A suspicious package is found in a public park. An unattended bag is found by a trash can at the metro or a street corner. A person with a weapon is reported at a school or mall or other public location. Unfortunately, these are not uncommon occurrences, and responder agencies – from small towns to big cities – must all know how to respond and work together. That requires training, technology, tools, and time. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Explosives Division (EXD) has a solution.
EXD has funded research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory 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. This tool was originally funded by the DHS Office of Bombing Prevention to help bomb squads assess impacts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 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 smart phone 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 at the state and local levels.
The only Geographic Information System 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 table top exercises for simulated active shooter and IED attacks, Obregon explained.
Repeatedly tested in the field by numerous law enforcement and first responder organizations, 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. In addition, table top exercises generated by IMPACT were credited with mitigating an active shooter event at a school in Louisville, Kentucky, in September 2014. The tool is Section 508 compliant, enabling it to be used across the federal government and by its mission partners.
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. In addition, IMPACT has provided hundreds of agencies at the federal, state and local level with an exercise, protection and planning capability that they did not have before but urgently needed.
Responder agencies interested in accessing and using the tool can download it at http://geo.ornl.gov/impact and start using it immediately.