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Snapshot: Application Provides New Platform to More Effectively Train DHS First Responders

Snapshot: Application Provides New Platform to More Effectively Train DHS First Responders

Release Date: 
June 23, 2016

In school, a slip of the finger on a calculator could be the difference between an A+ and a B+. For first responders in training, it’s another story.

ETRAOn April 19, 2016, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) successfully transitioned The Enhanced Threat and Risk Assessment (ETRA) Tablet Application into utilization for DHS’ Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC). A new part of the FLETC Seaport Facility Inspection Course, ETRA streamlines data entry for calculations, assessments, reports, and briefings. The tablet application allows for more accurate and effective training through operational assessments by reducing the potential for data entry errors, and making the interface to formulas more user-friendly.

“ETRA saves significant time and reduces the potential for errors. It has efficiency impacts all around, not to mention an operational security impact. They can now more efficiently and effectively assess risk both in class and when they return to operations,” First Responders Group Program Manager Darren Wilson explained.

The risk assessments help officers generate reports for the individuals operating sea ports, allowing officials to make decisions to minimize security risks. DHS component officers, state, and local law enforcement, and others throughout the Department of Defense take this training course at FLETC. ETRA interacts with existing Microsoft Excel workbooks to combat and dramatically reduce user errors. Previously, calculations were made from formulas originally accessed via Excel created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s, National Training Program through the Texas A&M University, and the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center. Students and operational users often – completely by accident – altered or erased needed formulas, resulting in incomplete and/or misleading data.

Previously officers spent a lot of the course time just teaching students how to fill out the Excel sheets. They entered information in the wrong cells, causing the formulas to fail. Then they had to take discs with the Excel sheets back to their home bases to use operationally and  tried to put screen shots of what they had done in PowerPoint.  ETRA encourages efficiency and effectiveness in conducting the threat and risk assessment task itself, both in training in their operational setting.  It also eliminates giant binders of printed material previously generated for the course, said Wilson.

As part of the new software training course, users review three different facilities. They first complete a pre–assessment for the general area they are in. Next, they are required to conduct three post-assessments for each of the facilities they review, capturing the information in the new program rather than using Excel sheets. Finally, the App software generates a wall chart laying out the risk assessment.  They produce reports and briefings and leverage the new app in all aspects of the course.

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