In the second decade of the 21st Century, we must change the way we view public safety in the United States. Shall we no longer proclaim public safety is 100 years of tradition unimpeded by progress, but rather 100 years of tradition enhanced by technology for future generations of success?
Last fall, I had the privilege to join Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thial for the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation’s Fire Technology Symposium. On the trip, we held a welcome dinner at the Philadelphia Fire Museum. It was fascinating. I learned of Benjamin Franklin’s commitment to building safer communities after studying the Great Fire of London in 1666. I discovered that the Philadelphia Fire Department had fire pumps to literally pump water out of basements at the end of extinguishing the fire. To cap it all off, I found out that the United States’ oldest fire engine (1723) also came with 200 leather buckets to manually extinguish each fire.
Fast forward 297 years and the Los Angeles Fire Department just purchased the first electric fire engine from Rosenbauer. How is that “unimpeded by progress?” We must reframe the discussion. We must refocus our innovative lens to encourage those in TECH to MAKE SAFE TECH that enhances public safety, first responders, and our armed forces.
One example of this innovation is the Smart City Internet of Things Initiative (SCITI Labs), a great program by our friends at Center for Innovative Technologies (VA), Smart City Works (VA), and Tech Nexus (IL). SCITI Labs was founded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate with a straightforward, yet audacious goal: take all of the smart sensors already being incorporated into our built structures, including decentralized HVAC systems, motion detected lights, security systems, camera systems and even simple code enforced technologies like Exit signs, and allow them to be accessible for first responders.
I want you to think about this. Look around the room and building you are in, or the next building you enter. Are there smoke detectors? Do the lights in the place automatically turn on or off due to occupancy? Does the HVAC system have a way to detect temperature and adjust the system accordingly? Do the televisions use a streaming device? Are there traditional phones or no phones or VOIP phones? How many Bluetooth, WiFi, Zigbee, and mobile devices are in the room?
We mistakenly view these technologies as only helping improve our quality of life without considering their potential to enhance public safety. I understand privacy, overreach, and “big brother” concerns, but to be honest, the readings and outputs of these sensors during normal activities of the day are all NOISE. Nobody cares – well, unless you are the property manager or building owner trying to keep operating costs down.
But for me, my family, and my team members, I want my first responders to have access when we are in our offices, conference rooms, or homes when we call 911! This urgency was relayed to me by my friend Chief Jeff Saunders of Texas A&M Texas Task Force 1. According to Chief Saunders, “We have to search the entire building. It would absolutely be a game-changer if you could tell me where to start!”
That’s why Public Safety needs a New Look. In 2020, Make Safe Tech, Inc. (Safe Tech). has strategically planned to attend the eight largest public safety conferences in the country. We will provide 150 first responder offices and departments hands-on demonstrations through our SAFE TECH ROADSHOW (#SAFETECHROADSHOW2020). We will identify 200+ companies and innovations through six regional pitch competitions throughout the U.S., culminating in 20+ winners that will join us in College Station, TX to compete for cash prizes and to network with end-users and industry leaders. Safe Tech will also open our Fab Lab and Maker’s Space in College Station as our central office to bring responders and armed forces together with those that MAKE SAFE TECH.
**SPECIAL NOTE: In light of safety concerns with COVID-19, the #SafeTechRoadShow and conference participation has been suspended and will resume once all government orders have been lifted.**
We’re changing the game of public safety and defense innovation. Won’t you join us?