The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced on August 8 the availability of a new information sharing tool for first responders across the globe.
The tool, known as the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS) is a web-based communication platform that gives first responders real time access to remote experts such as university researchers and topographic experts. This also provides experts with the opportunity to observe incidents as they develop and volunteer relevant material and resources where necessary.
After successful beta implementation, NICS transitioned to the open-source community for wider accessibly. The platform is now available to any interested party.
“Through strong partnerships within the State of California, responder organizations across the United States, and the State of Victoria in Australia, NICS software is deployed as an operational tool in many first responder communities,” said Dan Cotter, director of S&T’s First Responders Group. “And now that the platform code has been made available to the open-source community, first responders can leverage this tool from anywhere in the world.”
In developing NICS, DHS S&T received contributions from the US Coast Guard Research and Development Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory.
NICS has now been in use for a number of years.Emergency Management Victoria launched NICS back in 2014 when the product was still in the process of research and development. By April 2016, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) had also deployed NICS software for California emergency responders.
The NICS vision has been advanced even further through Cal OES, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and various other local fire and law enforcement and emergency management agencies within California and across the United States.
DHS S&T successfully transitioned NICS to operational capability from its stages in research and development in September 2013 during the “Rim” wildland fire in Yosemite National Park where a number of organizations deployed NICS while trying to contain the burning 235,000 acres. NICS was used to make collaborative decisions and to aid in the dissemination of constantly developing information.
NICS code is currently or will soon be available through three venues: GitHub, the US government’s open source code repository site; Worldwide Incident Command Services Corporation, which has made the code available under the name RAVEN; and the DHS Homeland Security Information Network.