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Missouri City Staging IoT Pilot for Storm Emergency Simulations

The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology division is working with the Open Geospatial Consortium and the City of St. Louis to develop an integrated emergency-response system that will include sensors and software to detect and respond to river floods, flash floods, fires, car accidents and stranded individuals.
By Claire Swedberg

DHS S&T's goal, Speicher says, is to aid in the development of IoT technology and integrated software that can help make cities' emergency responses more efficient and effective, as well as ensure the safety of responders and members of the public. To accomplish this goal, the agency will assess how well existing solutions integrate and provide cities and public safety officials with the data they need to better manage their emergency-response processes.

The city will test the IoT-based technology not only to address major floods or other emergency scenarios, but also to reduce the risk of such problems occurring in the first place. The system will help to improve city operations, according to Robert Gaskill-Clemons, St. Louis's chief technology officer. That means data collected from cameras or sensors can aid in routine tasks, such as snow clean-up, waste removal or identifying traffic congestion.

Robert Gaskill-Clemons
The agency's ultimate goal involves emergency management, Speicher says, so it is in the process of testing "anything and everything that would help first-responders understand [an incident] between dispatch and arrival." For instance, responders often do not know what to expect when an emergency call is placed. That means the number of people responding, the tools they bring and the necessary safety precautions need to be decided without full knowledge of what is taking place. Improving situational awareness could involve automatically capturing data regarding the presence of gas, or water breaching a river bank, as well as cameras recording footage of a police incident under way.

Speicher says DHS S&T selected St. Louis for the testing, in part, because it has been forward-thinking in its smart-city potential in the past. The city already has some sensors and cameras deployed, and it has been attending smart-city programs. In fact, Gaskill-Clemons says, "Our relationship was established through DHS sciences at conferences. We were very willing to make St. Louis available. They looked at several cities and selected us."

In August 2019, DHS S&T completed a test of its IoT-based Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) program in Birmingham, Ala., with a focus on emergency response alone (as opposed to a full IoT smart-city deployment). During the simulation, local HAZMAT and search-and-rescue response teams participated in an earthquake scenario, which took place in Memphis, Tenn., and impacted Birmingham. First-responders were provided with body-worn cameras, arm-worn sensors that tracked their heart rates and chemical sensors that identified the presence of gas and radioactivity.

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