Guard Honored for Tool Designed to Speed Up Response Times

ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Guard Bureau’s Joint Intelligence Directorate recently received an award for developing a program that gives Guard members and local authorities better situational awareness to speed up their response to emergencies, natural disasters, and large-scale events.

The Directorate was awarded the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s Government Achievement Award for its work on the Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Response Tool, or DAART, developed in partnership with the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command.

DAART is a web-based program that pulls together geospatial intelligence assets from a variety of sources, including terrain and mapping information from the U.S. Geologic Survey, as well as video feeds from overhead aircraft, and satellite imagery.

“The computing power we have and the ability to bring in information from all these disparate sources, you can really paint a picture for the commander,” said Thomas Merrill, head of National Guard Bureau’s Joint Intelligence Plans and Policy Branch.

The program, which debuted last year, stems from an earlier web-based system, but has added capabilities that provide users with close to real-time imagery, as well as interactive features that speed up communications between responding agencies.

“You’re bringing all sorts of information in, and it displays it geospatially,” said Merrill. “Any operation that you’re doing, you can see right now in either real-time or near real-time what’s going on.”

That gives Guard members the ability to respond faster in emergency situations, said Merrill. The program allows commanders to assess rapidly changing conditions, such as road closures in a large-scale flooding incident.

“[Those] who are responding, they’ll know which routes are still open and which ones to avoid,” Merrill said, adding that most people are saved within the first 72 hours after an emergency or catastrophic event occurs.

“The faster that we can get in there to get to people who are caught in voids or who are definitely in distress – the elderly or those who are isolated – the more people who can be saved,” he said.

DAART can be accessed not only by the Guard, but also by State and local authorities, or other responding agencies.

“It really highlights the Guard’s ability to harness technology at the most local level,” said Merrill. “It puts the Guard member at street level, if need be, along with the sheriff’s deputy or the local police, and they’re all looking at the same thing.”

Those capabilities speak to the Guard’s primary mission of serving the community.

DAART has already been used in a variety of missions, said Merrill, including the Presidential Inauguration in January and during last year’s wildfire response operations in California. During the wildfire response, it was instrumental in helping rescuers find a lost hiker.

Soldiers with the California Army National Guard’s 578th Brigade Engineer Battalion and 40th Brigade head out while responding to wildfires in July 2016. Last year’s California wildfire response saw one of the first uses of the Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Tool, or DAART, a web-based program that pulls together geospatial information from a variety of sources, including terrain and mapping data, video feeds from overhead aircraft, and satellite imagery.

“It was the first time it had been used to find a missing person,” said Merrill. “It helped rule out areas where she may have been. When they figured out where she was, they used the program to help vector in the search team, and she was saved.”

Merrill said he and his team are working on fine-tuning DAART and expanding its capabilities.

“It will save time, and it will save lives,” he said.

So, if you’re interested in working with, or even on, equipment to help your community in its time of need, consider joining the Army National Guard, where Soldiers serve part-time. The Guard offers training in more than 130 careers, described on our job board. And for more information about all the benefits that come with Guard service, like money for college, contact your local recruiter.

From an original story by SFC Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau, which originally appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in June 2017.

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