DHS To Put First Responder Tech to the Test

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Can commercial tech hold up in a mock disaster? The agency’s Science and Technology Directorate wants to find out.

The Homeland Security Department is looking for ways emerging technologies can keep first responders better connected when disaster strikes.

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate on Wednesday opened applications for the agency’s Harris County Operational Experimentation, a chance for groups to prove their technology’s worth in improving safety and effectiveness of firemen, paramedics and other rescue workers on the ground.

The experimentation comes as part of the agency’s broader Next Generation First Responder initiative. The program aims to find ways emerging tech can impact the work of Houston-area first responders and the Coast Guard, according to a statement from DHS S&T.

“Commercial technology is advancing at a remarkable pace, and it’s time for public safety to leverage those advancements,” said DHS S&T Program Manager Sridhar Kowdley. “During this OpEx, we want to prove that diverse responder technologies can be integrated using open standards and that integrated capabilities increase first responder safety and effectiveness.”

The event is scheduled to run Dec. 3 through Dec. 7 in Houston and will include rescue workers from the city, Harris County, Port of Houston and Coast Guard. Participants will test Homeland Security-developed and commercial technologies in response to a HazMat scenario at the port, according to the agency’s request for information.

The project will focus on technologies in 10 specific capability areas, including wearable sensors, displays and communications devices. Homeland Security will also test data analytics tools as well as mesh networks and location systems first responders can use indoors.

The agency said it will not make contract awards based on the experiment but will enter limited purpose research and development agreements with each of the vendors who participate.

Researchers from academia, private industry, federal R&D centers and government agencies are all invited to submit proposals. The deadline for applications is March 30.