The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is joining forces with the nonprofit Beacon NGO to advance open source software capabilities for public safety. Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), Beacon NGO will analyze open source code for S&T’s Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS) and deliver it to a larger emergency response community. Beacon NGO will engage directly with responders to develop a strategy to ensure the information-sharing platform meets their operational needs.
NICS is a mobile, web-based communication platform that enables responders to share critical information like location and scale of the disaster on scene, in real time. S&T initially transitioned NICS to the open-source community in 2016 for wide accessibility and made it available to emergency response and emergency manager organizations at no cost. Though NICS is available for use now, this new partnership will evolve the code and enhance the platform with additional capabilities.
NICS is being used worldwide by a number of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member and partner countries, as well as INternational TEchnology Research And CollaboraTion (INTERACT) partners at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and Emergency Management Victoria, Australia, and other public safety stakeholders.
Currently, each NICS user maintains and modifies their own user code. Moving forward, to avoid duplication of code maintenance efforts, Beacon NGO will maintain the core NICS code and coordinate future collaborations with responder stakeholders. This will also allow Beacon NGO to collect and share lessons learned from NICS deployments.
“The collaboration with Beacon NGO provides an opportunity to continue to advance purpose-driven software development for the response community,” said David Alexander, S&T Senior Science Advisor for Resilience. “This partnership adds another level of expertise and reach to our research engagements. It will streamline NICS’ functionality for emergency response agencies and allow them to benefit from other agencies’ custom modifications.”
Beacon NGO develops information technology solutions for responders to natural or man-made disasters. Under the CRADA, Beacon NGO will survey the current landscape of existing code versions and gather feedback from NICS stakeholders to inform recommendations for needed updates and enhancements to the core code. In addition to code maintenance, Beacon NGO is developing an alert and notification system for citizen engagement that will ultimately be available for NICS users.