DHS S&T: Recognizing a Year in Critical Infrastructure Innovation

This November, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recognizes the importance of increasing the resilience of our most core societal functions in an ever-changing technological landscape.October was Cybersecurity Awareness month, and it leads us into this month’s critical infrastructure focus with good reason: cyber innovation is forever transforming how the 16 essential sectors of critical infrastructure are managed.

Commercial facilities, transportation, healthcare, financial services, nuclear reactors and government facilities, to mention a few, are all things the average citizen relies on to function each day. They are all susceptible to cyber attacks, and they still need the resilience to withstand other natural and manmade catastrophes.

Here are a few noteworthy S&T efforts that have directly impacted our nation’s critical infrastructure this year.

SAFETY Act – The S&T Office of SAFETY Act Implementation, responsible for approving anti-terrorism technologies for insurance coverage under the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act, approved its 1000th technology this year. Thanks to the SAFETY Act, various sports facilities, malls and other commercial buildings can maintain state-of-the-art security systems, and citizens can enjoy walking about those facilities feeling protected.

Flood Sensors – Our Flood Apex program has continued to collaborate with communities around the country to ensure they can be prepared in the event of a storm surge. We have partnered with industry and local emergency managers to install flood sensors that alert first responder agencies of rising water levels and collect data, powering efforts to reduce future flood damage. Data from our sensors in Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, has served as the backbone for the Flood Information and Notification System, and this effort continues to expand to other regions. With such devastating hurricanes making their mark between 2017 and 2018, many communities will rely on better data to get them through these seasons.

Decision Support System for Water Infrastructure Security (DSS-WISE) – Also in the realm of flood-proofing, S&T has created a modeling and simulation tool for dam failure situations. DSS-WISE provides communities with a course of action in these events, simulating potential inundation zones, informing evacuation processes and repair strategies. This added preparation saves communities thousands of dollars in dam safety studies, and millions in damages. It also saves lives. Efforts to improve DSS-WISE have been underway through S&T’s partnership with the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (NCCHE).

Cyber Risk Economics (CYRIE) – Through the CYRIE project, S&T coordinates high-level research and development efforts in cybersecurity. These involve modeling and evaluating different economic aspects of cyber threats to improve the cybersecurity posture of Homeland Security Enterprise partners. This year, S&T invested in a forecasting platform to update critical infrastructure owners on the latest cybersecurity tools available to them. CYRIE continues to help S&T and our collaborators deliver optimal cyber risk management incentives for public and private sector organizations. Recently, we released our Cyber Risk Economics Capability Gaps Research Strategy, which we hope will help close the gap between research and practice by apprising the research community of real-world cyber risk economics challenges, and, ultimately, inform evidence-based policy and actions by industry and government.

What we all need

Whether you live in the city or the country, near the beach or at the foot of a mountain, the nation’s critical infrastructure is the backbone of your community. A weakness in one sector could easily be a weakness in another. As cyber innovation continues to bridge these different sectors together into a holistic network, homeland security depends, more than ever, on our shared consideration of each one and how it factors into the big picture.


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Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, November 11, 2018

Critical LTE Communications Forum and More.  This week’s Advocate is late since I attended and took part in the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) Critical LTE Communications Forum. There were about 200 folks in attendance, all with a keen interest in broadband communications for public safety. The sessions were great for the most part but there were occasional topics where some speakers presented information or ideas that were simply wrong or conveyed advances as coming much faster than they actually will.

For some reason, neither FirstNet (Built by AT&T) nor the FirstNet Authority had any sponsorship or participation. However, there were FirstNet folks in the audience. This lack of FirstNet visibility allowed the first keynote by Verizon to contain comments that could have and should have been countered by FirstNet. These issues included sharing networks, how soon Verizon’s Mission-Critical Push-To-Talk (PTT) would come to its network, and then a plea for states to include a statement in their policy that would make it mandatory for full network interoperability.

Verizon’s take on Mission-Critical Push-To-Talk was that it would roll it out in 2019. Then, in the same sentence, stated this would soon be followed by off-network LTE or Proximity Services (ProSe). Neither of these statements is based on actual fact and later in the day during the PTT panel (see below), I finally heard that the first iteration of Mission-Critical PTT was nothing more than a first-generation product and it would be years before all the kinks had been worked out.
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Here are the articles I have selected with the help of Discovery Patterns artificial intelligence

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Public Television and S&T Use Datacasting to Foil Simulated School Shooting

On October 24, 2018, a simulated school shooting incident was conducted at the Adams Central Community Schools in Grant County, Indiana. The exercise was sponsored by DHS S&T, in collaboration with the Indiana Integrated Public Safety Commission, Adams County Sheriff, Adams County Emergency Management Agency, Adams County School District, and public television station PBS39, which serves Adams County and is headquartered in Fort Wayne. Datacasting over PBS39 was used to share critical information from the simulated incident with first responders and public safety officials from multiple agencies.

The information included live video from multiple cameras, school blueprints and other information essential for responding to an actual school shooting threat. School administrators and teachers participated in the demonstration, but students were not on campus. https://apts.org/news/press-releases/public-television-datacasting-foils-simulated-school-shooting-in-adams-county-indiana

IACP Backs T-Band Legislation

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has written leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation and House Energy and Commerce committees expressing support for the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act (HR 5085 and S 3347).

“As you know, the spectrum in the T-Band (470-512 MHz) is used by law enforcement and other public safety entities in and around eleven metropolitan areas of the United States to support critical public safety communications and provide regional interoperability among first responders. These areas are Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.,” said the letter from IACP President Paul Cell.

“Unfortunately, Section 6103 of Public Law 112-96 (The Spectrum Act) directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to begin auctioning the public safety T-Band spectrum for commercial use by February 22, 2021 and clear all public safety operations from the band within 2 years of auctions close (i.e., by early 2023). Significantly, while the Spectrum Act does allow the auction revenue to be used to cover costs associated with relocation, the act does not specify any replacement spectrum or ensure auction revenues will be sufficient to fund the relocation.” The letter added “that the IACP strongly supports H.R. 5085/S. 3347 which would repeal of section 6103 of P.L. 112-96 to allow public safety to continue using the T-Band spectrum (470-512 MHz) to accomplish its mission of providing emergency services to over ninety (90) million citizens.”

Courtesy TRDaily


Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, November 1, 2018

LMR, FirstNet, WiFi, Just to be Clear, and More. Last week’s Advocate discussed the integration, over time, of NG9-1-1, FirstNet, Land Mobile Radio (LMR), and WiFi into a homogenous communications system for public safety. Before last week, I had written multiple Advocates about LMR and FirstNet working hand-in-hand and in recent months I have been promoting a way to integrate FirstNet, LMR, and WiFi into a solid, interactive communications platform for all of the public safety community.

It was, therefore, a shock to me to read a response to last week’s Advocate from a gentleman I have conversed with and met on several occasions. The response to my columns is moderated on AllThingsFirstNet.com but I have never chosen to not accept any comment, good or bad, as that goes with the territory.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, after I approved the comment for inclusion at the bottom of the Advocate and typed in my response, the site went down. The web folks were able to save a copy of the comment and my response, which is directly below:

“Welcome back Andy, I have been a little disappointed in the past few articles since they have been focused on FirstNet and the possibilities making it seem like you were advocating to replace LMR today. I agree that the current radio will evolve to include data/text/video, but as you stated in todays article, it will be a while until all the pieces fit together.”

My response: “First of all thank you for the comment but I am horrified that anyone reading my Advocate would believe that I am about replacing LMR with FirstNet, I think you will find that I have always stated that LMR is a vital and important part of overall public safety communications. I have been very vocal in my call for LMR to LTE PTT solutions and I have, I thought been very clear about the fact that LMR is a vital portion of the public safety communications picture and will be for many, many Years. Best regards, Andy”

The comments he made indicated that even though he was a long-time reader he apparently thought that in a number of my articles I was making a case for FirstNet as the only network for public safety. This is what surprised me. I have, for many, many years, said that FirstNet and LMR (and WiFi) will work in concert with each other and that LMR has a long life left within the public safety community. In the most recent hurricanes, both LMR and FirstNet were up and running and where one was not, the other was. So, to be very clear, my vision of public safety going forward is robust and up-to-date NG9-1-1 systems, LMR, FirstNet, and WiFi where available. I believe this will provide the best of all worlds.
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ACTING CEO EDWARD PARKINSON: Welcoming new members to the FirstNet Board

Dear colleagues,

I’m excited to share that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has made the 2018 appointments to our Board, filling five new seats and reappointing one Board member. We welcome the following members to our Board:

  • Richard Carrizzo, Chief of the Southern Platte Fire Protection District, Kansas City, MO, who also serves as lead fire representative on the policy Board that manages the region’s 911 system.
  • Welton Chase, Jr., Brig. Gen. (Ret.), U.S. Army, Army Information Technology (Signal), led the Army’s largest theater information technology organization supporting over 430,000 Army users across 81 data centers in 38 states.
  • Brian Crawford, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Shreveport, LA, responsible for the city’s fire, police and public works departments, who brings public safety experience as the former Fire Chief of Plano, TX, and Shreveport, LA; was a flight paramedic; and served as Commissioner and Vice Chair of the Louisiana State Police.
  • Billy Hewes, Mayor, Gulfport, MS, who’s played a key role in recovery operations from natural and manmade disasters.
  • Paul R. Patrick, Division Director, Family Health and Preparedness, Utah Department of Health, Salt Lake City, and past president of the National Association of State EMS Officials.

As you can see from their experience, our Board has the skills to support us through the next phases of FirstNet, with deep experience in public safety operations; cyber; telecommunications; and federal, state and local government. Because our Board members come from across the nation, they understand the needs of our stakeholders — whether in remote/rural or more urban areas.

I also want to take a moment to recognize the Board members who have completed their service to FirstNet, including Kevin McGinnis, a member of the Board from its inception and a strong voice for the EMS community, and Annise Parker, who served on the Board’s Committee for Public Safety Advocacy and helped us engage with our local government stakeholders. We’re incredibly grateful for all they’ve done for our organization and public safety as part of FirstNet.

With our Board now in place, let’s move full speed ahead to deliver on the promise of FirstNet. Together, we’re creating a broadband communications experience that transforms public safety operations – and saves lives.



New Virtual Training Gives FR and Educators an EDGE on School

WASHINGTON – First responders and educators now have a new, free tool at their disposal to help ensure the safety of our nation’s schools, as well as the students and faculty within them. Developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the U.S. Army Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC), and Cole Engineering Services Inc. (CESI), the Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE), a virtual training platform, allows teachers, school staff, law enforcement officers, and others tasked with school security to create and practice response plans for a wide range of critical incidents.

“When it comes to the safety and security of students, there is no holding back,” said William N. Bryan, S&T Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “In many cases, school staff are the ‘first responders’ at the scene of an on-campus incident. We developed EDGE to help them prepare, so they have a new resource literally at their fingertips. By using EDGE to train, they can know how to act swiftly, decisively, and in collaboration with local emergency responders if and when something does happen.”

Built on the Unreal 4 gaming engine, which powers popular video games like Fortnite and Street Fighter 5, EDGE allows first responders and educators to role-play complex scenarios in a virtual environment, improving and reinforcing coordination, communication, and critical decision-making skills. Users control avatars representing their real-life role—teachers, administrators, school resource officers, local law enforcement, and more—to execute a number of training scenarios of their own creation. The EDGE environment can be used to train for any type of incident, from parental custody disputes to potential bomb threats, an active shooter or other critical incident on campus.

“While EDGE leverages the best that gaming technology has to offer, it is important to note that it is not a traditional video game,” said S&T EDGE Program Manager Milt Nenneman. “There are no winners or losers, and there are no pre-programmed situations to react to—EDGE allows agencies to create their own lesson plans, each with different outcomes based on the actions users take in the environment. There is some artificial intelligence programmed in, but for the most part users control the reactions of their own avatars under the guidance of a training manager.”

“The level of threat and response can vary depending on specific training goals,” agreed Tami Griffith, engineer at the STTC in Orlando. “This is an area that can turn chaotic quickly. The EDGE simulation allows educators and first responders to train in a school environment with a wide range of threat types, which is true to everyday life. The real value here is in the cross-response coordination. The more you train and prepare, the better the outcome.”

EDGE was intentionally developed as a tool to supplement existing trainings, like field drills or tabletop exercises; because it is user-driven, it reflects the policies and procedures already in place in communities and school districts. The EDGE team worked with stakeholders across the country to incorporate practitioner feedback into the training platform, most recently this summer and fall in school districts in Arizona, Ohio, and Florida, as well as in West Orange, New Jersey, where the actual school modeled in EDGE can be found.

“One of the things I say over and over is there isn’t enough training for educators in many aspects of school safety,” said Dr. Amy Klinger, Director of Programs for the Educator’s School Safety Network. “This tool strikes a balance between ‘we have to train for the worst-case scenario’ and the more likely scenarios that we’re going to encounter every day. We know that violence occurs in schools, we know that you are going to have aggressive behavior and situations that don’t necessarily involve gun violence but that involve some other response that needs to occur,” Klinger added. “EDGE gives educators an opportunity to immerse themselves in it, make decisions, analyze those decisions and think ‘OK, what would I have done differently?’ And then you can do it differently. As opposed to a one-time training, where you think ‘I wish I had done this.’”

This is the second EDGE environment to be made available. The initial version, released in June 2017, featured a multi-story hotel environment enabling first responders of all disciplines to train together for a coordinated response to active shooter and other critical incidents. The new school environment is available at no cost to fully vetted response agencies and education institutions via the CESI EDGE Help Desk at (877) EDGE-011 or www.cesiedgetraining.com.

“You can never prepare enough. Using tools like EDGE—it can’t hurt, it can only help,” said Lieutenant John Morella of the West Orange, New Jersey Police Department. The school depicted in the EDGE environment was modeled after a middle school in West Orange, and Morella himself provided critical input for EDGE’s research and development since its infancy. “[EDGE is] another tool in our toolbox, and it will allow us to do more training and be more interactive—not only on the police side, but the education side as well. It allows us to reset, go through multiple scenarios in a much shorter period of time, and it’s more efficient and cost-effective. For this to be free, and for [responders and educators] to use this as often as they want…that’s a home run.”

For general EDGE information, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/EDGE or contact first.responder@hq.dhs.gov.

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