There are many ways in which technology has made the world a safer place. There are also other ways where technology catalyzes risk. Terror and cyber attacks are aided and abetted by certain technologies. To identify, counter, and avoid these risks, one of the most important programs of the past few decades has been the SAFETY Act.
What Is The SAFETY Act?
The Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act was passed in 2002 as part of the Homeland Security Act. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chooses certain technologies that help create systems of risk management for public security. The designation can apply to a variety of technologies that cover products, services, software, and hybrids. The SAFETY program is voluntary. It is not a regulation.
There is an important liability aspect to technologies covered under the SAFETY Act. Technologies that are deployed as anti-terrorism technologies are protected, and can include any person, firm, or entity that provides this technology. Also, buyers, contractors, and downstream users of the technology cannot have claims brought against them.
Why Was The SAFETY Act Enacted?
The act pertains to any sellers or makers of technology in the anti-terrorism arena. When a terror act occurs, generally the threat of liability is quite high. If damage, injuries, or fatalities occur, legal action often follows.
Makers and sellers might be deterred entirely from investing or operating in the space of commercializing and deploying anti-terrorism technologies. The SAFETY Act provides protection to counteract this deterrence. The SAFETY Act aims to catalyze the development and production of technologies that can save lives.
How Does a Technology or Product Get Certified?
Only technologies that pass a rigorous technical and economic test are considered for designation. They are evaluated by a team of trained reviewers, on criteria such as how well they can facilitate defense against acts of terrorism, how quickly they can deploy, and how risky it is to the public in the absence of these tools. If the U.S. government has previously used or had experience with these technologies, they are more likely to receive SAFETY Act designation.
Other criteria include the evaluation of scientific studies that can be feasibly conducted to assess the technology to substantially reduce risk, and the likelihood that the technology won’t deploy unless SAFETY Act protections are in place.
Which Technologies Fall Under The SAFETY Act?
There have been more than 800 applications approved for SAFETY Act protection by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The scope of approval goes beyond just physical products and into a broader range of technologies that include many types of intellectual property. They define anti-terrorism technologies as “any qualifying product, equipment, service (including support services), device, or technology (including IT).” These applications fall under the following categories, according to the DHS:
- Threat and vulnerability assessment services
- Detection systems
- Blast mitigation materials
- Screening services
- Sensor Integration
- Technologies for First Responders
- Security planning
- Crisis management platforms and systems
- Venue security
What Does The SAFETY Act Mean For Business?
For tools, products, and services that receive designation, the SAFETY Act is essentially a greenlight for business.
Since no action can be taken against the user of a SAFETY Act-designated technology, those users have a powerful shield in the event of any attempted property or personal injury claims resulting from an act of terror. In Fiscal Year 2015 for example, more than $7.5 billion of annual technology revenue was approved under the SAFETY Act, supporting more than 151,000 private sector jobs.
Being designated or certified under the SAFETY Act is a competitive advantage. It clears the way for bystanders and consumers of technologies to use the technology and be immune to liability. Potential customers receive the assurance that they will not be collateral damage in case of a crisis.
BlackBerry AtHoc and The SAFETY Act
In 2013, BlackBerry AtHoc was awarded the SAFETY Act designation by DHS. DHS awarded the designation specifically for BlackBerry AtHoc’s unified mass notification system. The BlackBerry AtHoc networked platform was the first emergency mass notification system to receive a SAFETY Act designation as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology (QATT). BlackBerry AtHoc customers are now protected against property or personal injury claims. BlackBerry AtHoc is deployed across DHS itself in the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and Customs and Border Protection.