Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently joined the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute and Google to host the Text-to-911 Translation TechFest at the Google campus in Kirkland, Washington. The TechFest was designed to encourage nationwide efforts to improve technologies in support of public safety communications and response, particularly for people with limited English proficiency. The event included participation from technologists, public safety leaders, language service providers, and trade associations.
When DHS S&T and IJIS began the project in February of 2015, less than three percent of the nation’s 6,000 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), also known as 911 call centers, had implemented Text-to-911. Since then, not only has the number of PSAPs using the platform increased to 30 percent, but federal, state, and local laws have required call centers to ensure that the platform is available to the Limited English Proficient (LEP) population. Currently, almost 28 million people across the United States are identified as LEP and need to be accommodated as more PSAPs implement the technology in their respective communities.
“We anticipate the end result of this joint project will be a national standard for implementing Text-to-911 to LEP populations as well as operational, business, and training protocols that will ensure consistent national implementation,” said DHS S&T program manager Denis Gusty.
The TechFest provided insight to the advancements in currently available translation technology and also highlighted restrictions in translation, such as colloquial terminology and text shorthand. Overall, the TechFest revealed the need for further research and development to ensure 911 calls are answered efficiently and first responders are provided the correct information to respond.
Presently, DHS S&T and IJIS are researching best practices as well as interviewing experts in emergency communication, next generation 911 technology and public safety to develop standards that will be implemented nationally. DHS S&T and IJIS anticipate pilot tests with Arlington and Prince William counties in Virginia to test the protocols as well as determine estimated costs of nationwide implementation. These test pilots will begin in late summer of 2019.
The Chief Harlin R. McEwen Public Safety Broadband Communications Award is the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet Authority) sole, prestigious award. Established in 2017, the award recognizes the spirit of service, commitment, and dedication that is a proud tradition among public safety. The award was created in honor of Chief Harlin R. McEwen for his extraordinary expertise, experience, and leadership as the founding Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) Chair.
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A radiological dispersal device (RDD), or “dirty bomb,” detonation in a local jurisdiction will have significant consequences for public safety, responder health and critical infrastructure operations. First responders and emergency managers must quickly assess the hazard, issue protective action recommendations, triage and treat the injured, and secure the scene in support of the individuals, families and businesses in the impacted community. This is why, in 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL), in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) published guidance for first responders and emergency managers on how to plan for the first minutes of an RDD detonation response.
The Radiological Dispersal Device Response Guidance Planning for the First 100 Minutes is the result of years of scientific research and experimentation conducted by DOE laboratories – Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and Sandia National Laboratories – coupled with S&T NUSTL’s direct conversations with first responders about operationalizing and documenting the scientific recommendations. The Guidance includes five missions and ten tactics to address initial response efforts. It is intended to be engaging and easy to use, allowing communities to plug in their specific assets, agencies and response protocols.
“The Guidance provides emergency planners and first responders across the nation with a playbook of best practices to start from in planning for a RDD detonation response,” said Ben Stevenson, Program Manager at S&T NUSTL.
Now that the Guidance is published, S&T’s NUSTL is leading efforts to make it accessible to the responder communities who will need to incorporate it into their planning efforts and to state and federal partners that will support the response.