National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL)

Agency/Department

FLC Region

Security Lab

Yes

Address

201 Varick Street - Suite 900
New York, NY 10014
United States

Laboratory Representative

Description

 

NUSTL serves as a central and trusted federal resource to support the successful development, evaluation and transition of homeland security technologies into field use for law enforcement, fire and other emergency response agencies. Staff experts work side-by-side with the nation’s first responders to effectively plan and execute tests, evaluations and assessments of existing and emerging technologies.

The laboratory also works to enhance first responder capabilities by partnering with stakeholders to develop viable solutions to radiological and nuclear threats. NUSTL’s Radiological/Nuclear Response and Recovery (RNRR) Team strategically invests in R&D that can characterize and manage a radiological incident, save lives and minimize the impacts on communities through incident stabilization and radiological clean-up.

Specifically, NUSTL secures the Homeland through:

Collaboration — NUSTL has conducted 41 unique New York Area Science and Technology Forums (NYAST) with more than 1,000 active NYAST members from all levels of the government, academia, first responder and law enforcement agencies as well as the private sector, to discuss pressing issues in homeland security and the latest advancements in science and technology.

 

Experimentation — NUSTL facilitates an annual Urban Operational Experimentation involving scenario-based tests of emerging technologies with first responders and developers. NUSTL also conducts mission-critical focus groups and operational field assessments of emerging and commercial technologies.

 

Guidance and Tools — NUSTL’s actionable guidance and technology solutions enhance response capabilities during a radiological or nuclear emergency.

Here’s a quick look at what NUSTL has accomplished in the last year through its impactful R&D:

  • Developed web-based waste management and decontamination tools to improve incident stabilization methods, radiological clean-up and recovery.
  • Authored the science-based response planning guidance for the critical first 100 minutes following a radiological dispersal device detonation and piloted the guidance in cities throughout the U.S.
  • Created the Radiological Operations Support Specialist (ROSS) position, a nationally recognized emergency response position to ensure incident commanders have access to subject matter experts with verified skills, knowledge and abilities during a radiological event.

 

Innovation — NUSTL was the first component within DHS to be awarded a U.S. patent for an invention conceived by its employees. Patent #7781747, dubbed the Citizen’s Dosimeter, is a high-tech plastic card that would be as convenient and affordable as a subway card, with the capability to measure the amount of radiation on a person, or in a given area.

 

Product Development — NUSTL has published more than 1,000 knowledge products and technical reports to inform first responders in better selecting, using and maintaining homeland security equipment and technologies. These products are accessed nationwide on NUSTL’s System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responder (SAVER) program page of the DHS website:  https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/saver.

 

Rad Safety Subject Matter Experts — NUSTL’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission license is maintained for radiation sources, which are safely handled by technical staff during radiation detection trainings and exercises conducted by first responder agencies.

 

Technology Testing — Inside of our test laboratory located in the heart of New York City, NUSTL conducts functional testing of radiation detection equipment to ensure operational readiness before the equipment is used by responders in the field. NUSTL has received, tested and redeployed nearly 20,000 units of radiation detection equipment for use by first responder agencies.

 

Technology Transition — Scientists and engineers at NUSTL designed, developed, tested and transitioned the Radiological Emergency Management System (REMS), a radiation sensor network that provides real-time data to incident managers to guide response decisions following a radiological or nuclear event.

 

Training — NUSTL has assisted in training approximately 2,000 state and local first responders during more than 130 training events with state and local agencies throughout the New York City metropolitan area.

Mission

 

To test, evaluate and analyze Homeland Security capabilities while serving as a technical authority to first responder, state and local entities in protecting our cities.

Tech Areas

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The Radiological Emergency Management System (REMS) is a post-event gamma radiation sensor network designed for response and recovery after an accidental or deliberate release of radiation in an urban area. History has taught that advance planning, coupled with the availability of accurate, real-time information about an emergency incident, can significantly enhance response capabilities. It is to this end that REMS was conceived, pilot-tested, commercialized, and deployed in New York City.

Organized under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) is a federal laboratory located in New York City. The Laboratory formed the idea for REMS shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, when NUSTL scientists and engineers began investigating potential designs for the system.

Over a six-year period, the Lab conducted a pilot of a small REMS network comprising sensors located on rooftops of buildings in Manhattan. The success of the pilot led the New York Police Department (NYPD) to commit to a citywide implementation of REMS. To support this large-scale deployment, NUSTL’s concept and design were commercialized via a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with a major instrument manufacturer. REMS is an allowable equipment expenditure under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Authorized Equipment List, and so DHS funds can be used for acquisition by the NYPD or other state/local/tribal/territorial agency.

Currently, numerous REMS sensors are installed on buildings throughout the City in a staged deployment. Each sensor in the REMS network continuously measures environmental radiation levels and sends real-time data to a central command center. REMS sensors also provide gamma spectroscopy data used to identify the isotope responsible for the radiation. In the event of a radiation release, the system provides emergency managers with a single picture of the threat early in the incident. Specifically, the system informs emergency managers of radiation levels before responders enter an affected area, provides guidance on which areas to evacuate versus shelter-in-place, and offers officials timely information about potential radiation exposure. By communicating exposure information to the public early on, officials can reduce unnecessary evacuations and panic. Additionally, data from REMS can be used to predict the path of a radioactive plume when integrated with an atmospheric plume dispersion model, enabling advance warning to affected areas. Not only does REMS serve life-saving purposes, but the system also enables economic recovery by preventing unnecessary evacuations and expediting the return of residents to areas of the City that are deemed safe.

The NYPD currently owns and operates its own REMS network, for which NUSTL continues to provide technical expertise and services in support of system implementation and operation. NUSTL performs independent testing of the sensors before they are installed, and has developed a comprehensive test plan to ensure proper operation of the sensors, communications, and system software. The NYPD considers NUSTL to be a valuable and essential partner, and Laboratory staff often advises them on issues from the selection of optimal sensor locations to the advanced interpretation of radiation data during an emergency. The successful partnership experience of NUSTL and New York City with REMS provides a model for expansion of post-event radiation detection systems to other cities.