with the Office of Justice Programs' National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Organizing first responder resources
On a section of rural highway, a tanker truck carrying toxic chemicals slides through a wet curve, overturns, and begins leaking its contents.
The nearest town in this remote, mountainous area has a population of under a thousand and a police department of just a few officers. The chief of police knows he and his community lack the resources to deal with such a serious incident.
Thanks to a software project funded through the Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice (NIJ), however, he knows where he can turn to locate the critical help that he needs-CIRDRA.
CIRDRA, short for Critical Incident Response & Disaster Recovery Assistance, is an asset inventory and resource management system designed to function as a universal “Rolodex” for categorizing, indexing, locating, tracking, and sharing critical resources during emergency preparedness, readiness, response, and recovery activities.
Available at no charge to qualified first responder agencies, CIRDRA uses a simple open source design with a tiered hierarchy to help State and local law enforcement and emergency management departments organize their resources. Once an agency begins using CIRDRA to inventory its own assets, it can also enter into cooperative agreements with other neighboring jurisdictions to pool and share information and expedite the resource sharing needed to respond to many critical incidents.
CIRDRA had its origins in an effort to help members of NIJ’s National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) System identify and document the assets available to first responder agencies in the wake of a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina or in the event of a terrorist attack. NIJ called on Fred Davis from the Border Research and Technology Center, part of the NLECTC System, to coordinate the effort. Davis is a retired captain from the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
“We wanted to find a software solution that would meet the needs of the NLECTC System but would also provide a quick and easy way for the law enforcement community to identify, categorize, and share critical resource information,” Davis says. “It dawned on us, if we make it generic enough, it could be used by State and local police departments, and maybe eventually as a national database.” In early 2007, research lead Davis to find Marc Bracken, Senior Systems Architect for C4DB, Inc., who had developed previous systems with the desired features. Four months later, C4DB delivered a workable prototype and a Web-based version of CIRDRA that launched in September 2007.
NLECTC-Northwest in Anchorage, Alaska, now manages the CIRDRA database for the NLECTC System on a Web server, with each center having a point-of-contact person and entering its assets into the system. Davis also has distributed a number of the no-cost CD-ROMs at conferences, generating plenty of positive feedback from law enforcement and other first responders.
Davis says that CIRDRA allows agencies to comply with National Incident Management System (NIMS) requirements by cataloging all of their resources, including equipment, communications capabilities, personnel, volunteers, special teams, supplies, and services. The open source software runs on a basic PC or laptop using either the Windows Server or the Windows XP operating systems, and utilizes a Web-served structured query language (SQL) database with a simple, user-friendly appearance. Installing and/or customizing CIRDRA requires information technology support; however, C4DB (for a fee) offers assistance to agencies too small to have their own IT departments.
“CIRDRA can be used to help build relationships between agencies as they share information and resources,” Davis says. “A lot of times, rural police don’t have the needed resources in their own inventory when they respond to critical incidents, but the neighboring jurisdiction might have it. In law enforcement, we’re always willing to share.
“In the next phase, if we can obtain funding, we want to integrate interactive GIS mapping of resources, the ability to patch communications systems together via integrated Web services, and event logging.”
To obtain a copy of the CIRDRA software program, visit www.CIRDRA.com and follow the instructions to perform a secure download. For more information on the project, contact NIJ program manager Mike O’Shea at Michael.Oshea@usdoj.gov.
This article was reprinted from the Spring 2008 edition of TechBeat, the award-winning quarterly newsmagazine of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center System, a program of the National Institute of Justice under Cooperative Agreement #2005–MU–CX–K077, awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice.