Keeping Canadians Safe through Innovation

June 29, 2015

First responders arriving on scene to provide medical care, battle a blaze or maintain order in the community; border services officers preventing dangerous goods from entering the country; infrastructure operators identifying and preventing physical and cyber threats; policy experts collaborating on plans and strategies; and emergency managers coordinating response efforts during a disaster.

What do all these groups and so many others have in common? Their work depends on access to the best knowledge, science and technology (S&T) tools, and approaches – all founded on the very best evidence-based advice.

“S&T alone can’t guarantee safety and security but without S&T, safety and security is impossible.”

“S&T alone can’t guarantee safety and security but without S&T, safety and security is impossible,” said Dr. Mark Williamson, Acting Director General, Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS). “A key element of the Canadian Safety and Security Program is to create opportunities for S&T experts to work alongside public safety and security professionals, so they can be responsive to their needs and address the most pressing issues, at the right time, with the right solutions.”

Making a Difference One Project at a Time

Since 9/11, the impact of public safety and security S&T has evolved through a number of programs under DRDC’s stewardship, and collaborations with partners across government, industry and academia. These efforts culminated in the 2012 launch of the CSSP, which is led by DRDC CSS, in partnership with Public Safety Canada.

“S&T has played, and continues to play, a major role in enhancing capabilities to deal with major incidents in Canada and safeguarding the lives of responders and the general public,” says Ernie MacGillivray, Innovation and Continuous Improvement Champion at New Brunswick Department of Public Safety and Chair of the CSSP Advisory Board.

“The CSSP is an innovative program - it allows scientists, technical experts, responders, emergency planners, policy-makers and other safety and security decision-makers to work together and have a real impact on the ground”.

Over the last three years, the CSSP has funded dozens of initiatives through annual competitive calls for proposals –investing about $47 million for innovative S&T projects.

Supporting Emergency Management

New capabilities are improving our ability to deal with natural disasters. One example is the BlueSky Canada system, which provides forecasting products that predict and measure the risk of smoke from wildfires. Another is the HAZUS software, which assesses physical damage and other losses from floods and earthquakes.

Interoperability and information sharing have also progressed, including the creation of the Intersect Situational Awareness Network (I-SAN), which allows agencies in the National Capital Region to share timely and accurate information about threats, hazards and events to support more effective operations.

 “The portal will definitely improve response co-ordination and should enhance public confidence in the police and other participating agencies,” said Kevin Logue, Operation Intersect’s Program Manager, Ottawa Police Service.

Countering Chemical, biological, Radiological-Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Threats

Significant advancements are also being made in the development of CBRNE detection technologies and countermeasures, including support for the development of the VSV-EBOV Ebola vaccine currently undergoing clinical trials, and new treatments for chemical nerve agents and radiation poisoning. The CSSP is also funding the creation of first responder training courses on safe procedures for bomb threats, and developing new methods for detecting homemade explosives.

Protecting our Borders and Critical Infrastructure

Border and transportation security measures have also evolved in the past three years, with new systems to improve dispatching, and management and distribution of security intelligence information along the border. The CSSP is also supporting biometric technologies research, improved cargo screening for drugs and dangerous materials, as well as surveillance technologies to better identify suspicious activities on the Great Lakes.

Projects funded through the calls for proposals are also enhancing the resiliency of critical infrastructure in Canada. They include guidelines for more blast resistant-buildings, environmentally-friendly decontamination products, and enhanced cyber threat detection tools.

Building Stronger Communities for a Stronger Canada

The development of a new fire dynamics training curriculum and other important efforts are underway to support community resiliency and the safety and operational effectiveness of first responders. Another project is assessing how regular home visits by paramedics can reduce the volume of ambulance calls and hospital emergency room traffic in a given area.

“The whole idea of the project is if we can send paramedics to residents, we keep them out of hospital and it improves the whole health care system,” said Acting Chief John O’Donnell, Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services.

“Community resiliency increases Canada’s overall resiliency,” said Stéphanie Durand, Director General of Policy and Outreach in the Emergency Management and Programs Branch at Public Safety Canada. “Emergency management is a shared responsibility. Working together, we can build capacity across all sectors to mitigate the worst impacts of natural disasters and other emergencies before they happen.”

As these and many more ongoing efforts continue to evolve, a third round of 24 projects has been selected for funding through the CSSP’s latest annual call for proposals.

“Ultimately, by supporting technical and research advancement in the emergency management community, the CSSP helps Canadian institutions, communities and residents mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from threats and disasters,” stated Ms. Durand.

 “Through this federal program, we are stimulating scientific and technological innovations that ultimately reduce the impact of emergencies and disasters leading to a more alert and resilient Canada,” added Dr. Williamson.

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