Where is this technology headed? Finnell looks forward to improvements in wireless systems allowing data to become more portable, as with handheld systems.
King observes the rise in terrorism and the demands placed on first responders has put pressure on manufacturers to offer tools with increased capabilities and in more condensed formats -- wishful thinking in some ways.
"Many times the first responder is looking to reduce the number of physical boxes they have to carry to an incident," he explains.
"Although technology is advancing and there are lots of new technologies coming to the marketplace, it will take time before "one tool that does all" reaches the market.
"In the meantime, it makes sense that manufacturers work together, integrating where possible," King says. "That reduces the number of boxes the first responder has to carry and simplifies the operations problems of transferring information or results from one product to the next."
Several manufacturers of emergency preparedness software allow agencies to determine what best suits their needs. Following are several companies that provide technological advances for mapping the scene for first responders.
PEAC was originally designed as a hazmat tool for first responders contending with accidental chemical releases, says King. First offered in 1996, the PEAC software has since undergone the continued expansion and refinement of its content.
"The product now includes a comprehensive database of toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) and toxic industrial materials (TIMs), chemical warfare agents, biological agents, radiological isotopes, explosive materials, flammables/combustibles, pesticides and meth lab chemicals," says King.
PEAC's computational tools that provide end-users with safe standoff distances include: plume model for toxics; fireball calculator for unconfined vapor cloud explosions, gamma dose calculator for point source spills of radioactive isotopes and an explosion calculator.
This technology is available on two platforms with identical content -- PEAC-WMD 2007 for Windows (requires a desktop/laptop/tablet PC running Windows 2000/XP); and PEAC-WMD 2007 for Pocket PC (requires a handheld PDA running Windows Pocket PC or Mobile 5).
Due to the rise in terrorism, this tool evolved to include not only TICs/TIMs but also data on agents used in weapons of mass destruction.
For example, PEAC provides: recommended respirators types based upon the chemical concentrations existing at the event; assessment of potential chemical reactions in multiple-chemical situations and third-party, stand-alone, searchable databases drawn from sources.
"ARCGIS can pull information from the Web and other sources to the desktop," Nelson explains. "We take existing data from city, county, and other government agencies, into ARCGIS, where we can also link the information with photos, diagrams, and other documents and data the end-user collects," he says. "This is used by police departments, fire departments and emergency management agencies to analyze past and current events to give a geographic picture of what is occurring as well as to forecast future events, in some cases," according to Nelson.
Nelson describes ARCGIS as the core mapping software that is built upon, integrated it into other products, or used as a stand-alone. It's common for companies to build extensions into this software, Nelson explains.