The Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) Apex program is currently preparing for changes in its response program for the 2016 year, and possibly through 2020.
NGFR focused on enhancing its uniform, protective gear, sensing technology and communication in 2015, spending time promoting its new ideas across the country. This includes acting as the frontman for the National Conversation on Homeland Security Technology, in which the Responder of the Future is a priority.
NGFR wanted to open up the discussion about renovating the first responder regulations, and first began through virtual meetings and then followed up with in-person sessions, where first responders and members of the public could be a part of the conversation.
Group Director of First Responders Dan Cotter discussed NGFR at a forum in the White House in September, briefing the listeners on the technological and innovative changes NGFR hopes to make, including a four-minute decrease in response time. Furthermore, The White House Smart Cities Forum has continually been working on their relationship with the data world, to provide services like faster information to first responders and decongesting roadways. DHS has even committed to granting $50 million over a five-year period to technology development for Smart Cities.
NGFR has also hosted a program called EMERGE Accelerator program for Wearable Technology for First Responders, opening up the opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop innovative gear for first responders and awarding 20 startups the honor of continuing their work for the NGFR. It also hosted the Indoor Tracking of the Next Generation First Responder competition, as indoor tracking capability is of the utmost importance, and it had not been developed yet.
S&T hopes that these competitions will open doors to new technologies that haven't been discovered yet, and allow ideas from all over the world to come together. DHS S&T also began the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, with the help of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). The program hopes to bring better solutions to problems first responders have frequently.
After collaborating and developing these new products, NGFR hosted demonstrations with actual first responders in order to test all of the new technologies. This includes heat maps through drones through a device called SLED and a new bluetooth device called BLIP, which would allow trapped victims to text and send images to first responders and keep first responders in touch with each other -- and privy to each other's whereabouts.
NGFR hopes that these demonstrations can be continued in 2016, to show first responders and the public how first responder gear and regulations are constantly evolving.