Project Responders: Developing the Future of Emergency Response

In August, the Department of Homeland Security issued Project Responder 5 (PR5). The report is the fifth publication of a larger series. Project Responder is a blueprint for federal, private, and academic institutions in their emergency response operations.

PR5 corroborated with emergency responders across the United States. As a result, this study is primarily an analysis on four topics:

  • Capability needs
  • Evolving threat environments
  • Operational capacity
  • Technological advancements

The report identifies 37 capability needs that emergency responders deem necessary to safely and efficiently address critical incidents. Thirty-seven seems like a wary yet fair conclusion to draw. Every year, communities confront a changing landscape, and another hazard adds to a growing list of threats.

While the evolving threat environment plays a role, PR5 indicates that there are a number of issues that affect a traditional response plan:

This document also describes how other factors, including the actions of bystanders, societal perceptions of mistrust, the growing involvement of traditional and social media and advances in technology, have changed how responders operate during routine daily events and on large-scale incidents.

It brings to mind the recent hurricane disasters in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico; the response narrative determined in part by exchanges on social media, which consequently shaped global perceptions of U.S. mitigation efforts and policies.

We come close to approaching the end of a year with many lessons learned. Project Responder serves as a helpful reminder that major challenges in emergency management still linger.

The full Project Responder 5 report can be found on the HSDL. For more information or to read other work from the series, click here.