Virtual USA

The Virtual USA program seeks to enable the right information to be shared at the right time and with the right people.

Virtual USA was launched in 2009 by DHS S&T’s First Responders Group. The program included pilot programs all across the United States – some efforts even included cross-border experiments with Canada. Many lessons were learned through these initiatives, all of which validated the core objective of the Virtual USA program: Information should be shared across jurisdictional boundaries to prevent, protect, respond, and recover from incidents.

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The principles of the Virtual USA program coordinate with the mission of the NISC. In 2013, a natural partnership was formed between the DHS and the NISC to build upon the successes of the Virtual USA program.

The NISC's efforts to further the Virtual USA program have been multifaceted. In 2014, the NISC established a Virtual USA “Common Library” group using Esri’s ArcGIS Online. Leveraging this widely-used platform at the request of our membership has allowed us to expand upon the capabilities of the Virtual USA program. The NISC has also shared two apps that facilitate discovery of and access to information shared publicly through ArcGIS Online.

In 2015, the NISC launched an enhanced member portal, which ties together many Virtual USA initiatives and goals. By logging into the member portal, members can access data and apps shared in the NISC Virtual USA Common Library. Members can also test drive operational and technical templates related to the Essential Elements of Information (EEI) Publication Guidance produced by the NISC and informed by CUSEC’s CAPSTONE-14 earthquake exercise. The EEI Publication Guidance fills a gap in information sharing by providing a framework that allows state-level emergency managers to share information on a regional level with other states. Having a common set of EEIs among states and localities has been shown to be useful for state-to-state sharing of emergency management information during the response and recovery to an incident. NISC members can access the guidance in the member portal, along with a set of templates that make it easy to publish data in a shareable way. Social media templates and other apps are also available to test drive, and many can be downloaded for free to deploy in your own operational environment.

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Virtual USA is not tied to any specific technology, and efforts are ongoing to identify additional geospatial tools that can enable high-fidelity information sharing, provide streamlined access to public, nationally relevant data, and offer access to existing data libraries.The NISC’s goal is to support the principles of the Virtual USA program in ways that are accessible and efficient for the program's stakeholders. For more information, read about the partnership between the NISC and DHS, or check out the Virtual USA FAQs.