Homeland Security’s App for Smartphones and PC’s

July 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s Science and Technology Directorate and its public and private sector partners have developed a must-have “app”: the First Responder Support Tools (FiRST) for computers and smartphones.

At approximately 6:30 pm on Saturday, May 1, 2010, a smoking SUV in Times Square was reported by alert street vendors. Acting quickly, NYPD evacuated vast stretches on 7th and 8th Avenues, including Broadway theatres and several other buildings and hotels in the area. The entire area was barricaded. Times Square on a Saturday evening before the shows is teaming with people, and the terrorist knew that. The bomb failed, but had it detonated, it would have killed and wounded many, according to NYPD.

In the first chaotic moments after suspicion of a bomb threat, first responders have a myriad of questions, assessments, and decisions to make, all at once, and all the while the scene could be changing rapidly. Is the bomb real? How large is the potential blast radius? Where will we evacuate people? Are there any critical infrastructure or special-needs population centers in the vicinity? Any schools, hospitals nearby? What roads should be closed? Which roads should stay open for evacuees? And on and on….What if they could get all this information in one place?

Now they can: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and its public and private sector partners have developed a must-have “app”: the First Responder Support Tools (FiRST) for computers and smartphones.

Users start by entering what they know about the (possible) bomb, including its geographical location. The app will then advise them on factors such as the distance around the bomb that should be cordoned off, the best locations for road blocks, what buildings should be evacuated or serve as shelter sites, and what some of the local “areas of concern” are – places such as schools, for instance, or other areas where large numbers of people are at risk. It will also estimate what to expect in the way of structural damage and injuries, should the bomb go off.

Because no two bomb threat scenarios are identical, there are many opportunities for users to provide information on their own unique situation, so the output of the app will be custom-tailored to them. Maps of the area can then be labelled by the user, and shared by email with other personnel.

The app can also be used in the event of toxic substance spills, as it includes information on the handling of over 3,000 hazardous materials. Using its weather feature, users can additionally determine the likely route that airborne substances will be carried by prevailing winds, and then warn or evacuate people accordingly. FiRST works on iOS and Android devices, along with PCs. It is available to first responders only, at a price of US$12 for the mobile version, or $100 for the desktop. Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security and gizmag.com

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