Perspective

Bringing Innovation to Emergency Response

December 16, 2019

LMI Staff

LMI Helps NUSTL Evaluate First Responder Equipment

If Kris Dooley ever decides to become a movie director, her time as a testing and evaluation (T&E) program manager for the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) will have prepared her surprisingly well for the job.

For nearly six years while supporting the New York City–based lab, Dooley has orchestrated a lot of “movies”—her team’s term for the meticulously detailed T&E events it performs on technologies that enhance first responders’ safety and effectiveness.

Test events are like movie productions because you’re bringing simulated operational scenarios to life. “You need physical space, technologies and tools, a well-designed test plan that serves as a script, along with a tight schedule and full cast of first responders to execute the event,” Dooley said.

The cast can be extensive—like the 220 participants from a combined 33 federal, state, and local public safety agencies and companies at the Port of Houston last year. LMI supported the data collection efforts from the exercise, which simulated a chemical spill to test the integration and interoperability of new technologies with first responders’ capabilities. Performance criteria included environmental response, health and safety, situational awareness, and operational coordination.

“We’re not doing lab testing to verify functionality; we’re testing its operational use,” Dooley said. “Will a cord get in your way? Can you carry a ladder or swing a hammer? Can a colleague read your gauge to see if you need help? First responders need these answers before they use a new technology in a real emergency.”

While the Houston event had a higher profile than most, NUSTL’s T&E programs, which LMI supports, conduct dozens of operational field assessments (OFAs) and related activities annually. The technologies tested run the gamut from handheld explosive trace detectors to unmanned aerial system countermeasures to more resilient hoist gloves for helicopter rescue operators. T&E is the mission at NUSTL, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology (DHS S&T) Directorate. LMI has become an indispensable partner, furnishing logistics, communications, data analysis and visualization, and leadership advisory support as well as T&E program management.

“The work at NUSTL is in high demand, and the first responder community views the lab as a resource for their agency. We’re a trusted partner here,” said Dooley.

Each OFA originates with a capability gap identified by the DHS S&T First Responder Resource Group—consisting of over 100 first responders located throughout the nation, representing law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical service, and emergency management disciplines—which finds a company or academic institution to prototype a solution. Dooley’s team, under the guidance and in coordination with NUSTL, then develops a test plan, attempting to closely replicate daily operations. The OFAs can be elaborate, no less complex for hoist gloves than a simulated hazardous material incident to test in-suit communication systems for personal protective equipment.

“We had an electric hoist over a pool, so the evaluators put on their gloves, went to the top, and used the gurneys and carriage systems to rescue mannequins from the water,” Dooley said. “We were fortunate to partner with a U.S. Coast Guard facility that simulated rain and wind so we could evaluate in conditions responders expect to see.”

When Dooley joined LMI in 2014, she became the second member of LMI’s NUSTL team, having previously supported the DHS S&T Plum Island Animal Disease Center. LMI’s presence has since grown, helping the lab overcome budget constraints to meet its mission and improve operations, notably helping it achieve ISO 9001:2015 quality management certification and pass annual surveillance audits. The LMI team now stands at eight, half of them engineers providing technical expertise to T&E programs.

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Luminary Awards

For their superb support of NUSTL, Kris Dooley (second from left) and her colleagues received the inaugural Mike Daniels Game Changer Award at LMI’s 2019 Luminary Awards.

LMI’s exceptional customer service earned the DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Award for Outstanding Collaboration in 2018. LMI staff members supported the planning, execution, and reporting on 12 T&E events for crime scene video mapping, body-worn cameras, and radiation portal monitors, among other technologies. Additional LMI contributions that year included a change control feature cited as a best practice for quality surveillance audits and a new T&E equipment dashboard to help the lab manage its equipment and technology inventory.

Further validation came in April, when LMI was named prime awardee of the recompete contract supporting NUSTL’s parent office, the DHS S&T’s Office of National Laboratories.

“As the demand for NUSTL’s products and services continues to grow, the LMI team stands by to support NUSTL logistically and technically to meet the needs of the first responder community,” Dooley said.

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