Accessing First Responder Technologies – In Search of Interoperability
Almost from the moment of the attacks on September 11, 2001 it was apparent that interoperability of equipment and communications systems was needed. As we sit here, now approaching six years post-attacks, the Department of Homeland Security has made significant strides toward accomplishing what some people might have considered a daunting task.
Developed through the Office of Grants and Training of the DHS (and co-sponsored by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism), the Responder Knowledge Base went public on the web. The RKB is intended to give first responder agencies a place to find specialized equipment and resources that users can search by keyword to bring up related entries, browse all available entries through an expandable outline, and explore each of its two main lists by category.
The database is a compilation of information on all manner of equipment and training programs for first responders. Most entries are organized into two essential lists-the Authorized Equipment List (AEL) from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Grants & Training and the Standardized Equipment List (SEL) from the InterAgency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability.
In a way, you can think of the RKB as a “consumer reports” for first responders. The RKB also provides a resources for identifying grant opportunities. Items on the Authorized Equipment List are eligible for purchase using grant funding. The database mentions qualified grants in each entry and provides links to specific grant programs. The links take you to entries on available grants with application information and other specifics. Each grant page includes contact information to get more details or to apply for the grant.
In addition to the RKB, DHS has also announced an $8 million program through which first responders (fire, police, emergency medical services and other first responders) can submit a question, problem, challenge or technology to address mission capability gaps, and then actually receive the service or technologies. This Technology Solutions Portal is a program of the Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security.
“We must have direct communications with our customers because they understand their problems and challenges,” Cohen said today after a speech at DHS’ Office of Interoperability and Compatibility Conference in Washington. “If they want us to do research or do more testing of their solutions, anything that would help them.”
This Technology Solutions Portal is a one percent set-aside from the S&T budget for programs that can be accomplished within a year for under $1 million. These are much needed programs that hopefully will be continued into the future and not defunded.