An information sharing tool for first responders that was developed by a team led by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate is now operational and available worldwide, for free, the government branch said this month.

The Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS) is a mobile, web-based communication platform that has transitioned to the open-source community and is freely available for anyone interested, S&T said.DHS Logo DHS

Funding for NICS was led by S&T with contributions from the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory over the past six years.

The platform 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. The system also allows experts to observe an evolving situation and volunteer relevant material or resources.

The NICS software was previously deployed in a number of communities to help with its development. In 2014 the system was used by Emergency Management Victoria in Australia as an information sharing environment. In April the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services deployed the software as its Situation Awareness & Collaboration Tool for the state’s emergency responders. The system has been further advanced with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and numerous local fire, law enforcement and emergency management agencies across the state and the country.

The NICS system, while still in development, was deployed by a number of organizations involved with fighting the “Rim” wild land fire in Yosemite National Park in California in 2013, S&T said.

“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,” Dan Cotter, director of S&T’s First Responder Group, said in a statement. “And now the platform code has been made available to the open-source community, first responders can leverage this tool from anywhere in the world.”

Now that NICS is an operational capability, S&T will manage the core open source code and is in the process of transitioning the capability through three venues: The U.S. government’s open source repository site, GitHub (; The California-based non-profit Worldwide Incident Command Services Corporation (; and this fall the capability will be hosted within the DHS Homeland Security Information Network as part of the Geospatial Information Infrastructure for homeland security users (