DHS S&T Demonstrates Innovative First Responder Technologies

The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) program recently held a demonstration highlighting cutting-edge technologies geared toward providing first responders with reliable interoperable communications and situational awareness in disaster and emergency situations.

The NGFR program, launched by DHS S&T in January 2015, seeks to better protect the nation’s first responders—including firefighters, law enforcement officers, and paramedics—by developing the tools they need to save lives and protect property while staying safe.

Through the program, DHS S&T envisions a first responder equipped with state-of-the art gear designed to work in a wide array of hazardous environments, access to hands-free communications equipment, and access to the key information needed to achieve situational awareness and integrated decision making.

The demonstration integrated physiological and environmental sensors, streaming video from body cameras and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and hybrid communications devices during a simulated emergency scenario calling for a coordinated response from first responders.

“The proliferation of miniaturized sensors, affordable UAS and Internet of Things (IoT) devices can make a tremendous impact on first responder safety, connectivity, and situational awareness. However, if the technology doesn’t seamlessly share data, it loses its viability within the public safety sector,” said DHS S&T’s NGFR Program Manager John Merrill.

According to DHS S&T, the NGFR program aims to create an interoperable environment by outlining the standards required for seamless integration of technology. These standards allow responders to employ off-the-shelf commercial products, adapt ground-breaking technologies that meet responder mission needs, and visualize technologies yet to be invented.

Furthermore, the modular and extensible design is intended to work for responder organizations in different environments, with different budgets, and contrasting mission requirements.

“To accommodate all responders, we are working to offer organizations a variety of interoperable, plug-and-play technologies that provide the capabilities they need for a price they can afford,” said Merrill.

NGFR plans to implement a series of demonstrations to integrate additional technologies into the program. First responders will be invited to test and evaluate the latest NGFR technologies.

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