Federal Agencies Showcase First Responder Technologies

The 12th annual Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference and Expo highlighted Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security technologies and training tools currently available and being developed for the emergency response community.

First responders and some of the federal agencies that develop cutting-edge technologies for their use gathered this week at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., for the 12th annual Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference and Exposition. The principal sponsors -- the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security -- provided speakers and occupied much of the exhibit space. The event took place Aug. 29 through Sept. 1.

Both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson spoke Aug. 30. Robinson thanked the co-sponsoring agencies and DOJ's state, local, and tribal public safety partners during her remarks, which were posted on the DOJ website. She said it was fitting that the conference took place shortly before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

"We all know that technology –- in particular, our communication and response systems -– figured prominently in what went wrong that horrific day. But the good news is that, ten years since the worst act of terrorism committed on American soil, we’re better able to prevent and respond to acts of mass violence," she said. "Our resilience is due, in great part, to our ability to come together at all levels of government to build and bolster a solid public safety infrastructure. And that's what this conference is all about: working with you -– our first-line responders -– to ensure that you have the tools and the information you need to protect our citizens and communities."

Robinson then hailed the work being done by the National Institute of Justice "to manage a rigorous testing program designed to give you an array of protective equipment that meets the highest performance standards" and in developing selection and application guides for officers and procurement officials on the proper care, maintenance, and inspection of equipment.

"Even beyond our very deep concern for your health and welfare, keeping our law enforcement personnel and first responders safe is essential to an effective response to critical incidents," she said. "NIJ and its partners are working to make sure you have the latest –- and best -– technology and equipment to do your jobs safely. For example, we're leveraging military technology to develop an improved respirator face piece that will help officers respond to chemical, biological, and radiological hazards. We're also working with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center to improve the protective quality of your regular duty uniforms. We know you can't always have the opportunity to put on special gear when an emergency comes up, so we want to make certain your regular equipment has sufficient defensive capabilities."

"Through many small and careful steps," she said, "we've been able to strengthen our nation's public safety and homeland security infrastructure. We still have work to do, but our progress, I think, has been remarkable. As long as we continue to work together -– consulting one another, sharing ideas and resources, and collaborating at every turn -– I know we'll be able to manage a successful response to any threat."

The conference and expo were expected to attract 1,000 attendees and 150 exhibits. It was sponsored by DoD's Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs; DOJ's Office of Justice Programs' National Institute of Justice; and DHS's Science and Technology Directorate in partnership with the InterAgency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability, Interagency Council for Applied Homeland Security Technology, International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Emergency Managers, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation, National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board, National Emergency Management Association, National Sheriffs' Association, and National Tactical Officers Association.

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