Communications

DHS transfers emergency-response tech

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A screen from the Next-Generation Incident Command System interface, which can be access from a range of mobile devices.

The Department of Homeland Security's tech directorate has begun transferring a web-based, app-driven emergency response system to a nonprofit center that will disseminate it more widely among emergency responders.

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate said it was in the process of transitioning its Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS), developed in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to the Worldwide Incident Command Services Corporation. WICS is a California-based nonprofit that provides technical and operational support to the NICS user community.

NICS is a mobile, web-based system designed to speed collaboration and enhance situational awareness across response agencies, government and the private sector during emergencies. The system can be accessed and controlled from a computer, smart phone, or tablet using a web browser and typical Internet connectivity. It does not require software installation by first responders to get basic functionality. Mobile users can access an enhanced Android-based version, with an iOS version scheduled for beta release this summer, according to S&T.

During an incident, NICS provides an information backbone that manages and distributes data, including real-time vehicle location feeds, weather, critical infrastructure and terrain information. NICS also offers graphical tools, including geo-referenced virtual whiteboards, for interagency collaboration that facilitates a coordinated response.

NICS has about 3,300 registered users from 570 organizations in 40 states and five foreign countries, according to S&T, and has been used in more than 330 emergencies and at numerous large events.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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