DHS opens software for incident command platform

Code used to build a web-based communication platform for first responders is now available on GitHub, accessible to any person or organization that wants to put it to use, the Department of Homeland Security has announced.

The Next-Generation Incident Command System has already shown its effectiveness in beta testing in the field, according to Jeffrey Booth, NICS program manager and DHS science and technology directorate.

NICS is a mobile, web-based system designed to speed collaboration and enhance situational awareness across emergency response agencies, government and the private sector organizations. The system has roughly 3,300 registered users, spanning 570 organizations in 40 U.S. states and five foreign countries, GCN previously reported.

During an incident, NICS provides an information backbone that manages and distributes data, including real-time vehicle location feeds, weather, critical infrastructure and terrain information. It also offers graphical tools, including geo-referenced virtual whiteboards, for interagency collaboration that facilitates a coordinated response.

After successful field tests, DHS transitioned the NICS software from a research and development effort to an operational capability.

In making the platform open source, DHS wants to see it more widely adopted. As more users provide feedback, the tool can be improved. Booth said meetings have been planned on using NICS more collaboratively and encouraging further adoption.

Technology companies have already voiced interest in using the open source code as part of their platform, Booth said.

“We don’t want to compete,” he said. “Our goal is the exchange of information.”

Worldwide Incident Command Services Corp., a California-based nonprofit, is using the code in its Raven Emergency Management Platform, a digital incident command system.

Firefighting organizations in California and as far away as Australia have been early adopters of the platform. In a wildfire situation, it allows users to identify the fire line and safe areas, as well as data on wind direction and the location of firefighters.

Booth said there are some anomalies that are being addressed, but overall feedback from users has been positive.

Booth and his colleagues plan to have the NICS platform hosted on the Homeland Security Information Network as part of the Geospatial Information Infrastructure this fall for DHS users.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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