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NUSTL Gross Decontamination App for Responders Developed Through Partnerships

firefighter looking at first responder app on a cell phone
The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) performs functional testing, evaluation and operational assessments on first responder technologies.

The Gross Decontamination Application Project is a joint effort with the EPA to develop an app that will provide first responders, both on- and offline, with reference information and operational guidance on contamination containment, gross decontamination and early phase waste management strategies that are critical in the wake of a radiological incident.

On the heels of implementing the use of radiation detection equipment during the visit of Pope Francis in New York City, NUSTL is continuing its track record of cultivating key partnerships. One such example is the recent work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The app is a web-based decision support tool that obtains existing guidance from multiple sources (including the project’s international partner, Public Health England) and delivers actionable guidance to a user-specific gross decontamination scenario. The user is able to personalize their own settings and task priorities.

The challenge with this project is identifying and integrating the many interagency documents needed for guiding state and local agencies through responding to a radiological hazard and the mitigation strategies.

EPA Health Physicist and U.S. Public Health Service Captain John Cardarelli explained the background behind the project. “After we spoke to first responders and health physicists over the last few years, we learned that there are gaps in standardized gross decon guidance. With this application, we are trying to do two things: fill those gaps using existing information and then organize the information in a way that is convenient and easy to understand for those who need it.”

The Radiological and Nuclear Response and Recovery Portfolio (RNRR) and the EPA invited first responders from the local, state and federal government to NUSTL’s office in Manhattan to test the app and provide feedback.

The RNRR development team also visited Charlotte, North Carolina and Burlington, Vermont, to better understand the nature of using the app in medium and small sized cities, respectively. The groups utilized the app in two mock scenarios: one involved responding to a suicide-bomber incident and the other depicted a disaster at a nuclear power plant.

This project demonstrates how interagency partnership and collaboration contributes to the development of successful tools for first responders. The app is scheduled to be publicly available in spring 2016.

For more information on the app or NUSTL, please contact nustl@hq.dhs.gov.