Bringing technology home with CEDAP
By Rachel Fretz, Homeland1 Editor
Have you ever wished there were a Consumer Reports for emergency responder gear? Well, there is. The Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program (CEDAP) from the Department of Homeland Security's FEMA is putting the latest, expert-tested equipment in the hands of first responders who need it the most through an innovative technical assistance program.
Launched in 2005, CEDAP complements the FEMA National Preparedness Directorate's other major grants programs to enhance regional response capabilities by providing pre-tested and selected technology and equipment to emergency responder agencies in smaller jurisdictions.
CEDAP is supported by two sister programs, SAVER and OpVal, that evaluate the technologies in a simulated setting and on the street, respectively.
Training is mandated for every piece of equipment awarded. Conducted by either the manufacturer or an equipment expert, the training ensures that the systems and devices will be employed fully and correctly. For the more specialized equipment (e.g., thermal imaging cameras, vulnerability assessment technologies or PPE masks and suits), training is offered to hundreds of agency representatives from around the country who are invited to a central location to participate.
"Prior to CEDAP, and still to this day, most of the states get funding through federal grant projects," said Dr. Pete Nacci, director of FEMA's Technology Section. "For small or rural agencies, that creates a real problem because they just don't have the staff, time or money to investigate which technologies they need to bring in, and how to bring them in."
The CEDAP application process is light on forms and done entirely online.
In this way, Dr. Nacci said, CEDAP is a niche program: "We do some of the shopping for them."
If it isn't SAVER-tested…
This year, the top three pieces of equipment requested through CEDAP are hydraulic rescue tools, thermal imagers and radioactivity detection kits – in other words, not your grandfather's flashlight. In order to evaluate this cutting-edge technology, FEMA developed System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER), a rigorous vetting process that ensures that all equipment is tested by public safety professionals for reliability and usability in a simulated real world environment.
"SAVER functions a bit like Consumer Reports," said Dr. Nacci, referring to the multi-industry consortium of product reviews and standards. "But we go straight to the source to review the tactical viability of a given product."
A major basis of SAVER testing is simulation, whereby a real-world scenario that has been selected by DHS – on mass evacuation, for instance – is used as the basis for asking a panel of subject-matter experts how they might use the equipment and how they would need it to behave in different circumstances.
SAVER publishes several hundred reports a year, all of which are available on the SAVER web site, which is a free resource. Product reviews run the gamut, from PPE and extraction devices to emergency generators. Best of all, the product reviews are peer-based, which means they're performed by agencies just like yours.
The CEDAP catalog SAVER's written reviews of product performance are used to help determine what equipment will be available in the catalog and the nation-wide competition.
The program issues a request for proposals in FedBizOps. Manufacturers can submit information about their products. If selected, they will have an opportunity to present before a panel of experts. Panel members consult SAVER reports to validate or invalidate manufacturer's claims about their product's performance. (The CEDAP catalog is a big deal for many, particularly smaller manufacturers, who compete for a spot.)
Items included in the catalog are generally selected for their high level of technical and operational performance. By consulting sheriffs, chiefs of police, fire chiefs and first responders, CEDAP received their valuable input on equipment needs and priorities.
"We select equipment that's fairly sophisticated that agencies might have trouble importing into their departments without the training that CEDAP offers."
The CEDAP catalog is updated regularly and is available through the Responder
Getting creative with OpVal
The Operation Validation Program (OpVal) is the third arm of the FEMA program, and arguably the most fun. Whereas SAVER tests products in a simulated environment (like Disaster City at Texas A&M University, a massive environment piled high with old concrete and twisted rebar), OpVal fields the technology through a pilot in a chosen city by agencies who are selected to integrate the equipment into their day-to-day functions.
"These agencies are an operational 'on the street' testing group," said Dr. Nacci. "We give them a few different models and ask them to get creative with them."
After three to six months, FEMA gets feedback on how the technologies performed – what was useful, what wasn't. The findings are then published, for instance last year's on risk management technology.
Agencies that perform the testing are selected for various reasons. In some cases, it's because someone from the department contacted FEMA with interest in participating; others were chosen through conferences or after interactions with our program through CEDAP or SAVER.
"OpVal serves as an incentive for us to want to work with them, because they want to work with us," Dr. Nacci said.
(Note: Agencies selected to test the equipment through OpVal aren't necessarily CEDAP winners, but they are qualified to compete.)
Feedback from the first responder community has been very enthusiastic. Success stories about the equipment itself are a testament to the program's strength: Thermal Imagers awarded to a network of agencies in the Seattle area traced a drowning man's heat signature, saving his life. Night vision equipment employed by the Mount Hope fire department in West Virginia helped avert a helicopter crash by detecting high tension wires. The returns are evidently huge.
CEDAP has received commendations from the National Sheriff's Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
WakeMed Health & Hospitals (top), Campus Police Department in Raleigh, N.C. is a hospital system that has the capability to deploy a 50-bed hospital during a disaster. Last year, they received a thermal imaging camera through CEDAP.
Kurt Henderson, Captain of the WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Campus Police Department in Raleigh, N.C., a hospital system that has the capability to deploy a 50-bed hospital during a disaster, said he is very pleased with the program. Last year, his department was awarded a thermal imaging camera.
“We use the thermal imaging camera to support police investigations and to locate missing persons both on our campuses and in the community,” Capt. Henderson said. “We have a close relationship with surrounding law enforcement agencies and emergency responders. They know we have the technology to find victims in missing person cases or during disaster situations that otherwise may not be found. Ultimately, the entire county benefits from WakeMed’s thermal imaging camera.”
WakeMed is a not-for-profit hospital system that works hard to leverage purchasing power, which is why Capt. Henderson said the program is especially important for smaller departments: “We wouldn’t have been able to spend the money it costs to get this technology otherwise.”
Last year, $90 million worth of CEDAP requests were made – far surpassing its $17.3 million giveaway budget.
Sharing the love
The East Williston Fire Department on Long Island, NY, staffed entirely by volunteers, is a two-time CEDAP winner. Grants manager Kevin Mulroony, a police sergeant with the Counterterrorism Division of the New York City Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn, is taking a "share the love" approach with the thermal imaging camera and, more recently, the chemical identification kit that they received.
Mulrooney said their training is four-tiered: It starts with formal FEMA training; the representatives then come back and train team leaders, who in turn train the general population of the department and ultimately, neighboring agencies.
This, Mulrooney explained, is the sticking point: "If there is an emergency in a surrounding jurisdiction, we want to make sure there is a trained technician on hand – even if our people aren't available to respond."
Mulrooney is a fan of the program, but said that the giveaway products are, in his opinion, becoming more law enforcement-centric.
When asked for his wishlist, Mulrooney said, "I'd like to see more basic technical decontamination device sand personal radiation detectors – things in the mid-price range. A twenty-thousand dollar piece of equipment would make a big difference."
Get in on the action
The CEDAP application process is simple by design. The whole process is very straightforward and, according to Dr. Nacci, "un-grantslike." Best yet, the application is checked for consistency with each state's overall strategy for homeland security, which makes it easy for every state capital to sign off.
FEMA makes one CEDAP announcement a year, which is posted on the DHS web site and announced on the Responder Knowledge Base. FEMA also sends an e-mail to a technology representative in each state telling them to be on the lookout to the upcoming CEDAP announcement.
Winners of the last round will be announced early fall. The new application season is tentatively set for Spring 2009.
For the latest information on CEDAP and other DHS grant programs, visit www.fema.gov.
CEDAP fact sheet http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1198172954591.shtm