at a reasonable speed, wear seatbelts and be extra cautious when fatigue may be a factor. And of course to avoid distractions such as cell phones.
Responders to an incident scene should use emergency vehicles, parked at an angle, to shield them from the flow of traffic and wear reflective vest or clothing.
Download the full report here
Created: 9/29/2010 8:05 AM
First responders and emergency managers in the regions affected by the oil spill are using a pilot project from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deal with the aftermath.
About a year and a half ago, DHS launched a pilot project to help Southeastern states share real-time information during an emergency. Now our federal, state, and local officials from 10 states are putting it to use. That pilot, the Southeast Regional Operations Platform Pilot (SE ROPP), is supporting response to the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. SE ROPP is part of the DHS Virtual USA (vUSA) initiative, which is developing a nationwide information-sharing capability that improves emergency coordination in a cost-effective way.
Louisiana’s Virtual Louisiana team from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness granted pilot participants real-time access to incident reports from state agencies (e.g., environmental, poison control, and emergency management). These reports include the latest data on oil spill sightings, cleanup progress, affected wildlife, and broken booms. The information helps agencies across the region coordinate response efforts. “Building upon lessons learned from events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, we have since formed a strong coalition with our colleagues in neighboring states throughout the region through the Virtual USA information-sharing initiative supported by DHS,” says Travis Johns, IT Applications Branch Manager for the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Florida state officials are studying maps of spilled oil on the state’s Geospatial Assessment Tool for Operations and Response (GATOR), a geospatial platform developed during the pilot, to display emergency data. The images help environmental officials decide where oil can be successfully recovered. “The [Florida State Emergency Response Team] SERT has been collecting geospatial data for boom verification, natural resources data, reconnaissance reports, geotagged photographs, and other data related to this response,” says David Halstead, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
For more information on SE ROPP and vUSA, visit www.firstresponder.gov/Pages/VirtualUSA.aspx
Created: 9/16/2010 9:15 AM
On September 24, 2010, a major earthquake will trigger an oil spill off the coast of Southern California, damaging critical infrastructure and driving residents from their homes. Or at least, that’s the premise of Exercise 24, an experiment to test the power of social media and online collaboration to assemble resources in a crisis. Exercise 24 is being organized by San Diego State University’s Immersive Visualization Center, known as the Viz Center. The Viz Center is involved in humanitarian assistance disaster relief for groups like the U.S. Navy and the use of Cloud Computing, mobile devices, and open-source software to assist decision-makers and the public (http://www.inrelief.org). Exercise 24 aims “to explore collaborative solutions to emergency response, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and environmental impact challenges associated with a major earthquake.” The idea is to see how national and international authorities, organizations and citizens would react to such an event in southern California – who and what they would send and how they would communicate with the boots on the ground. Exercise 24 is seeking participants. The invite is open to municipal, state, federal, and tribal governments and organizations, non-government organizations, education centers, faith-based groups, volunteer groups, businesses, and individuals. Any costs would be paid by the participants themselves.
If you’re interested in participating in or observing Exercise 24 on September 24, go to InRelief.org (https://sites.google.com/a/inrelief.org/24/).
Created: 8/31/2010 7:45 AM
Created: 8/27/2010 8:57 AM
A new, leaner and lighter Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is almost a reality. The new design includes a soft back frame and first stage regulator (developed by Mine Safety Appliance), as well as a significantly slimmer cylinder array from Vulcore Industrial. The project is funded through a contract between the Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).
Representatives of DHS and the IAFF attended an operational assessment of the new, leaner version in May at the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire and EMS Training Academy in Cheltenham, MD. Firefighters from the National Capital Region - Prince George’s County, MD, Montgomery County, MD, Fairfax County, VA and Washington, D.C. - donned the prototype SCBA while executing training exercises including a window bailout and wire entanglement. The new SCBA holds 45 minutes of air supply, operates at 4500 psi, weighs less than current SCBA in the marketplace, has a profile of 2.5 inches, compared to current versions at more than 9 inches and will be compatible with current filling stations. Feedback from the first responders who wore the gear during exercises will be used to address identified issues. The new and improved SCBA is scheduled for commercial release in late 2011. For more information about the new SCBA, email RTech@dhs.gov.
Created: 8/2/2010 7:11 PM
FirstResponder.gov is your site – and we want your feedback. When we first launched FirstResponder.gov a couple of years ago, the goal was to create an umbrella portal for federal resources for the emergency response community. First responders from around the country told us they needed a "one stop shop" for information on grants, training, safety, standards and other resources available from the federal government. This year, we reorganized the site and added news and a blog (this one). But we need input from first responders like you about front-burner issues and topics for you as well as other features to include that would enhance its usefulness. If you have a story idea, send it along. We want to know how you’ve used technology to help save lives – or what tool you don’t have but need. To Tell Us Your Story click here or on the main FR.gov page under "Tell Us Your Story."
Created: 7/8/2010 6:25 AM
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) offers training sessions, in the form of one page Coffee Break training bulletins, videos and podcasts, so you can learn during your down time. More than 100 bulletins can be downloaded from the USFA Web site. Videos can be viewed on the USFA Web site or downloaded to your iPhone/iPod. You can also subscribe to Coffee Break podcasts on iTunes.
Coffee Break pages are posted every Tuesday, and present technical training tips on fire protection systems, building construction, codes and standards, hazardous materials and more. Recent Coffee Breaks focused on automatic sprinklers, fire investigation health and safety, and Web 2.0. Emergent issues that need special coverage are written up as Hot Coffee bulletins. Every three months you can test your knowledge using the USFA’s self-assessment tool.
For more information on Coffee Break training or other USFA programs, visit www.usfa.dhs.gov.
Created: 5/22/2010 7:49 AM
Lots of first responders already use social and professional networking tools including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and possibly even GovLoop. While these sites offer great opportunities for first responders to connect and collaborate with others on a variety of topics, they are not solely dedicated to first responders. The new First Responder Communities of Practice is a forum for first responders to collaborate with other first responders on matters related to them conducting their missions more effectively and more efficiently.
In response to the need for an intuitive, easy to use virtual collaboration and professional networking platform, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate created First Responder Communities of Practice. The site was designed for first responders and federal, state, local and tribal Homeland Security officials, who are granted access to the site by going through a vetting process. Registered members may share For Official Use Only (FOUO) or Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information with colleagues using tools including wikis, blogs, discussion boards, bookmarks and document folders. Members create profiles, join Communities that interest them – such as law enforcement, emergency managers, emergency medical services, and fire, among others -- and make new professional connections.
State participants in Virtual USA, are already using First Responder Communities of Practice to manage pilot projects and coordinate activities with team members across the country. Virtual USA is an information-sharing initiative developed in collaboration with the emergency response community and state and local governments across the nation to help federal, state, local and tribal first responders communicate during emergencies.
Created: 4/30/2010 12:27 PM
Welcome to the newly updated FirstResponder.gov. As you can see, we’ve redesigned the look and feel of the site and added new features to help you find information, news stories, technology, and tools to help you conduct your mission. The goal is to establish First Responders as a “one-stop-shop” resource portal. We added this blog to the site to start the conversation, make announcements and share information.
Our “What’s New” section points you to the most recently updated or posted event, blog post, link or news article. On the main page, clicking on the images of first responders will bring you to a page of information related to that specific discipline. You’ll also find a new section called “Tell Us Your Story” in which FirstResponder.gov urges you to do exactly that: tell us what we need to know and report about. Share your use of new technologies in the field, name an unsung hero we can profile, or tell us about a great online resource we should post to FirstResponder.gov.
We created the “Success Stories” map to highlight the deployment of government funded first responder technologies in the field. A new headlines feed will alert you to breaking stories across the DHS components, and “In the Spotlight” showcases original news stories about first responder technologies and innovations.
We’ve moved some of the content from the original version of the site to buttons on the bottom of the home page, so you can still find information about Grants, Preparedness/Training, Operational Field Assessments, Library/Reference, Technology/Standards and Emergency Management.
Links to other major DHS S&T programs such as Tech Solutions, Virtual USA, the Responder Knowledge Database, SAVER and the new First Responder Communities of Practice can be found on the lower right side of the home page.
Welcome to the new FirstResponder.gov. We look forward to a continuing dialogue with you, so that we can ensure the site meets your needs.
Created: 4/10/2010 3:28 PM