Android Team Awareness Kit (Photo courtesy of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department)

Bringing Critical Incident Response Together with the Team Awareness Kit

The Team Awareness Kit (TAK) utilized by thousands of Department of Homeland Security personnel as well as state and local public safety organizations has assisted risk management at major events such as the Super Bowl and aided in the rescue of more than 2,000 people from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, Lane, Michael, and Dorian.

The technology originally developed by the Department of Defense Air Force Research Laboratory and leveraged by DHS now has a new Interactive Training Guide optimized for mobile devices and funded by DHS’ Science & Technology Directorate. The guide has been deployed to Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations, and agents can use the tool to quickly refresh training on TAK functionality and get troubleshooting tips.

TAK is a collaboration tool that allows people and organizations to come together in a shared virtual tactical planning space with critical information sharing during disasters, emergency situations and special events.

Colorado’s Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting (CoE) uses TAK to map out and manage response to often remote backcountry blazes. When firefighters are in an area with internet connectivity, TAK uses a cloud-based server to link responders. When firefighters are unable to sustain an internet connection, TAK can transmit some data between radios and more complex data, including maps, by means of a small server deployed at the scene of the incident.

“The CoE’s goal is to facilitate the utilization of a system that will enable first responders to reliably transmit location information, collaboratively map an incident, and access other tools that enable them to be safe, effective, and efficient in their operations, even if traditional Internet connections are degraded or absent,” the center said.

CoE integrated a drone response plug-in to TAK, and built upon the platform’s elevation heatmap by creating a sandtable projector. “This sandtable can assist first responders in gauging the terrain as they use TAK to train or plan a mission, and can display a mission in real-time for improved situational awareness by incident managers,” says CoE.

TAK was used by CBP and the U.S. Coast Guard to help coordinate security operations with Miami-Dade Police during this year’s Super Bowl in Miami.

“Team members positioned throughout the event and in command centers were completely synced up through the app,” said DHS S&T. “The use of TAK in combination with other technologies during the game enabled the rescue of a small vessel taking on water in the Miami bay. Surveillance sensors detected the vessel in distress and its exact location was shared with all TAK-enabled law enforcement officers in the area. USBP agents onboard a vessel with the Miami-Dade Sheriff Marine Units immediately responded, preventing a possible loss of life.”

TAK was also in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve to help CBP Air and Marine Operations Ground Tactical Air Controllers protect partygoers. TAK relayed live video feeds at points along the Las Vegas Strip, allowing law enforcement and CBP to quickly pinpoint potential trouble.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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