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The US Department of Homeland Security has found a new geospatial solution to enhance first responders’ incident management capabilities.

The Department’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Explosives Division (EXD) has funded research to continue development of the Incident Management Preparedness and Coordination Toolkit (IMPACT), a geospatial tool designed to enhance situational awareness, communication, and collaboration during and for security events.

According to the Department’s website, this tool was originally designed to help bomb squads assess impacts from improvised explosive devices. Since its original release, IMPACT has expanded its capabilities to provide tools to assist in active shooter planning, downwind hazards from the release of dangerous chemicals, large stadium evacuation and casualty simulations, security surveys, and monitoring large event social networks for emergency response support.

“IMPACT is a free, all-hazards planning tool for first responders, emergency managers, and other security professionals. It combines simulation, visualization, and mapping into an integrated user interface similar to a smartphone or tablet,” explained S&T Program Manager Elizabeth Obregon. “First responders can use it for planning, situation awareness, and response to natural and man-made disasters. It uses common data formats to easily exchange data with other map-based tools.”

IMPACT is currently being used and evaluated by more than 400 agencies at the federal, state, and local levels including the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and police departments.

The only Geographic Information System (GIS) tool specifically tailored for counter-improvised explosive devices, homemade explosives, active shooter responses, and first responder use, IMPACT allows responders to conduct both live and tabletop exercises for simulated active shooter and IED attacks, Obregon explained.

IMPACT has been successfully used to mitigate real world incidents.  It was briefed to the United States Capitol Police immediately after a March 2016 incident in which live shots were fired at the Capitol Visitors Center. Since that briefing, USCP has become a growing end user of the tool and plans to use it for a number of upcoming gatherings in 2017.  

S&T was interested in developing this tool as it gives first responders a free, easy to use capability to conduct better organized and more efficient exercises, provide for facility protection, and plan for major public and security events, Obregon said. IMPACT can be considered a success as many organizations that have been briefed on the tool, including the Secret Service, Capitol Police, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Transportation Security Administration, and others, have expressed interest in adopting the tool and are currently in the process of doing so.