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NATO Science: The Next-Generation Incident Command System

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For first responders in a disaster situation, information is crucial to saving lives. An innovative, cross-border software helps share that information faster.


When first responders come together in an international disaster response force, they need to share information quickly – between military and civilians, and across borders and languages. NATO has supported the adaptation of a software platform in the Western Balkans, in which maps, videos and pictures can all be shared in real time. It’s called the Next-Generation Incident Command System, or NICS for short, and has been developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

The system has been put to use in managing wildfires in California and Australia, and is being deployed across the Western Balkans.

In this episode of NATO Science, we travel to Montenegro, where NATO scientists conduct live trials of the system in a simulated emergency situation.

Footage includes NICS creator Gregg Hogan explaining how the system works, as well as various shots of the NICS system in use, firefighters from various countries battling barrel fires as part of an exercise scenario, shots of the exercise command centre, and Montenegrin aeroplanes dousing water on simulated bushfires. Please note that exercise footage does not include typical COVID-19 precautions because filming took place before the pandemic.


Dylan White
Oh, hi! If you get your updates from one of these, you’ll know how fast information flows. For first responders, quick access to that information can save lives. How? NATO Science!


Dylan White
Emergencies don’t respect borders. So when first responders need to communicate across countries and organisations, they need a simple system that works quickly. Our scientists have come up with a handy solution.

Project: Next-Generation Incident Command System
Participants: United States, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia
Supported by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme

Gregory Hogan, Programme Manager, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, United States

Gregg Hogan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory
One of the fundamental problems of any kind of disaster response, firefighting, floods, earthquakes, is that many organisations come together that normally don’t work together, so they don’t always know how to communicate or collaborate.

We developed a software platform where everybody can join together and develop ways to share information that they normally don’t know how to share. Maps, videos, pictures, all in real time. We call it the Next-Generation Incident Command System, or NICS for short.

Dylan White
Snappy name, but how does it work?

Gregg Hogan
At the core of NICS is the incident map that displays key information such as incident perimeters, evacuation zones, weather conditions, responder locations and images from the scene. Emergency personnel upload the content directly using either a web-based system or a mobile app. There’s even online spaces where responders can chat with each other in real time.

Severe storm warning for local evac.
Evac locations updated… please proceed with caution
Image uploaded – Evac ETA 15 mins

Gregg Hogan
The system has been successfully put to use in the United States, including to help fight wildfires in Californaia, and has been adopted by emergency services in the state of Victoria in Australia, where it has helped more than 1000 firefighters battle over 50 bushfires.

With support from the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, we are introducing the platform in the Western Balkans, to support regional responses to man-made and natural disasters. We recently tested the system in Montenegro during a NATO exercise that simulated an international response to wildfires, involving more than 250 first responders and experts.

Hazards are only disasters if there’s insufficient preparation and communication. NICS goes one step further to helping our first responders better protect our populations.

Dylan White
Next episode we’ll take you to Ankara in Turkey to learn how games are helping NATO tackle the next generation of security threats.

Check out the rest of the videos in the series to learn more about NATO science.

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Please contact Thomson Reuters to clear this material.
Rubix Cube, Emanuel Kallins, Stephen Schwartz
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This media asset is free for editorial broadcast, print, online and radio use. It is restricted for use for other purposes. This video contains copyrighted library material licensed by NATO, which cannot be used as part of a new production without consent of the copyright holder. Please contact Thomson Reuters to clear this material.