Imagine if you were a police officer who suddenly realized that the abandoned vehicle you were assessing contained a bomb. While you might have had some training in how to handle such situations, would it all easily come back to you in the heat of the moment? Well, even if it wouldn’t, you might still know what to do ... if you were using the FiRST app. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security developed the application for emergency response personnel, to serve as a step-by-step guide for managing bomb threats.

FiRST (First Responder Support Tools) utilizes tools that first responders will already be familiar with, such as Google Maps, Google Search, email, phone, plus road and weather data – this saves users from having to learn new systems while under pressure.

Users start by entering what they know about the (possible) bomb, including its geographical location. The app will then advise them on factors such as the distance around the bomb that should be cordoned off, the best locations for road blocks, what buildings should be evacuated or serve as shelter sites, and what some of the local “areas of concern” are – places such as schools, for instance, or other areas where large numbers of people are at risk. It will also estimate what to expect in the way of structural damage and injuries, should the bomb go off.

Because no two bomb threat scenarios are identical, there are many opportunities for users to provide information on their own unique situation, so the output of the app will be custom-tailored to them. Maps of the area can then be labelled by the user, and shared by email with other personnel.

The app can also be used in the event of toxic substance spills, as it includes information on the handling of over 3,000 hazardous materials. Using its weather feature, users can additionally determine the likely route that airborne substances will be carried by prevailing winds, and then warn or evacuate people accordingly.

FiRST works on iOS and Android devices, along with PCs. It is available to first responders only, at a price of US$12 for the mobile version, or $100 for the desktop.