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Since its inception, DHS has recognized the need to identify:

  1. Appropriate and effective standards for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) equipment
  2. Standards required to ensure the security of U.S. National borders and infrastructures
  3. Standards related to equipment and procedures for the nation’s first responders

The lack of uniform, effective standards has led to the purchase of inferior equipment; incompatibility among the equipment, processes, and procedures of first responder and other units; and a lack of effectiveness and efficiency in other activities designed to ensure the security of U.S. borders and infrastructures. The DHS has established the DHS National Standards adoption process as a means of assisting local, state and federal procurement and regulatory officials and manufacturers in making procurement decisions and in developing regulatory requirements.

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This image shows fully equipped firefighters walking away after putting out a fire.

As the lead for standards coordination within DHS, the mission of the DHS Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate, Test & Evaluation and Standards (TES) Branch (Standards Branch) supports the development of and coordinates the adoption of national standards and appropriate evaluation methods to meet homeland security needs. Working across DHS as well as other federal and anational partners, TES works to harmonize the standards that reflect the goals and objectives of the Homeland Security Enterprise. The Standards Branch manages or participates in many standards working groups and funds multiple efforts supporting standards development across the homeland security enterprise. Enterprise participants include the following:

The InterAgency Board (IAB)

Sanctioned by the Attorney General of the United States, the InterAgency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability was founded by the Department of Defense's Consequence Management Program Integration Office and the Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Investigation Weapons of Mass Destruction Countermeasures on October 13, 1998.  It is a voluntary collaborative panel of emergency preparedness and response practitioners from a wide array of professional disciplines that represent all levels of government and the voluntary sector. The IAB provides a structured forum for the exchange of ideas among operational, technical, and support organizations to improve national preparedness and promote interoperability and compatibility among local, state, and federal response communities. Based on direct field experience, IAB members advocate for and assist with the development and implementation of performance criteria, standards, and test protocols, and technical, operating, and training requirements for all-hazards incident response equipment with a special emphasis on Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive issues. The IAB also informs broader emergency preparedness and response policy, doctrine, and practice. The IAB develops, maintains, and updates its Standardized Equipment List (SEL) for first responders.  In partnership with the DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of Grants and Training, the Standards Branch promotes the use of the SEL in conjunction with the Authorized Equipment List (AEL). The AEL is published by the FEMA Grants Directorate Program and used to determine equipment allowability under multiple grant programs.

Interagency Committee on Standards Policy (ICSP)

The Interagency Committee on Standards Policy (ICSP) provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce and other Executive Branch agencies on matters related to standards policy. The ICSP seeks to promote effective and consistent standards policies plus foster cooperation between government, industry, and other private organizations involved in standards activities. In particular, ICSP focuses these cooperative efforts on interagency standards through compliance with Section 12(d) of the NTTAA (Public Law 104-1113), which directs federal departments and agencies to achieve a greater reliance on voluntary consensus standards. The Committee reports to the Secretary of the Department of Commerce (DOC) through the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

American National Standards Institute’s Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP)

HSSP is actively supported by the DHS Standards Branch, and was formed in February 2003 (before the formation of DHS) as a public-private partnership to coordinate the development of non-government standards for homeland security.  The HSSP identifies existing consensus standards, or, if none exist, assists DHS and other entities with accelerating the development and adoption of consensus standards critical to homeland security.  The office uses the HSSP to promote public-private partnership to meet the needs of homeland security.

DHS Standards Council

The DHS Standards Council was created in 2006, and provides a platform for the Department standards setting bodies to coordinate common standards polices and support enterprise-wide standards adoption policies and procedures for DHS.

DHS Standards Subject Area Working Group (SSAWG)

SSAWG provides a forum and common platform for DHS standards professionals and stakeholders to coordinate department-wide standards along a particular subject area.

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The standards development lifecycle process guides the activities that support this mission.

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The DHS only adopts standards that have utilized due process, ensuring these standards are developed from consensus.  Voluntary Consensus Standards ensure:

  1. Participation from all interested stakeholders
  2. The standard is voluntarily developed and voluntarily used unless placed within contract (cited as a requirement or required by law or regulation)

Consensus usually means more than 60 percent and less than unanimity have agreed the standard should be approved.  These consensus standards eliminate the cost to the Government of developing its own standards and decrease the cost of goods procured and the burden of complying with agency regulation.  In addition, they provide incentives and opportunities to establish standards that serve national needs; encourage long-term growth for U.S. enterprises and promote efficiency and economic competition through harmonization of standards; and further the policy of reliance upon the private sector to supply Government needs for goods and services.

Standard Development Organizations (SDOs) are the entities that develop, coordinate, and revise standards.  There are two SDOs that have a major impact on preparedness stakeholders.  The ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), is one of the largest organizations which develops voluntary consensus standards.  Its constituents represent producers, users, consumers, government and academia, and have produced more than 12,000 standards since its creation in 1898. ASTM standards may be accessed free of charge by following the steps outlined here. Please note that only government employees and responders have access to standards for free through the RKB site. Another equally important SDO is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  The NFPA was established in 1896 with the goal of reducing the burden of fire and other hazards through creating and promoting consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.  As the world's leading advocate of fire prevention and an authoritative source on public safety, NFPA has developed, published, and disseminated more than 300 consensus codes and standards intended to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks.

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Standards impact your grant funding.

Through grant funding, DHS supports the development of core capabilities (formerly known as target capabilities) within state, local, and tribal jurisdictions, and other regional authorities in the preparation, prevention, and response to terrorist attacks and other disasters.  The Target Capability List (TCL) (in revision – 2011) and the risk-based need for development of certain capabilities in your state affect the grant guidance. Once you receive funding, standards impact your processes and purchases.  The AEL provides the list of equipment approved for purchase using DHS grant funding.  

You have a voice, get involved!

Standards development is a process that is open to all those who have an investment in the standard, facilitating fair and equal say.  Voluntary consensus standards leverage a wide range of subject matter expertise at little to no cost than otherwise available to individual organizations.  By capitalizing on this expertise, stronger standards are created than if these separate components independently created their own standards.  Standards enable the implementation of preparedness and response systems through development and consensus on common language and standard operating procedures.  They foster the development of better and more interoperable commercially developed technologies and products.  Standards increase the range of commercially available equipment by giving preference to performance standards, which in turn creates lower procurement and maintenance costs.  Those that choose to participate in standards have a significant impact on their industry sector.  Voluntary consensus standards expand opportunities for international trade, conserve resources, improve health and safety, and protect the environment.

"I'm consistently impressed with the talent of the civil servants and the responders that I interface with on a regular basis and their commitment and how much of their time and energy they give toward meeting the needs and the public safety of the people of this great country.  And I'm encouraged and thrilled to have individuals approach me with an interest in standards development because we really need those voices and having that feedback from individuals is absolutely critical to producing a successful product."

- Dr. Jayne Morrow

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