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Technology that Enables Real-Time Collaboration is Key to Combatting Wildfires and other Natural Disasters

Emergency organizations are benefitting from a web and mobile-enabled "Common Operating Picture" that helps coordinate response.

 When a natural disaster strikes, access to real-time and accurate data is a prerequisite for an effective response.  Be it a washed out exit route or quickly advancing wildfire, response teams do not have the luxury to wait on time-consuming uploads. Worse is outdated information that can set a plan off course and tie up resources for hours or days. In some cases, it can mean the difference between life and death.

For more than two years, QualApps, Inc. has invested in an open-source platform that assists first-responders to manage emergency incidents.  MIT originally developed the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS). Since then, QualApps has worked closely with MIT to enhance the platform, creating greater stability and ease of use.  The platform serves as a Common Operating Picture (COP), enabling first responders to share information to combat hazards such as wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and homeland security incidents. So, for example, if a response agency needs to see which roads and bridges are passable to address a disaster, both the field team and command center can see the same information on display.  NICS is fully web-enabled and runs natively on iOS and Android platforms.

Key features include real-time collaboration, support for the latest National Wild Fire Coordinating Group (NWCG) GIS symbology, Automatic Vehicle Locations (AVL) tracking, and offline caching to ensure that contributions made by first responders are maintained even when contact with mobile or Wi-Fi networks is lost, ensuring that information displayed on the COP remains relevant.  QualApps re-architected the solution to make it fully fault tolerant and scalable, hosting it Amazon Web Services (AWS).  This means that the underlying infrastructure dynamically grows to meet increased demand.

The platform also integrates road and weather conditions, utilities, hazards, demographic data, and government boundaries.  Using the COP, organizations can work together to establish roadblocks, deploy firefighting assets, coordinate evacuations, and track the impact of an incident.   Organizations such as Cal Fire, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and local law enforcement have previously used NICS to respond to California wildfires.  The Department of Homeland Security and a number of NATO countries also use this platform.

Because of things like California’s wildfires the past few years, coordinated responses on the local, state, and national level are increasingly more important. NICS offers the flexibility to be immediately beneficial and support future, multi-agency events.
QualApps CEO, Suresh Kannan

What’s in store for NICS?  QualApps is working on an improved user interface.  QualApps will introduce enhancements in the front-end that will improve usability and aesthetics.  Soon to be included is a feature that streamlines how agencies request federal mutual assistance grant (FMAG) from FEMA .  The company is also investing in connectivity for NICS to remain intact in remote locations. 

QualApps is working with emergency responders throughout the Western United States to gauge interest in this high-tech, low-cost solution that radically improves collaboration among organizations.  For more information, email

Established in 2008, QualApps prides itself on delivering solutions that provide lasting business value.