DHS helps localities use tech

In the next several weeks, the Homeland Security Department will unveil a new initiative to implement technologies and systems into local communities and regions.

With strong cooperation from local and regional jurisdictions, DHS officials will help the transition and integration of advanced technologies into those communities from a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down approach, said Nancy Suski, director of emergency preparedness and response within DHS's Science and Technology Directorate.

The department will test the Safe Cities initiative in a select number of communities that have not been finalized yet because it's still going through internal vetting, she said. Her division is also working with the Federal Emergency Management Administration, DHS' Office for Domestic Preparedness, DHS' Office of State and Local Coordination and several state and local communities.

Suski said they will work with public and private stakeholders within a community or region not only to develop horizontal integration but also vertical integration to reach out to state and federal officials.

"The communities that we'll be working with will undoubtedly have issues of interoperability," she said last week during a homeland security conference sponsored by Equity International Inc. "We'll focus on working together so when they call on their mutual aid agreements and their neighboring cities show up to help, they can communicate with one another."

She also said it's important to ensure these systems are sustainable and can be operated and maintained during a long period of time in the community. Training programs and the type of infrastructure should also be considered so they can accommodate the next generation of equipment, she added.

Safe Cities is different from other programs because these are technologies that have already been tested. "It's not a test bed," Suski said. "It's really ready for an operational testing in real-world settings to become a part of the operational infrastructure. It looks at the human interfaces that are required" and how it contributes to the decision-making process.

It's also not technology specific. "I work very closely with my other portfolio managers that are helping me on just the bio threat or just the [chemical] threat or the [radiation] threat," she added. "How do all those systems that each of those portfolios are working on come together into a construct that really is going to help a community be protected and be ready to respond in the event a catastrophe actually occurred."

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