The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has announced the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS,) an information sharing tool for first responders, is now available worldwide.
NICS is a mobile, web-based communication platform that enables responders on scene at a developing incident to request and receive assistance from remote experts, such as a university researcher or topographic expert, in real time. Conversely, experts can observe an evolving situation and volunteer relevant material or resources.
After successful beta-implementation, NICS has transitioned to the open-source community for wide accessibility, freely available for any interested party.
“Through strong partnerships within the State of California, responder organizations across the United States, and the State of Victoria in Australia, NICS software is deployed as an operational tool in many first responder communities,” said Dan Cotter, director of S&T’s First Responders Group. “And now that the platform code has been made available to the open-source community, first responders can leverage this tool from anywhere in the world.”
DHS S&T has led the funding of the development of NICS with contributions from the US Coast Guard Research and Development Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (MIT-LL) since 2010.
In 2014, Emergency Management Victoria launched its information sharing environment using the NICS code while it was still in research and development. In April 2016, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) also deployed the NICS software as the Situation Awareness & Collaboration Tool (SCOUT) for California emergency responders.
The NICS vision has been further advanced with Cal OES, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), and numerous local fire, law enforcement, and emergency management agencies across California and the United States.
During the September 2013 “Rim” wildland fire in Yosemite National Park, burning 235,000 acres, and numerous organizations deployed NICS to make collaborative decisions and disseminate the constantly developing information.
Because of the success of these partnerships—and the advancements they have enabled—DHS S&T successfully transitioned the NICS software from a research and development effort to an operational capability.
DHS will manage the core NICS open source code and is in the process of transitioning the capability through three venues:
1. NICS source code is now available to first responder and emergency management agencies and may be found on the U.S. government’s open source code repository site, GitHub.
2. The Worldwide Incident Command Services Corporation, Inc., a California-based non-profit, has implemented the NICS code as RAVEN.
3. In Fall 2016, the NICS capability will be hosted within the DHS Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) as part of the Geospatial Information Infrastructure for Homeland Security users.
Moving forward, these domestic and international partnerships will continue collaboration on the NICS open-source code.                                             

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