DHS directorate enhances FiRST application
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) next week will announce the release of the latest version of its First Responder Support Tools (FiRST) mobile application, which will include enhanced sharing capabilities and integration with systems such as WebEOC and Virtual USA.
The FiRST application is designed to help first responders determine what areas should be evacuated to prevent harmful contamination in the aftermath of a hazardous-material (hazmat) incident or the potential detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED), with weather conditions factored into the equation.
Having the FiRST application on a smartphone, tablet or laptop lets first responders determine what areas should be cleared much more quickly than the manual process used previously. That process centered around 3×5 cards from the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate Offices of Infrastructure Protection (OIP) and Bombing Prevention (OBP), according to FiRST Program Manager Christine Lee.
“The first responders had to carry these 3×5 index cards—plus the map and rulers—in order to calculate the areas that they had to secure … [if] one of these incidents were to happen,” Lee said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “OBP came to us and said, ‘Can we develop some sort of an electronic app, so the first responders don’t need to carry all of this stuff and manually calculate [the area needing to be cleared]?’”
To date, there have been more than 5,000 downloads of the FiRST application, but users expressed a desire to share the information generated in real time, instead of being limited to sending updates via e-mail, Lee said.
“The feedback we got from the initial app was that you could share via e-mail,” she said. “What the first responders wanted was … to share the information in real time.”
In the latest version of the FiRST application, agencies can share incident information instantly with specified user groups, and the data can be integrated into external information systems such as WebEOC and Virtual USA, Lee said.
“Real-time information sharing is critical when responding to a suspected bomb incident,” Lee said in a statement. “With the new FiRST Sharing Service feature, first responders at the incident location and decision-makers at a command center are able to send incident information in real time and are also able to control who has access to the data.”
DHS S&T is continuing to evolve the FiRST application, including recent work with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to address potential nuclear incidents, Lee said.
Currently available for Apple, Android and Windows PC devices, the FiRST application is available for download at www.firstsupporttools.com. The latest upgrade is free to current users. For new users, the cost of mobile FiRST recently was reduced to $4.99, and the PC version is $99.99.