Understanding the Role of the RKB
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
By Vince Siragusa
Over the course of proposal development, applicants are often challenged by indentifying eligible equipment and solutions as part of their submission process. Programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) are very flexible in their procurement allowances. Other programs, much more nebulous with offering information on allowable solutions, rely heavily on the grantee’s ability to identify solutions most appropriate for project goals.
Shedding light on allowable expenses often requires the gathering of information from various sources, including the guidance document, the program website, or the program’s point of contact. Any organization seeking information on homeland security-related standards, certifications, training and equipment must also attend to the Responder Knowledge Base (RKB).
Funded by the DHS FEMA National Preparedness Directorate, RKB is offered as a free public service with the mission "to provide emergency responders, purchasers, and planners with a trusted, integrated, on-line source of information on products, standards, certifications, grants, and other equipment-related information." Since 2003, the RKB site (www.rkb.us) has proven to be a valuable resource for those researching a variety of grant-related topics.
As a major component of the RKB site, the Authorized Equipment List (AEL) provides first responders with a reference list of generic equipment category items. It is through these items that agencies like DHS are able to identify the allowable equipment categories eligible for their grant support. It’s important to note that the AEL is an authorized equipment category list—not an authorized product list. That means that the AEL provides descriptions of types of categories of equipment which are allowable for purchase. It does not list products by brand or manufacturer. In the vast majority of circumstances, only those items listed on the AEL will be allowable for acquisition using DHS grant funds.
In some ways mirroring the AEL, RKB also supports the Standardized Equipment List (SEL). Both share many of the same equipment categories and provide general descriptions on types of allowable equipment. However, the SEL also make recommendations on training and standards that can be linked to actual products on the RKB. Fortunately, the RKB site offers an integrated format that displays both AEL and SEL information in a single record—in effect, eliminating the need to reference two separate lists.
As important as access to information is for those tasked with homeland security, it is equally vital for those offering products to the responder community to share information on the equipment and solutions they can provide. Therefore, another main point of interest for RKB visitors is the products section of the site, a feature that holds a lot of value for equipment manufacturers and vendors. RKB actively seeks out information on those who have responder-related products that fall within eight categories: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Operational and US&R Equipment, Information Technology, Communications, Detection, Decontamination, Medical, and Uncategorized Products. While these categories do not provide an exhaustive list of eligible equipment, they do succeed in providing consolidated information on thousands of responder-related solutions.
Fortunately, there is no charge for manufacturers to post their information and no charge to the responder community for accessing it. Vendors and manufacturers will find that the product content they upload will be screened by RKB staff for validity and for relevance to the first responder mission. Once the product information is completed and reviewed, the RKB staff then posts the information to the site where it can be easily viewed and searched by RKB users.
The steps in submitting RKB products begin with a registration on the RKB site. As a registered public user, you can contact RKB with a request to become a Content Administrator (CA). The CA will have the ability to add and edit product information on the RKB site that will enter a queue for staff approval. RKB staff will review each product record before being published to make edits and to remove marketing language.
The RKB will continue to serve as a trusted resource for all of those involved with securing the country’s safety. For more information on the RKB site or to become a Content Administrator, contact the RKB help desk at RKBMailbox@us.saic.com or by calling 1-877-336-2752.