App for bomb and IED defense

Software plots graphic protection and isolation zones for bomb and IED defense


Every law enforcement agency deals with bomb threats now and again. Most of them are just that — threats — with no device behind them. Even so, few cops are willing to bet people’s lives that a threat has come from a student who wants to postpone an exam or an upset patron who was ejected from a nightclub.

When a possible device is found on or around the premises, most officers don’t have the operational experience to know what to evacuate and how far the cordon should reach.

There’s an app for that. A tool called First Responder Support Tools or FIRST uses Smartphone applications users are already familiar with to show standoff information for eight different types of explosive devices. Users can also customize settings for their own brand of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

FIRST, seen in this screenshot, shows standoff information for eight types of explosive devices. (ARA Image)
FIRST, seen in this screenshot, shows standoff information for eight types of explosive devices. (ARA Image)

Running on Android, iOS and Windows platforms, FIRST uses interfaces like Google Maps and downloaded current National Weather Service data to plot the isolation and protection zones for various explosive types and more than 3,000 hazardous materials.

It produces both graphic and text-based details, and automatically identifies high-risk facilities such as schools, hospitals, and government buildings. Users can email details from the program to others who may not have the application.

IEDs are relatively rare in the United States, but that can change. The NYPD has had to deal with car bombs (fortunately, poorly designed ones) in Times Square, and Mexican drug cartels are increasingly crossing U.S. borders to conduct operations on American soil.

The director of the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization has testified before Congress that the military and civilian law enforcement need a plan to work together to deal with IEDs on U.S. soil. IEDs are a favorite tool of the cartels for intimidating citizens and eliminating competition, with 109 IED attacks in North and South America in 2011.

The application producer’s website lists many testimonials from users who say the software is very easy to use and provides details that would be extremely difficult to discern independently.

The FIRST application costs $12 for the mobile (iOS or Android) application and $100 for the Windows version. It is available to the public, but only public agency users can get access to the Dept. of Homeland Security database that makes the app so useful.

Users with a .gov, .mil, or .us email extension can register the application directly, while others have to contact ARA (the application’s producer) and provide details of their need to know.

ARA does not guarantee full access to buyers without one of the three listed email address extensions. Those who can’t get access for some reason can input their own custom standoff data, which could be helpful in some situations. 


For additional information on the app, go to www.ara.com/products/first.

About the author

Tim Dees is a retired police officer and criminal justice professor. He has been writing on criminal justice technology issues for virtually every U.S. police publication and commercial website since 1988. Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, and a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

He can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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