Improving and enhancing emergency and interoperable communications is a national responsibility shared by federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) leads the nation’s National Security/Emergency Preparedness (NS/EP) communications efforts. CISA has developed a framework with public safety personnel and government officials to implement solutions that address operability, interoperability, and continuity of communications.
Coordination is Key
CISA works directly with the first responder community to identify the challenges emergency responders face daily. This information informs policies, programs, and builds stronger relationships with state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) agencies. These relationships are crucial to improve emergency communications. CISA leads engagement with partners at all levels of government – federal, state, local, tribal, and international – to improve public safety communications, national security, and emergency preparedness communications.
Over the upcoming year, CISA will be updating the congressionally mandated National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), the Nation’s over-arching strategic plan for enhancing emergency communications capabilities and interoperability nationwide. In addition, CISA assists its state and territorial partners in the development of Statewide Communications Interoperability Plans (SCIPs), which help make improvements to emergency communications across the Nation by advancing interoperability in a structured way.
Emergency Communications Coordination
CISA’s Emergency Communications Coordinators support building and improving emergency communications capabilities across all levels of government throughout the nation. These subject matter experts enable this by building trusted relationships, providing technical assistance, and promoting collaboration for NS/EP and public safety communications operability and interoperability stakeholders.
Priority Telecommunications Services
Priority Telecommunications Services enable NS/EP personnel to communicate during congestion scenarios across the nation. CISA offers the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS), Wireless Priority Service (WPS), and Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP) programs to state and local officials. These programs enhance call completion for select landline and wireless users by providing priority during abnormal call volume on the public switched telephone network. For more information on GETS, WPS or TSP, visit https://www.dhs.gov/pts-videos, contact the DHS Priority Telecommunications Service Center toll free at 866-627-2255, 703-676-2255, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans
Statewide Communications Interoperability Plans (SCIP) are locally-driven, multi-disciplinary statewide plans that provide strategic direction and alignment for those responsible for interoperable and emergency communications throughout the state or territory, regional, local, and tribal levels. The SCIP also explains to leadership and elected officials the vision for interoperable and emergency communications and demonstrates funding needs.
CISA assists all 56 states and territories develop and implement SCIPs aligned to the NECP. CISA has conducted workshops with all 56 states and territories to support them in updating their SCIPs to adapt to the current and near future interoperable and emergency communications environment.
Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWICs)
Based on recommendations from emergency responders, CISA included a milestone in the 2008 NECP that every state and territory must have a single point of contact for interoperable emergency communications. The SWIC is a full-time position dedicated to coordinating statewide emergency communications and improving the ability of states and territories to implement SCIPs and the NECP.
As the central interoperability coordination point for its states, the SWIC plays a critical role. The SWIC works with emergency response leaders across all levels of government to implement a statewide strategic vision for interoperability. SWICs are responsible for the implementation and maintenance of the SCIPs through coordination and collaboration with the emergency response community. These individuals dedicate considerable time towards educating the public safety community on their SCIP and enhancing their statewide governance structures. The SWIC facilitates governance, training and exercise, and policy efforts to promote interoperability across emergency response disciplines. SWICs formally serve as members of the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC), a national governance body established to assist its members with promoting the critical importance of interoperable communications and best practices. In this key role, SWICs contribute to the development of standard operating procedures; voice and data technologies; training, exercises, and outreach and education materials; and federal emergency communications policies, plans, and services. This coordinated effort greatly enhances response capabilities by developing collaborative interoperable communications strategies at all levels of government. CISA supports the SWICs through bi-annual in-person meetings, quarterly newsletters, working group facilitation, and periodic conference calls. These activities allow SWICs to share best practices, lessons learned, successes, and challenges, related to SCIP implementation. The current list of the SWIC or SCIP point of contacts for all 56 states and territories is available here: www.dhs.gov/safecom.ncswic-membership.
CISA helps states and territories improve emergency communications capabilities through workshops that enable discussion regarding communications gaps and identify ways to implement SCIP initiatives. The workshops are hands-on, and focus on the specific needs and priorities of each state and territory.
CISA’s Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program drives the NECP and SCIPs by providing states, urban areas, localities, and tribal communities with training, tools, and onsite assistance. These services, which are provided at no cost, include assistance with the planning, governance, operational, and technical aspects of developing and implementing interoperable communications initiatives.