March 22, Government Computer News —
Free software available to help first responders identify chemicals. The National Library of Medicine has created open source software for handheld devices to help first responders when they arrive at a hazardous materials incident, such as a chemical spill. The Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) provides critical information about hazardous substances, including a substance’s physical characteristics, any related health data, and containment and suppression information.
WISER versions for handheld systems that run Palm OS and Pocket PC are available as free downloads. The National Institutes of Health Agency plans to make a desktop PC version available this spring and is developing a Web version. "First responders in general, and Hazmat units in particular, must make decisions quickly in handling hazardous−materials incidents,”said Dr. Jack Snyder, the library’s associate director for specialized information services.
Hazmat incidents are increasing, Snyder said, citing statistics from
the Coast Guard’s National Response Center. There were about 34,000
incidents reported last year.