The National Governors Association (NGA) today announced that five states – Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Utah and West Virginia – will participate in a policy academy on emergency communications interoperability.
“Interoperability” refers to how federal, state and local emergency responders communicate with each other by voice, data and video on demand and in real time. Interoperable emergency communications are essential to effective public safety, response and recovery operations in the wake of disaster.
Civilian and military first responders from Simcoe County will converge on Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden on Sunday, May 1, 2016, to participate in a joint mass casualty exercise as part of Exercise STOP, DROP AND ROLL, a simulated response to an air show accident.
Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel from various CFB Borden units will join over 30 volunteer medical first responders from St. John Ambulance Barrie Simcoe Muskoka, County of Simcoe Paramedic Services, and Emergency Management Ontario staff to work through a simulated mass casualty scenario.
Over the next two days, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Brandon, Edmonton and Kingston are departing to participate in Operation Caribbe, Canada’s contribution the multinational campaign against illicit trafficking by transnational criminal organizations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean.
Canada and the United States came together from April 26 to 28, 2016 to assess technologies that can help their respective emergency management officials and responders communicate and exchange information more efficiently during an emergency situation touching both sides of the border. The experiment provided key insights to inform future investments in cross-border communications technologies and the results will be documented in a joint Canada-U.S. after action report.
General Dynamics Mission Systems–Canada has officially launched four new public safety and security solutions that provide first responders around the world with integrated mission-critical communications systems that will help save lives.
Built on the company’s SHIELD Ecosystem, these turn-key, fully integrated solutions provide interoperable fixed and mobile digital communications to ensure the right information is available at the right time.
Public safety, in most western nations, is a multi-agency challenge. Police, fire, paramedic, specialty rescue as well as specialty hazard units exist in various configurations at the municipal, provincial or state, and federal levels.
EM-COP: the New Reality of First Responder Technologies
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Much activity and improvement in the realm of public safety communications interoperability have occurred since the horrific events of September 11th, 2001. One very promising area is that of wireless paramedicine, the ability to get paramedics, and the health community they support, the information they need when needed.
The United States National Guard serves as a state-federal reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces. Its 450,000 soldiers and airmen serve as “citizen soldiers” – deploying both overseas and domestically, while maintaining full-time civilian professions. With experience in a wide range of operational environments, from Afghanistan and Iraq to post-Hurricane Katrina disaster response, the National Guard has proven instrumental in achieving objectives set both by state and federal authorities.
On the morning of 6 December 1917, in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, near the U.S. border in Maine, a French ship, the Mont Blanc, filled with military explosives collided with another vessel. Twenty minutes later, a fire set off the Mont Blanc’s volatile cargo and caused a catastrophic explosion – killing thousands and destroying an entire section of the nearby city. Rescue efforts were dispatched immediately from the Canadian mainland as well as the United States, but confusion and lack of immediate information delayed some of the rescue efforts for hours.
Changing Culture in Changing Times
A fundamental culture shift is taking place among First Responders (police, fire, and emergency medical services personnel) as they seek to adopt and adapt the technology tools and applications that can affect all aspects of their ability to serve the communities they are sworn to protect.
It's More Than Gadgets and Gizmos
In the ‘non lab coat’ world of law enforcement, security and first responders, “technology” is a means to an end and not an end unto itself. That ‘end’, of course, is the successful performance of operational duties, which have enormous public safety ramifications as well as real risk to the men and women who perform them on our behalf.
When my generation of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel thinks of data sharing in the field, we have visions of Squad 51 using their Biophone; a combination voice and telemetry radio communications system. Paramedics could call the base hospital and not only talk to the doctor but could also send live cardiac data by way of electrocardiogram rhythms.
That same hard truth also exists for much of the world of law enforcement including border security which has been in the news recently in Canada although this time, German arsonists notwithstanding, for some very encouraging reasons, collectively known as the Canada-US ‘Beyond the Border’ Agreement.
With globalization, many national economies, including Canada’s, are dependent on global trade – and maritime transportation is the strongest link in the international supply chain. International shipping has become a fundamental contributor and facilitator of economic growth; but it is increasingly susceptible to events that could result in the full or partial closure of ports or associated critical infrastructure.
The face of public safety is changing because information and communications technologies are permitting First Responders to understand the environment facing them on a mission. For example, if firefighters or police had a complete picture of the event as they were about to respond, they would be better able to deal with the challenges once they arrive on scene. An EMS call could potentially save more lives, for instance, if the paramedics could send high resolution images of the injury to an attending but remote medical specialist.
An interview with Rear Admiral (Ret) James Arden Barnett, Chief, Federal Communications Commission,U.S. Bureau of Public Safety and Homeland Security,discussing the 700MHz bandwidth situation in the USA.
Determined to avoid such a disaster in Canada, and concluding that there was a need for governments and industry to work “interdependently” to prevent an industrial accident of the Bhopal sort federal and provincial government departments and industry formed the Major Industrial Accidents Council of Canada (MIACC). One of MIACC’s major programs was Partnerships Toward Safer Communities (PTSC).
Secrets may be meant to be kept, but when it comes to solving crimes, police organizations need to share information. When it comes to breaking organized crimes and destroying criminal networks, real “intelligence” needs to be shared securely.
The range of highly advanced technology available to first responders is truly astounding. From cognitive radios to real-time field draw screens, record fire perimeters and 3-D personal tracking devices, first responder agencies are inundated with technological choices. Many of these technologies are being developed as spin-outs from defense contracts and grants. Others are entrepreneurial inventions targeted directly toward the primary response market. But what really are the needs of first responders?
To ensure common objectives such as public safety and security stay at the forefront of an ever-changing global environment, all moving parts of a nation’s security force need to be working in sync and constantly communicating. This, however, is much easier said than done.
Putting this Border Security edition together, in the wake of the world-wide recession, increased tension in the Middle East, and much turbulence in both Canada and the U.S. over government regimes, was indeed a wonderfully stimulating challenge. Yet, it turns out, the real challenge remains to secure our borders without isolating ourselves (which would reduce our chances of mutual prosperity)… the same issue we have tackled for over 50 years.
Natural and man-made disasters don’t recognize political boundaries; the path of a radiological plume will not respect a port of entry. Border communities share many of the same concerns, but there are also some unique conditions that require innovative initiatives from multiple partners. Increased security requirements have heightened tensions at the borders that prior to 9/11/01 were easily resolved with local cooperation.
As our renewed government faces new and major economic readjustments on a global scale, I am pleased to present this issue on Cyber Security.
Constable Les Gramantik, of the Firearms Training Unit, demonstrates the new rifle power. (Photo courtesy of the Calgary Police Service)
Have you ever found yourself, in an emergency, a few hundred yards away from a public safety colleague – police officer, fire fighter, or paramedic – yet unable to transmit vital information to him or her? It happens all too often. Radio systems, cell phones, PDAs, and other devices are not always configured, aligned or even designed to allow inter-agency communication. Often the communications are seriously limited by the available technology. At other times, the agencies lack the proper protocols, governance or knowledge of how to communicate with each other.
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) as the lead Federal organization, in cooperation with other stakeholders, have begun to collaboratively develop the first Canadian national standard for personal protective equipment for first responders (fire, police, paramedic, and hospital first receivers) in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) incident.
Would Canada be able to effectively respond to a Weapons of Mass Destruction attack? A cooperative initiative aimed at providing critical equipment and training to First Responders, is needed to enable them to safely intervene in Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) incidents. The solution – let’s call it a First Responder Rebate Program (FRRP) – would provide the equipment and training necessary for effective and efficient First Responder (FR) rescue operations.
It’s been a little over a decade since I began my quest for the holy grail of computing: the delivery of sustainable information INTEROPERABILITY. Known by many names over the years, the terminology that is growing on me is “semantic interoperability.” The objective, most can agree, is the “guaranteed access to quality information requisite to making sound business or operational decisions.” So why, after more than a decade, does this goal still appear as elusive as ever?