Winter 2017

Ottawa Fire Services Public Safety Broadband Experiment: Protected, Connected and Fully Aware First Responders

By Gerry Doucette and Captain Dave Matschke

It was a cold day on November 22, 2016 when a HAZMAT team donned protective gear to sample and identify a thick, white powder within an unusual suitcase found near the John G. Mlacak Community Centre in Ottawa.

Thankfully, this was only a simulated scenario designed to test new technology used by firefighters in the ensuing response.

Police, fire and paramedic first responders need to be connected, protected, and fully aware of the situation, especially when responding to calls for service involving danger. Improving interoperability is a key priority for the public safety community, and one option being explored is the potential development of dedicated public safety broadband networks (PSBN)—high-speed, wireless mobile networks designed to improve communication among first responders and emergency management personnel.

The Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC) established a public safety Communications Interoperability Research Test and Evaluation Centre (CIRTEC) in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) and Public Safety Canada (PS) to advance this work. CIRTEC provides a fourth generation (4G) Long Term Evolution (LTE) test environment that uses communications dedicated to improving emergency management operations.

To refine this capability and relevant technologies, DRDC CSS partnered with Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) to develop the Ottawa Fire Service Public Safety Broadband Experiment, which used a realistic scenario to demonstrate the benefits of the PSBN technology and to learn more from responders about their future technology requirements. With support from Ottawa Fire Chief Gerry Pingitore, Joe Fournier, Wireless Portfolio Manager, DRDC CSS, International Safety Research and the CRC technical team worked with OFS clients to develop a staged, hazardous materials (HAZMAT) scenario for the experiment.

The scenario’s working assumption was that the OFS team became the primary first responder after the police had cleared the package for explosives and energy sources. Observers from the Ottawa Police Service and Ottawa Paramedic Services were on hand to watch the experiment, handle the devices and applications, and provide feedback.

The firefighters were able to use CIRTEC-enabled tablets and handheld devices to share live video, voice, and data feeds of the scene, the suitcase and contents, and interact with the HAZMAT team, other subject matter experts and command personnel. Responders reported that, thanks to Joe Fournier’s expertise and the CRC team’s provision of a dedicated broadband network, the responders benefitted from:

  • Consistent, high quality video and voice communications, which improved the overall response in situations where communications are typically unclear or inefficient;
  • Real-time video communications, which allowed for detailed scene information to be sent, received and acted upon while responders were in the ‘hot zone’ near the suspicious suitcase;
  • Secure, real-time voice and video communications among police, fire and paramedic agencies to improve overall situational awareness;
  • The connection of a personal fitness tracker to the LTE network to demonstrate how remote monitoring of vital signs could improve responder health and safety; and
  • The ability for scientific experts to control the hazardous materials detector remotely to perform complex analysis and identify suspicious substances in real-time.

“This dedicated pipeline for data transmission will permit responders to use many new pathways for data, to increase situational awareness tremendously and command and control emergency situations of all sizes,” said Chief Gerry Pingitore. “Being able to seamlessly use and share data and information instantaneously—whether collected pre-incident or on scene—will also help keep responders safe and will represent a tremendous improvement over current capabilities. DRDC CSS’s efforts to develop this capability for all response organizations, including the CIRTEC test environment, are a tremendous step towards fully utilizing this new capability.”

Following the experiment, responders suggested looking carefully at: human factor requirements such as ergonomics and user interface design; the use of unmanned aircrafts in scene assessment; hands-free devices; and the ability for command and safety officers to monitor the position of personnel through geo-tagging.

The results of this experiment are expected to support the refinement and improvement of this network and related devices and applications in first responder operations.

Gerry Doucette is a former Sergeant of the Ottawa Police Services, and is currently the Police and Law Enforcement Portfolio Manager at DRDC CSS. Dave Matschke is a captain at the Ottawa Fire Services.

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PEI-Based Project Analyzes Data to Create Policy Leading to Safer and More Resilient Communities

By Suzanne Waldman and Amy MacFarlane

In January 2017, a group of enthusiastic experts from the Maritimes and Ottawa gathered at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) to discuss how to ensure Canadian communities continue to thrive in an increasingly complex and quickly-changing world. These experts participated in a workshop to launch the Community Safety, Resilience, and Well Being Project for Prince Edward Island (PEI). The workshop, hosted by the University of PEI’s Centre for Health and Community Research, was funded by the Canadian Safety and Security Program.

“Supporting the development of evidence-based policy is a priority in Canada,” said Dr. Mark Williamson, Director General, Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS). “This relies on science and data to tackle problems, especially those that are “wicked” or especially difficult to solve because of their diverse, incomplete, contradictory, changing, and invisible features.”

The Community Safety, Resilience, and Well Being Project was launched in 2016 to develop strategies for creating evidence-based policy that can respond to the everyday challenges of communities while enhancing their ability to weather unexpected crises.

As Project Manager Sheldon Dickie from DRDC CSS notes, “Evidence-based policy requires wrestling with the streams of data flowing around us, to ensure that the right problems are being addressed, and that the results of policy and program delivery decisions are being tracked.”

To get participants thinking along these lines, five experts described how data can be used to anticipate how communities are becoming vulnerable to both dramatic and more gradual occurrences.

  1. Kevin Quigley, an infrastructure expert and professor at Dalhousie University, described his work on ensuring government regulation limits the possibility of “black swan” events—the types of low-probability, high-consequence events that are hardest to foresee and plan for.
  2. Adam Fenech, director of the Climate Lab at UPEI, discussed how the Lab is mapping climate-related soil erosion of PEI’s shoreline, a gradually-unfolding event that could otherwise fly under the radar.
  3. Experts also discussed how benchmark conditions of communities can be assessed so even subtle impacts of policies and other circumstances can be observed and planned for. James Randall, Director of Island Studies at UPEI, detailed a way of evaluating community well being through story-telling sessions.
  4. Colleen Cameron, an expert on community self-assessment, detailed one way of evaluating community well- being through surveys of people’s sense of well being.
  5. Finally, Suzanne Waldman characterized how a community’s ability to bounce back from an abrupt disaster can be rated through a combination of demographic data and qualitative understanding of how community members relate to each other.

Next, attendees participated in discussions on solutions for accessing and integrating data that can support decision-making. “An ecosystem of data and analytics will allow decision-makers in PEI, and Islanders themselves, to better understand their environment,” said Fraser Moffatt, a DRDC CSS analyst working on the project. As the project unfolds, Moffat suggested, the province can be a “laboratory” for creating new ways to use, communicate, and visualize data for decision-makers and the general public.

Maps will be especially important for bringing PEI’s data to life. “State-of-the-art mapping and visualization tools can help uncover gaps in capability and resilience at the community level before these gaps become problems,” noted Moffat, an expert in Geographical Information System.

Finally, the workshop considered how to ensure evidence-based policy also reflects the unique values of the communities they are designed to serve. Values vary from place-to-place, underlying people’s sense of their responsibilities to each other and to the future, as well as what they expect from their governments.

As Aaron Campbell, Director of Public Safety for PEI, observed, “How to create optimal results-focused policies that are also acceptable to diverse communities remains an unanswered question. The smartest evidence-based policies will be rejected by communities if they don’t reflect social values.”

Participants confirmed that the project was “very timely” given the complexity of policy-making in today’s world. In the words of Amy MacFarlane, a workshop organizer and Assistant Professor in UPEI’s Faculty of Business, “the workshop demonstrated that communities place a great deal of importance on basing policies on good evidence as well as shared values.”

Juergen Krause, Dean of the Faculty of Business and Director of the Centre for Health and Community Research at UPEI, confirmed that “the opportunity to engage in the project has been a great honour for our programs, which place a major emphasis on evidence-based decision-making.”

Amy MacFarlane, CPA, CA, is an Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Business at UPEI. Dr. Suzanne Waldman is currently undertaking her second Ph.D in Communication Studies. She is working with DRDC CSS through the Federal Student Work Experience Program, doing research on issues related to risk and resilience.

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Investing in Early Detection: The Community for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases

By Harry Gardiner

Detecting infectious diseases in farm animals and other species that can threaten human safety is no simple task, and a scientific project dedicated to just that has seen multiple successes in its first 12 months of implementation.

The Community for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (CEZD) involves a virtual network that combines the multidisciplinary expertise from a group of professionals, with data collected by an automated, information processing technology. This technology, known as the Knowledge Integration using Web-based Intelligence (KIWI), is part of the Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence (CNPHI) Platform.

KIWI technology scans publicly available information feeds from around the globe and uses a text mining approach to collect data that may indicate the presence of zoonotic or emerging diseases. The signals generated are then assessed by surveillance professionals. Any signals found to be related to zoonotic and emerging infectious diseases are disseminated as quickly as possible to the appropriate organizations and people.

In short, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) partnered with CNPHI and uses its KIWI technology to monitor diseases on a global scale using web-based information. The development of these tools has been supported over several years through the Canadian Safety and Security Program and one of its precursor programs, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear and Explosives Research and Technology Initiative.

Why was CEZD developed?

CEZD is a virtual network group within the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System. It was created to strengthen animal health surveillance in Canada and support Canada’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities whenever emerging and zoonotic diseases are discovered. Through the gathering of information, as well as the generation and distribution of timely intelligence reports, Canada seeks to be better able to anticipate, manage and mitigate diseases that threaten its social, economic, environmental and animal resources.

The CEZD network, which is co-led by CFIA and Public Health Agency of Canada, was launched on April 1st, 2016. It involves contributions from 13 partner organizations. Since its implementation, the CEZD has issued over 50 intelligence reports on diseases. The topics of these reports range from avian influenza to the Zika virus.

Collaborating with specialized communities

The CEZD traces its success to the strong connections among, and through the contributions of, its partners and stakeholders from the animal, human and environmental health communities. The Community encourages experts in these communities to:

  • Participate actively in the CEZD network group;
  • Benefit from CEZD early detection methods for emerging and zoonotic diseases; and
  • Contribute to the CEZD as an analyst in order to extend CEZD’s areas of expertise and broaden analytical capability.

This initiative has received numerous requests internationally from organizations who are seeking to enhance their early warning capabilities. More information is available on the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System website, under the Groups tab - Community for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases.

Harry Gardiner is the CEZD Coordinator and Manager at the Animal Health Strategy Division, Animal Health Science Directorate, Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

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Leveraging International Networks to Access S&T Solutions for First Responders

By Colin Murray

Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) has always believed in a hands-on and collaborative approach when it comes to identifying pressing capability gaps and developing solutions. For more than a decade, DRDC CSS has been engaging with Canada’s first responder community to identify these gaps and to develop science and technology (S&T) solutions that meet the needs of police, fire, and paramedic services.

“Having the right tools, knowledge and advice is essential to ensuring that first responders can do their jobs safely and effectively. In many cases, it’s a question of life and death,” said Chief John deHooge, Halton Hills Fire Department.

“We engage with the first responder community in many different ways, but we are taking the engagement to the next level thanks to a recently established entity called the International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation, or the Forum,” said Colin Murray, a DRDC CSS Director now on exchange within the First Responder Group of the United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security S&T Director- ate (DHS S&T).

A rich source of market intelligence

The Forum was established in 2014 under DHS S&T’s leadership to establish a centralized mechanism; identify shared global responder capability gaps; and use existing tools to develop affordable innovative technology for responders worldwide.

“The global responder market is not well understood,” said Dan Cotter, Director, First Responder Group, DHS S&T and Forum chair. “One of our main objectives is to increase market intelligence and expose opportunities that will provide incentives to industry and academia to align S&T investments with global responder needs.”

According to a recently published report sponsored by the Forum, Canada spent approximately $16 billion in 2014 to support 214,000 first responders from the fire, police and paramedic services. In addition to Canadian data, the report describes the global responder market- place of 13 other countries who are also members of the Forum. Combined, these marketplaces serve 7.5 million responders from around the world with a collective operating budget of over $426 billion.

“The report provides an unprecedented level of responder global market intelligence and reflects a new way of collaborating internationally and merging networks to support first responders on a global scale,” said Dr. Mark Williamson, Director General, DRDC CSS. “We are very proud of our collaboration with DHS S&T, and our role as a proactive founding member of the Forum.”

An innovative and effective approach

One of the innovative aspects of the Forum is the degree to which the success has been accomplished without a dedicated legal framework of agreements or treaties. Instead, the Forum is a ‘network of the willing’ and decisions are made based on group consensus. The deliberate avoidance of unnecessary bureaucracy has tightened the decision-loop and enabled the fast-track of results.

“The Forum is a concrete example of the successes that can be achieved when partners from various countries work together and share lessons learned from their various experiences,” said Dr. Marc Fortin, Assistant Deputy Minister (S&T), Department of National Defence, and Chief Executive Officer, DRDC. “The type of deliberate engagement the Forum fosters can be instrumental in improving collaboration, both formal and informal, which can, ultimately, have tangible results in the lives of the people in all countries involved.”

In November 2016, DRDC CSS hosted a meeting of Forum representatives in conjunction with the Canadian Risk and Hazards Network (CRHnet) annual conference in Montreal. Representatives from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Finland, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom and the European Commission provided updates on their respective country’s efforts to achieve the Forum’s objectives. Participants shared information on progress made to date on the Forum’s parameters and reached a consensus on a more proactive stakeholder and responder engagement approach. This will result in a series of planned regional events to occur in 2017.

“The dedication and ambition from each of the Forum members is truly remarkable, and bodes well for the future of this initiative - giving first responders a much louder voice,” said Dan Cotter, Forum chair, DHS S&T.

Next Generation First Responder Workshop

As part of its commitment to the Forum, DRDC CSS hosted last December, a Next Generation First Responder Workshop, which brought together expertise in first responder operations, policy and science to inform strategies and priorities for future investments in support of responder capabilities.

A number of breakout sessions provided an opportunity to discuss operator requirements along three main themes: Operator capability domains, including situational awareness, coordination, health and safety, logistics, casualty management and training and exercises; Existing technology gaps and constraints that inhibit effective emergency response and; Key technology development priorities to enhance operator capabilities. The outcomes of this session will feed into the Forum’s process for identifying and prioritizing global capability gaps. This level of engagement with Canada’s responders offers DRDC CSS the credibility to represent responder capability gaps at the international level of the Forum, with a formal endorsement from each of Canada’s Fire, Police and Paramedic Chiefs’ associations.

In Canada, the Forum has already demonstrated relevance in mobilizing investment to address shared capability gaps. For example, the evidence and insight gained from the Forum has informed decisions for industry partnering and investments in solutions pertaining to one of the Forum’s key global capability gaps: The ability to know the location of responders and their proximity to risks and hazards in real-time.

“First responders around the world are faced with similar challenges every day,” said Chief deHooge. “The Forum members’ collective efforts to identify common issues and foster the development of S&T solutions to address these challenges will have a tremendous impact.”

Colin Murray is a DRDC CSS Director currently on exchange within the United States Department of Homeland Security First Responder Group, as well as a Canadian Forum representative.

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