By Ryan Johnston
The National Mutual Aid System (NMAS), a nationwide cloud-based communication system for firefighters that was first announced in October, has opened beta testing in four states — California, Utah, Tennessee and Florida.
NMAS is the product of a partnership between the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Intermedix and spatial analytics company Esri, and the successor to the current mutual aid tool, IAFC’s text-based Mutual Aid Net (MAN).
MAN, which is currently used by 18 states across the country, allows departments in participating sites to request aid from nearby jurisdictions within the same state by entering related zip codes, but does not always result in the most efficient services, Cy Cole, director of federal preparedness at Intermedix, said.
Cole told StateScoop in October that while MAN works, NMAS utilizes technologies that will make mutual aid even more reliable and effective.
"What we're doing is delivering information to the point of need at the time of need," he said. "If I'm out in the field and I need information, I need it right now. Wildland fires — when the wind changes your whole scenario changes, so the ability to rapidly adjust and flex resources in and out in a matter of hours than days can make a huge difference."
The idea behind NMAS, which will leverage Intermedix’s WebEOC crisis management software and Esri's ArcGIS platform, is that the system will maintain inventory data of all participating departments while also enrolling those departments into a geospatial database. The inventory data will follow the National Incident Management System’s format, giving common definitions for different types of equipment between all participating departments.
When a department queries the NMAS system for mutual aid, a map displaying departments that could potentially assist will appear, as well as a list ranking them by distance. The requesting department can sort by distance, category, resource and time to delivery, and request specific types of aid like personnel, equipment or supplies.
Participating departments can also manage their own inventories, letting other departments know what will be available.
“Combining emergency asset data with location intelligence gives first responders a huge advantage when managing situations,” said Mike Cox, Esri fire and EMS industry manager. “The National Mutual Aid System tool incorporates geographic information into real-time capabilities that enable professionals like emergency medical technicians to have a comprehensive awareness of where an emergency is occurring, when it happened, and exactly what is needed at the scene.”
By Ryan Johnston