WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) is a system designed to assist emergency responders in hazardous material incidents. Developed by the National Library of Medicine, WISER provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including substance identification support, physical characteristics, human health information, and containment and suppression guidance.

WISER is available as a standalone application on Microsoft Windows PCs, Apple's iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch), Google Android devices, BlackBerry devices (internet connectivity required), Windows Mobile devices, and Palm OS PDAs. Download it for free!

WebWISER is also available! When an Internet connection is available, access the same WISER functionality with your web browser. Support for PDA-based browsers, including BlackBerry, is included.


  • Mobile support, providing emergency responders with critical information in the palm of their hand.
  • Comprehensive decision support, including assistance in identification of an unknown substance and, once the substance is identified, providing guidance on immediate actions necessary to save lives and protect the environment.
  • Access to over 460 substances from NLM's Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) which contains detailed information on over 4,700 critical hazardous substances
  • Rapid access to the most important information about a hazardous substance by an intelligent synopsis engine and display called "Key Info"
  • Visualization of protective distance zones on an interactive map.
  • Radiological support, including radioisotope substance data, tools, and reference materials.
  • Biological support, including biological agent data, tools, and reference materials.
  • General tools, including an electronic version of the ERG.
  • Intuitive, simple, and logical user interface developed by working with experienced emergency responders

WISER System Concept

The WISER system concept is designed to work in a standalone or connected mode. The end user device is preloaded with the most critical information. At the scene, a wireless network sends new information between handhelds and routes requests for more information. If a wireless connection is not available, the handheld device still has full functionality with access to the critical local data available on the device.

WISER also sends and receives information over the wide area wireless network, receiving new information from dispatch, HSDB, or other sources.

The current standalone versions are an important step in the development of the WISER system concept. To get the information in the hands of the emergency responder as quickly as possible, we have developed the standalone capability first. We first targeted the Palm OS operating system, then evolved to Windows Mobile platforms, Windows PCs, the web (WebWISER), and, more recently, iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices.

Substance ID Support

A key feature of WISER is the support for identifying an unknown substance. WISER can help a emergency responder identify and validate the unknown substance based on the following:

  • sign/symptoms of victims of exposure
  • physical properties of the substance gathered by observation or sensors
  • hazard values from NFPA 704 placards
  • the ability to categorize a substance, such as a substance used in a meth lab, a flammable substance, etc.
  • transportation identification, including DOT placards, type of road trailer, and type of rail car

User Profiles and Key Info

WISER allows the user to specify one of three roles they are currently performing at the scene. Information is presented to the emergency responder, Hazmat Specialist, and EMS Specialist in the order that is most relevant to their respective role:

First Responder

  • PPE
  • Protective Distance
  • Fire Procedures
  • Reactivities
  • Treatment

Hazmat Specialist

  • Phystical Properties Summary
  • PPE
  • IDLH
  • Flammability Limits
  • NFPA 704 Classification

EMS Specialist

  • Treatment
  • Health Effects
  • Toxicity Summary
  • IDLH
  • NFPA 704 Classification

Radiological Support

As of version 3.0, WISER now provides radiological support. This consists of a substance list and substance data for 21 radioisotopes, and general tools and reference materials targeted to on-the-scene support of radiological events.

Biological Support

As of version 4.0, WISER now provides biological support. This consists of a substance list and substance data for the six Category A biological agents, and general tools and reference materials including the guide pages from the WMD Response Guidebook.

Emergency Response Guidebook

As of version 3.0, WISER now provides general tools and reference materials, including a comprehensive, fully searchable, electronic version of the ERG 2008.

Operational Version

The current operational version of WISER provides a highly functional solution with information and substance identification capabilities on over 460 substances from the HSDB. It operates in a stand-alone mode on Microsoft® Windows® PCs, Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch), Google Android devices, BlackBerry devices (internet connectivity required), Windows Mobile devices, and in PC and mobile device based Internet browsers (WebWISER). Future versions will provide wireless connectivity, support for additional portable devices, and more (see the news page for more information).

Substance List

The WISER substance list is based on many other lists (ATSDR, DOT NIOSH, etc.), inputs from emergency responders, toxicologists, and medical personnel, and analysis of how likely a substance is to occur in an incident and how hazardous it is.

Q: What is the National Library of Medicine?

A: The National Library of Medicine (NLM), on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, is the world's largest medical library. The Library collects materials and provides information and research services in all areas of biomedicine and health care. Click here to go to the NLM home page.

Q: What is Specialized Information Services?

A: The Specialized Information Services (SIS) Division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is responsible for information resources and services in toxicology, environmental health, chemistry, HIV/AIDS, and specialized topics in minority health. Click here to go to the SIS home page.

Q: What is WISER?

A: WISER stands for the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders. It is a system designed to assist emergency responders in hazardous material incidents. It provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including substance identification support, physical characteristics, human health information, and containment and suppression advice.

Q: Why is NLM-SIS creating WISER?

A: Part of the mission of NLM is to ensure that information from NLM makes its way into the hands of people who need it. SIS maintains toxicology and environmental health resources. In reviewing potential users that could use SIS information, but may not have been using it to its fullest extent, emergency responders to chemical incidents were identified. It was then decided that while the TOXNET web site was an excellent resource for them, it was not accessible on scene; the solution was to provide a version that would fit in on a handheld device or portable computer.

Q: Where does WISER data come from?

A: WISER data comes from the Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB). HSDB is a toxicology data file on the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET®). It contains information on human exposure, industrial hygiene, emergency handling procedures, environmental fate, regulatory requirements, and related areas. All data are referenced and derived from a core set of books, government documents, technical reports and selected primary journal literature. Many of the sources of data are used by emergency responders already and include:

  • DOT Emergency Response Guidebook
  • U.S. Coast Guard, CHRIS Manual - Chemical Hazards Response Information System
  • NFPA Fire Protection Guide to Hazardous Materials
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
  • EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS)
  • POISINDEX(R) Information System, Micromedex, Inc., CCIS
  • TOMES(R) Information System, Micromedex, Inc., CCIS
  • ACGIH Guidelines for Selection of Chemical Protective Clothing
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists TLVs & BEIs
  • Association of American Railroads, Emergency Handling of Hazardous Materials in Surface Transportation
  • NOAA Chemical Reactivity Worksheet (CRW)

Q: What substances are included? How did you decide on those substances?

A: View the WISER substance list.

WISER has over 460 core substances, with a substance list that contains over 4700 names when including aliases (synonyms of the core substances). This number of core substances represents a balance between having a wide array of substances and limited memory space on a handheld device. Substances were chosen by reviewing each substance in terms of how hazardous it is, its likelihood to be in an incident, and inputs from emergency responders, toxicologists, and medical personnel.

Q: Why don't you have substance X in WISER?

A: If you have a particular substance that you would like to see included in WISER, please let us know. An important substance may not have been included because of oversight, limited device memory, or because it was not in the HSDB, our underlying source. However, if a substance is of important to you, we will make every effort to include it in the next update of the data set. We are especially interested in including substances that are used in training and simulations, so please let us know about them.

Q: How do I get WISER?

A: For Windows, iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Palm OS platforms, WISER is available only through download from the Internet. Please go to the Download page. If you are unable to download and would like a CD, please see this topic on our technical support page for details on obtaining one.

A web-based version of WISER, WebWISER, is also available, and will work with most web browsers, including those on many mobile devices.

Q: What does WISER cost?

A: WISER is a free government resource. Like all of the National Library of Medicine resources, WISER is available for use by everyone with access to the Internet.

Q: Why do you ask me to sign up for the e-mail list?

A: The WISER e-mail list (the NLM-WISER-L "listserv") is used to inform you of important updates to WISER, including platform and feature additions.

While information in WISER is derived from the peer-review Hazardous Substances Data Bank, and we have conducted a verification process, updates to substance data may be made as more research is conducted. We would like to be able to inform you of important changes in the data; some of those changes may be critical for the safe use of the information. If you choose not to join the list, you can still download and use WISER, but you will not receive notification of updates.

Please know that we will not release your e-mail address for any other purpose and we assure you that any e-mail we send will be infrequent and concise.

Q: How do I give you feedback?

A: Please use the Contact Us option.

We are providing WISER because we want to support and assist the emergency responder community with useful information. We would like to make WISER as helpful, intuitive, and powerful as possible. We welcome your comments about how to improve WISER, any issues you have with it, and any technical problems in installing or using it. If you have a technical problem, we would like to know the specifics of the platform you are running it on, and exactly what happened.

Q: What do I need to run WISER?

A: You need one of the following:

  • Microsoft® Windows® based PC (XP or later) with 25 megabytes of hard disk space and the Microsoft® .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 (if your computer does not have .NET, the installer will aid in downloading and installing it)
  • Apple iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running OS 4.2 or higher with 30 megabytes of storage space
  • Google Android device running version 2.1 (Eclair) or later of the Android OS with 28 megabytes of storage space
  • BlackBerry devices running OS 4.5 or higher with 52K of storage space; Internet connection
  • Microsoft Pocket PC 2003 or later mobile device with 22 megabytes of storage space
  • Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 or later mobile device with 22 megabytes of storage space
  • Palm OS version 3.5 or later mobile device with 10 megabytes of memory
  • WebWISER requires only an Internet connection and an Internet browser. The latest version of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari is recommended.

For the PDA/Smartphone devices, the memory required can be either on the device or on a removable storage card. Click one of the following links for more comprehensive details on the system requirements and installation instructions for:

Q: How do I get answers to technical questions?

A: Please see the README file (if provided) that is included with your installation of WISER (and is also accessible on the respective download page), or see our Technical Support page. If you still have a question then please contact us.