When a natural disaster occurs, communication is crucial to emergency response and recovery operations. Since the start of 2019, FEMA has made 73 . With the impact these incidents can have on communication systems, there is a continued need to address communications, survivability, resilience and continuity. Maintaining reliable communication systems should be viewed as a critical component across all emergency response priorities.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has worked with SAFECOM members and federal partners since 2007 to develop annual guidance to assist state, local, tribal and territorial governments applying for federal emergency communications grants.
5 Priorities for Emergency Communications Grants
In order to maintain consistency in methods for improving emergency communications across the nation through the use of federal grant programs, SAFECOM Guidance provides information on eligible activities, technical standards and other terms and conditions that are typical of those covered the by majority of such grants. The SAFECOM Guidance coincides with the National Emergency Communication Plan (NECP) objective to reinforce governance structures, plans and protocols that permit interoperability within the emergency response community.
SAFECOM is encouraging grant recipients to focus their funds on the following areas:
- Priority 1: Governance and Leadership
- Priority 2: Statewide Planning and Procedures for Emergency Communications
- Priority 3: Emergency Communications Training and Exercises
- Priority 4: Activities that Enhance Operational Coordination
- Priority 5: Standards-Based Technology and Equipment
#1 Governance & Leadership
With evolving technology changing the expectations of emergency response communications and the roles and responsibilities of those within the public safety community, the full SAFECOM guidance, which can be reviewed and downloaded below, recommends governing bodies reevaluate and improve upon their current structures, processes and investments in governance and leadership.
Investments in these areas should focus on the coordination of statewide and regional initiatives that adapt to the changing landscape of emergency communications environments.
For regional and cross-border coordination, emergency response agencies should connect with national emergency communication coordination bodies, such as:
- National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC)
- Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Groups (RECCWGs)
#2 Statewide Planning and Procedures for Emergency Communications
In alignment with the NECP, SAFECOM is encouraging emergency response agencies to update their Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans (SCIPs) and standard operation procedures (SOP’s) to enhance responders’ information sharing capabilities and readiness for in the field operations.
As government bodies work to expand and revise their (SCIPs), communicating with other jurisdictions, disciplines and levels of government in planning is expected in order to incorporate all communication emergency needs. SAFECOM urges governments and emergency response agencies to evaluate their SOPs and SCIPs for possible threats to and vulnerabilities within their emergency communications and to develop countermeasures to combat them.
Planning resources, such as Tactical Interoperable Communications Plans (TICPs) and FEMA Regional Emergency Communications Plans (RECPs), are available to help inform applications and investment justifications.
#3 Emergency Communications Training and Exercises
In order to improve response personnel performance, communication and interagency coordination, SAFECOM is encouraging emergency response agencies to employ regular training exercises.
NECP recommends agencies take a holistic approach to training and exercises by involving response personnel from all levels of government and with other entities in strategic activities that incorporate both established communication practices and new technologies to ensure proficiency in both.
SAFECOM encourages agencies to continue investing in training that tackles deficiencies identified in emergency response and recovery protocols.
#4 Activities that Enhance Operational Coordination
In pursuing operational effectiveness and reliability as emergency incidents escalate, SAFECOM is advising emergency response agencies to update and expand their communication asset resources.
Agencies are encouraged to coordinate and seek mutual-aid agreements for large-scale responses with neighboring states, tribes and territories — especially with those that are most likely seek assistance in the case of an emergency incident. They should collaborate between levels of government by agencies to develop and circulate alerts.
#5 Standards-Based Technology and Equipment
As advancements are made in voice communication systems and agencies adopt Internet-Protocols (IP)-based technologies and services, SAFECOM strongly recommends agencies invest in equipment that preserves and cooperates with current Land Mobile Radio (LMR) infrastructures.
New devices should continue to support interoperability between agencies and jurisdictions, regardless of vendor.
911 Emergency Communications Grants Programs
For 2019 the following federal funding programs targeted emergency communications for disaster preparedness and may nrenew for FY 2020:
Department of Agriculture
- Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) administered by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS)
- Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program administered by RUS
Department of Commerce
- 911 Grant Program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), along with the Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA)
- Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) administered by the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)
- Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) administered by the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Department of Homeland Security
- Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) administered by FEMA
- Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP)/State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) administered by FEMA
- Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program (THSGP) administered by FEMA
Review and download the FY 2019 SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants below:
About the Author
Kenny Sokan is a freelance writer at EfficientGov. She is a strong believer in the power of information and creative expression, which guides her in all of the work that she does. Kenny is a graduate of Northeastern University with a BA in journalism.
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