Experiment Tests First Responders’ Cooperation

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Natural disasters and wide scale emergencies require the cooperation of various agencies and the integration of developing technologies. A recent operational experiment took place, setting the ground for a large scale first responder cooperation and test bed for new technologies.
The experiment scenario included an offshore simulated fuel leak from ships in the port, tested technologies that included responder and patient physiological monitoring sensors, indoor location tracking, HAZMAT sensors, smart alerting for responders and incident command, advanced data analytics, and situational awareness and collaboration dashboards.
Led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology Directorate(S&T), the Next Generation First Responder (NGFR). Harris County Operational Experimentation (OpEx) included the United States Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Office of Emergency Communications.
The experiment integrated next generation first responder technology and safety agencies’ existing technology to assess their interoperability using guidance from the NGFR Integration Handbook.
First responders face dangerous, evolving threats while often equipped with outdated and proprietary technologies that restrict their ability to communicate between agencies at the incident scene. The December OpEx demonstrated how DHS-developed and commercial technologies integrated with existing public safety systems using open standards during a HAZMAT scenario. The OpEx also assessed how integrated capabilities enhanced operational communications, increased operational coordination, improved responder safety and augmented situational awareness.
The OpEx was intended to help improve the communications pipeline between the incident command center and boots-on-the-ground responders so information can be shared to increase awareness and affect a coordinated response.
Harris County OpEx builds upon NGFR’s series of integration demonstrations that test and showcase the interoperability of technologies currently in development. These demonstrations have evolved into exercises with partner public safety agencies across the U.S. and have produced materials to aid first responders and command centers to implement new technologies.
The next operational experiment is scheduled for Summer 2019.