In the first chaotic moments after a reported bomb threat, first responders have myriad questions, assessments, and decisions to make amid rapidly changing circumstances.
How large is the potential blast radius? Where will we evacuate people? Any schools, hospitals nearby? What roads should be closed? And on and on….
Now they learn it all, from potential blast radius to if there are schools nearby, in one place.
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 First Responder Support Tools (FiRST) app for computers and smartphones.
The app provides information directly to first responders on their smartphones or laptop computers in order to quickly define safe distances and to identify nearby areas of particular concern: schools, hospitals, care centers. The app also provides the geospatial information regarding potential injury, glass, or structural damage impact area.
“That’s why it works,” said Christine Lee, FIRST program manager in S&T’s First Responders Group. “Bomb threat scenarios do not reflect a one-size-fits-all approach, and this app allows users to customize information to help them make informed decisions for response.”
The app also includes HAZMAT response information based on the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) which includes information on over 3,000 hazardous materials. In addition to providing health precautions and response guidance, FiRST also retrieves current and forecast weather to show downwind protection zones for over 600 materials that are inhalation hazards.
Field evaluations were conducted last year by first responders in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, bomb squad, police, EMT, firefighter, and hazmat units. United States Secret Service personnel observed the evaluations as well.
“We use existing hardware that responders are already familiar with because responders can’t waste time navigating a complex interface during the chaos of an incident,” said Carl Jerrett, ARA program manager. “No longer will they have to carry additional tools such as hard-copy blast standoff guidance cards, rulers, or maps.”
The mobile app is available for mobile devices, including iPhones and iPads, Androids, and Windows personal computers on iTunes, the Google Play, and ARA’s e-commerce website.