A well-mapped response

Emergency preparedness software gives first responders a better view of the rescue scene with new mapping technologies

     For example, the software is core to Consequence Assessment Tool Set (CATS), an application built into ARCGIS by the federal government. It's designed to help develop emergency plans, such as a hazardous chemical leak or bomb blast. Among other features, CATS offers plume analysis to determine evacuation direction, evacuation areas and buffer zones. The CATS extension is available for free to any government agency.

     Hazards U.S. Multi-Hazard (HAXUS MH) is another extension built onto the ARCGIS software. Available for free from FEMA, this risk management tool is specifically designed to address emergency management for flood, hurricane, earthquake, and wind hazards. Agencies interested in these extensions can connect by going onto the ESRI Web site (www.esri.com). Click on the Public Safety link. ARCGIS is required to operate both programs.

     First Responders Systems & Technology Inc. "We create and manage in-the-line-of-duty software products that coordinate with emergency operations centers and support emergency functions," says Anderson.

     Its HazGuide software, which loads onto any laptop, contains all the federal guidelines for hazardous chemical materials and represents the four major federal guides and material safety data sheets (MSDS). Anderson says the database is searchable by United Nations numbers, Chemical Abstract Services (CAS) numbers -- sometimes found on tractor trailers, trains or other containers -- and also by DOT placards and NFPA codes. Information is also cross-referenced with any Tier 2 business.

     The Tier 2 information can be embedded into the software program, so if there is a fire at a dry cleaners for example, responders would know what chemicals were stored there, how they were stored and who to contact," says Anderson.

     The company also offers RespondWare, a Geospatial Information System (GIS) mapping/routing software that allows end-users to create detailed maps with information such as the location of schools and hospitals, power grids, water sources or police substations.

     "Every piece of information the governance has can be associated with the map," Anderson explains. "Public safety can choose which piece of information is important." This software also allows first responders to pre-plan evacuations in the event of a natural disaster, which helps to avoid catastrophes like the ones wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

     Prepared Response Inc.'s Rapid Responder software is designed to provide first responders and other emergency personnel with site-specific information in the field during emergencies, says Finnell.

     "We provide everything a first responder would want to learn about a particular site," states Finnell.

     The entire process starts with an orientation meeting, followed by a pre-planning tactical meeting, site visit, data collection and data entry. Prepared Response then returns to the site and conducts the necessary training.

     Users can access this information via a Web version or a remote version that loads onto a laptop. The remote version enables connectivity if the software is already located on a laptop or is used with a USB drive.

     "Rapid Responder is a very intuitive application and concept, says Finnell, allowing first responders to make crucial decisions very rapidly. The system is also highly secure.

     "This is the only crisis management system that is certified by the Department of Homeland Security as Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology (QATT)."

     New advances in emergency preparedness software gives first responders a new way to coordinate tactical and rescue situations, whether it is due to an active shooter, a chemical spill or a terrorist threat. It will undoubtedly save time and lives by allowing responders to prepare for dangerous situations before its too late.

Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer based in Long Beach, California. She specializes in writing about public safety issues.

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