First responders around the globe share a common mission to ensure the safety and security of the people they serve, as they often respond to complex and evolving natural and manmade disasters. To respond more effectively, safely and efficiently to both small and large-scale emergencies, the world’s first responders share a common need for technologically advanced tools and equipment that are also affordable.

Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) hosted the first North American International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation (IFAFRI) Industry Stakeholder Summit to advance the development of affordable, innovative technology for the more than 7.5 million first responders across IFAFRI member nations. S&T and IFAFRI’s objectives for holding this summit were threefold.

Provide a clear understanding of the common global high priority capability gaps,
Provide a clear understanding of the first responder market
Hear from industry and other developers about potential solutions to IFAFRI capability gaps
The summit also informed stakeholders about IFAFRI’s current capability gaps that characterize current and future technology requirements.

The ability to know the location of responders and their proximity to risks and hazards in real time.
The ability to detect, monitor, and analyze passive and active threats and hazards at incident scenes in real time.
The ability to rapidly identify hazardous agents and contaminants.
The ability to incorporate information from multiple and non-traditional sources (e.g., crowd‑sourcing and social media) into incident command operations.
During the event, S&T helped contextualize IFAFRI capability gaps and answered questions from industry, furthering open dialogue.

A Global Forum for First Responders
To address the evolving threats first responders face and increase the effectiveness of making affordable, innovative technology available to first responders, DHS S&T and international partners established IFAFRI in 2014. Since its inception, IFAFRI has worked towards increasing access to the technology first responders need to execute their core mission: saving lives and property.

Bringing Together First Responder Stakeholders
The summit brought together more than 250 representatives from industry, academia, government, media and the first responder community to discuss potential solutions for the common technology capability gaps of first responders. Also in attendance were members of S&T’s First Responder Resource Group, who shared perspectives and real-world, operational experience as to why this global collaboration is so critical.

In opening remarks, S&T Acting Deputy Under Secretary André Hentz said, “What we really want to do is develop a more robust and methodical R&D duty cycle that helps us be better stewards of the taxpayer dollars that we get, to affect and drive down risks to our first responders.”

He elaborated that the international partnership aims to “motivate industry to think about our problems and bring offerings to the table that help us save lives.”

Other speakers at the summit, such as Colin Murray, S&T’s Senior Advisor from the Canadian Exchange, and Aymeric Dupont, Counsellor from the Delegation of the European Union to the U.S., emphasized the importance of IFAFRI as an international organization in bringing together a wide spectrum of stakeholders from different sectors to provide solutions to the needs of first responders.

Dupont stated, “We need to tailor our response and provide practitioners with the support they need in their daily work, and I believe research will contribute to the identification of stress and the desired solutions. To do so we need to involve actors such as authorities, academia, first responders and industry. And the forum plays a central role in ensuring that these events are targeted.”

Later Murray added, “It is interesting how incredible things happen when international partners come together. I think we should all be compelled to collectively do all that we can to remove the risk that our responders report on every day. Solutions will be found through partnerships.”

Next Steps

Building on the success of the summit, IFAFRI will continue to provide a platform for knowledge-sharing and network-building among all relevant stakeholders. IFAFRI will use the information gathered from stakeholders at the summit to strengthen outreach plans, identify existing technologies that may assist first responders, work with developers to learn of new technologies and plan for opportunities to host similar gatherings.

For more information about IFAFRI and its opportunities for industry, visit www.internationalresponderforum.org.

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