Experimental mobile app assists in disaster decision making
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ernesto Bonilla, RIMPAC Public Affairs
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) tested two new mobile applications during the week-long humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) portion of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise, where military forces and government organizations from Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand participated with local disaster responders in a simulated catastrophic disaster.
The Hermes and Glimpse initiatives are cellular based, geo-tracked, applications that allow operators to create and transmit near instantaneous information to a command cell. Developed by the NGA, Hermes operates on Android devices and lets users create real-time incident reports from the field.
“With Hermes, operators are sent out with either a (smart) phone or a tablet. These devices operate on the local cellular network and when running the Glimpse application, it allows for geo-tracking,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Trina Patterson of the NGA. “The operator can then submit a situation report consisting of images, (prerecorded) video, and the type of emergency. These reports will assist in determining the appropriate response.”
Glimpse is the visual portion of the software package that provides decision makers real time views of an event. First responders can send live streaming video while being geo-tracked from the mobile device. The streaming video is uploaded to a server where it can be accessed via a secure URL address. With live visuals, assets can be deployed with little delay.
“These applications provide better situational awareness for commanders and decision makers so that they understand the relevance of what’s going on in real time,” said Patterson. “Based on the footage and information received, any special preparations can be accommodated prior to the deploying of rescue units or if a victim needed surgery the surgical team could be better prepared before arrival.”
According to Patterson, Hermes-Glimpse offers potential solutions to communication obstacles encountered during Operation Tomadachi, the relief effort in Japan following the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami.
“This is something we’ve been working on specifically to respond to a HA/DR scenario. We were trying to close a capability gap in communications during a disaster relief effort. This (simulated disaster) provided the perfect opportunity for us to test our solution to that problem,” said Patterson.
Until RIMPAC, the system had only been tested in a lab environment, but had yet to be tested in a HA/DR scenario.
International observers not actively participating in the scenario commented on the importance of the exercise and the value of tools such as Hermes/Glimpse, and what it could bring to an HA/DR scenario.
“By observing this exercise, it lets me know what capabilities the U.S. has and how they handle situations, and in turn what I could offer,” said Claudia Gonzalez, fleet surgeon of the Chilean Navy.
After seeing the Hermes-Glimpse in action Gonzalez said, “It’s an outstanding and innovative tool and it would truly advance medicine and help save lives.”
With this new communication tool, information can be distributed to responding agencies and international militaries almost instantaneously.
“The information sharing technology and the ability to rapidly disseminate it, is critical to the success of this operation,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Napolitano, HA/DR exercise commander and Expeditionary Training Group commanding officer. “The whole idea behind disaster response is to get there as quick as you can and stem the bleeding.”
Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971.
For more information about RIMPAC, please visit http://www.cpf.navy.mil/rimpac/2012/