SAFECOM Blog

July 12, 2018
1:44 pm

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) seeks your knowledge on issues affecting public safety communications to inform updates to the 2019 National Emergency Communication Plan. Stakeholder input is key to ensuring critical issues are considered and addressed in the revised plan.

The SAFECOM Nationwide Survey (SNS) told us:

  • Cybersecurity incidents affect 1/3 of organizations’ ability to communicate the past five years, but most lack necessary funding to address the issue or include cybersecurity in the planning process
  • Most organizations fund their communications systems with grants funds, but many lack funding for personnel and cybersecurity
  • Data use amongst organizations is on the rise, yet, many report never using or testing interoperability for data

If you can relate to these issues, please join us on Wednesday, July 18 in discussion to plan for your future. You may join these discussions using the following information:

Event: 2019 National Emergency Communications Plan National Development Webinar

Date and Time: Wednesday, July 18th, 2018, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EDT

Dial-in (For Audio): (800) 786-1918

Webinar Link (For Visual): https://share.dhs.gov/necp2019

The NECP is a forward-thinking, strategic document, driven by stakeholder feedback, which aims to guide the nation now and into the future toward improved operability and interoperability. Stakeholder input will inform NECP development phases for publication in 2019.

July 10, 2018
3:22 pm

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) is reestablishing the Rural Emergency Medical Communications Demonstration Project (REMCDP) grant opportunity to work with a public health or medical facility to examine communications barriers and identify solutions that enhance existing emergency communications infrastructure. Specifically, applicants must demonstrate their ability to leverage existing technologies and engage non-medical professionals to help establish or sustain statewide medical communications systems and utilize existing infrastructures to improve the delivery of rural medical care. Eligible applicants may apply for up to $2,000,000 for a two-year period of performance, October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2020. REMCDP funding will be awarded in September 2018 through a competitive review process.

The REMCDP Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is available on www.grants.gov; applications are due by Wednesday, August 8, 2018, at 11:59:00 PM EDT. Additional information about the current REMCDP recipient’s First Hands Program and the new grant opportunity can be found on www.dhs.gov/remcdp.

June 27, 2018
10:51 am

Author: Jennifer Cory, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC)

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) Border Interoperability Demonstration Project (BIDP) was a one-time $25.5 million grant program that focused on identifying innovative solutions to interoperability along the northern and southern U.S. borders.  While the grant program has closed, OEC remains focused on transferring BIDP information and knowledge to all border communities and other interested parties.  In addition to a closeout report and the BIDP Study on Implementing Interoperability Channels along and across the United States–Canadian Border, as well as the BIDP Study on Rural and Urban Area Interoperability Solutions along and across International Borders, OEC published two additional studies:

  • BIDP Study on Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation (EHP) Compliance along the Border identifies domestic and international EHP requirements that may be applicable in border areas.  The study includes a five-step process for obtaining EHP compliance, as well as example documentation and photographs for communities to reference.  More specifically, it examines federal laws and categorical exclusions, environmental assessments, and environmental impact statements that are common to emergency communications projects.  The study also offers example records of environmental consideration that other communities may reference in their submissions.
  • BIDP Study on Implementing Advanced and Emerging Technologies along and across International Borders examines San Diego, California’s project to add capacity and capabilities to its regional communications network.  The study discusses common challenges (e.g., human factors, data security) and emphasizes the non-technical steps that are often overlooked when deploying advanced and emerging technologies.  The study includes a five-step process intended to guide other communities in implementing advanced and emerging technologies along and across the border.

As these studies demonstrate, OEC is committed to continuing to share lessons learned across border communities, as well as updating tools (e.g., National Interoperability Field Operations Guide) and technical assistance offerings.  Additionally, OEC is working on remaining challenges with border working groups, including the Canada-U.S. Communications Interoperability Working Group and the Southwest Border Communications Working Group.

To learn more about BIDP or to download the closeout report, studies, and other documents, visit the BIDP website at https://www.dhs.gov/border-interoperability-demonstration-project.  Please direct any questions or comments to BIDP@hq.dhs.gov.

June 11, 2018
1:49 pm

On May 24, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) hosted the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials Governance Guide Working Group in preparation for updating the Emergency Communications Governance Guide for State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials (the Governance Guide). This document was last revised and published in 2015. During the meeting, working group members began the process of conducting an in-depth review and revision process of the 2015 guide.

Meeting

Led by the chair, Mr. Dan Martinez, and Mr. Cary Martin, OEC Program Manager, the working group discussed the methodology of data collection and analysis conducted by OEC for information that will be included in the 2018 SLTT Governance Guide.  This collection includes, but is not limited to: interviews, case studies, and subject matter expert analysis. 

The working group’s focus in revising the 2015 SLTT Governance Guide is making the 2018 SLTT Governance Guide a user-friendly document that will provide recommended guidance for SLTT governments on:

  • Coordination of Resources
  • Establishing Funding and Sustainment Policies
  • Developing Partnerships
  • Building collaborative governance structures

With an emphasis on the following capabilities of emergency communications:

  • 911, E911, and NG911
  • Land Mobile Radio
  • Broadband Capabilities- including FirstNet
  • Alerts, Warnings, and Notifications
  • Critical Infrastructure Communications/NGO Communications
  • Information Flow Management
  • Cybersecurity across all lanes
  • Training and Exercises

The working group will meet again via webinar and conference call in the coming weeks to continue the effort to revise the 2015 Governance Guide.

Participation and Meetings

The SLTT Working Group meets every three weeks, with our next meeting scheduled for June 12, 2018.  We are currently seeking to expand our working group membership. If you, or a representative from your agency would like to participate in the working group, please email us at slttgovguide@hq.dhs.gov

To read about the working groups previous meetings:

May 3, 2018        https://www.dhs.gov/safecom/blog/2018/05/29/sltt-governance-guide-working-group-meeting-3

April 12, 2018     https://www.dhs.gov/safecom/blog/2018/04/30/sltt-governance-guide-meeting-2

March 29, 2018  https://www.dhs.gov/safecom/blog/2018/04/04/2018-sltt-governance-guide

May 29, 2018
10:14 am

Author: Robin Beatty, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), and Cary Martin, DHS OEC

On May 3, 2018, the DHS OEC hosted the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials Governance Guide Working Group in preparation for updating the Emergency Communications Governance Guide for State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials (the Governance Guide). During the meeting, working group members began the process of conducting an in-depth review and revision process of the 2015 guide.

In-Person Meeting

An in-person working group meeting location was identified and agreed upon by the working group members, to occur during the week of September 10-14, 2018 in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  Special thanks to the working group member Mr. Tim Zientek of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation for volunteering to host the meeting. We look forward to a very productive meeting.

Revision Process Initiated

Participants of the working group provided in-depth discussions in a live information capture forum, providing input and changes for the new 2018 Governance Guide.  Topics that were discussed included:

  • Grant funding
  • Technology
  • Communication efforts
  • Involvement between State and Tribal communities
  • Enhanced Tribal governance guidance
  • Evolution of governance body over the next 5-10 years
  • Challenges in formalizing governance structures

The working group will meet again via webinar and conference call on May 24, 2018 to continue the effort to revise the 2015 Governance Guide.

Participation

We are currently seeking to expand our working group membership. If you, or a representative from your agency, would like to participate in the working group, please email slttgovguide@hq.dhs.gov

To read about the working groups previous meetings:

April 12, 2018:     https://www.dhs.gov/safecom/blog/2018/04/30/sltt-governance-guide-meeting-2

March 29, 2018: https://www.dhs.gov/safecom/blog/2018/04/04/2018-sltt-governance-guide

May 25, 2018
10:03 am

Author: Emergency Communications Preparedness Center Grants Focus Group

Following the release of the FY 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) and the Emergency Communications Preparedness Center (ECPC) Grants Focus Group worked with federal granting agencies to update the FY 2018 List of Federal Financial Assistance Programs Funding for Emergency Communications Federal Funding Opportunities. This List includes program descriptions, available funding amounts, application deadlines, and links to federal agency websites for additional information. OEC and ECPC will continue to maintain and update the List on the SAFECOM website as new programs are announced throughout the year.

Please reference this List to anyone requesting additional sources of funding for emergency communications projects. For more information, please contact the ECPC at ECPC@hq.dhs.gov.

May 16, 2018
9:35 am

Author: Ron Hewitt, Director, Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

On behalf of the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), I am pleased to present the Fiscal Year 2018 SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants (SAFECOM Guidance)This document is updated annually to provide current information on emergency communications policies, eligible costs, best practices, and technical standards for state, local, tribal, and territorial grantees investing federal funds in emergency communications projects.

The SAFECOM Guidance aligns with the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), which emphasizes the need to enhance policies, governance structures, plans, and protocols that enable responders to communicate and share information under all circumstances. It aims to maximize the use of all communications capabilities available to public safety officials—voice, video, and data—and to ensure the security of data and information exchange. To accomplish this, grantees must engage the whole community in preparedness activities. Similarly, the SAFECOM Guidance addresses the rapidly evolving emergency communications ecosystem and encourages grantees to support the concepts and recommendations within the 2014 NECP.

This year’s funding priorities remain consistent with previous SAFECOM Guidance releases. Department of Homeland Security grantees investing in emergency communications are still required to comply with SAFECOM Guidance Appendix D. All grantees are strongly encouraged to coordinate with their statewide governance bodies and emergency communications leaders (e.g., Statewide Interoperability Coordinators) to ensure projects support the state or territory’s strategy to improve interoperable emergency communications. In addition, grantees should work with public and private entities, and across jurisdictions and disciplines, to assess needs, plan projects, coordinate resources, and improve response through cross-training and joint exercises. These coordination efforts are important to ensure that interoperability remains a top priority.

The SAFECOM Guidance encourages grantees to participate, support, and invest in planning activities that will help states or territories prepare for deployment of new emergency communications systems or technologies. At the same time, there is a need to sustain current land mobile radio (LMR) systems into the foreseeable future. Grantees should continue developing plans and standard operating procedures, conducting training and exercises, and investing in standards-based equipment to sustain LMR capabilities, while concurrently planning for the integration and deployment of new technologies. Grantees should also consider cybersecurity risks across all capabilities when planning operable, interoperable, and continuity of communications.

As in previous years, OEC developed the SAFECOM Guidance in partnership with SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators. OEC also consulted federal partners and the Emergency Communications Preparedness Center to ensure emergency communications policies are coordinated and consistent across the Federal Government. OEC encourages grantees to reference this document when developing emergency communications investments, and to direct any questions to my office at oec@hq.dhs.gov.

May 1, 2018
2:11 pm

In an effort to consolidate information regarding broadband deployment across the United States into a consolidated, one-stop information sharing website, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) has implemented the BroadbandUSA program. This program promotes innovation and economic growth by supporting efforts to expand broadband connectivity and meaningful use across America. BroadbandUSA serves local and state governments, industry and nonprofits, which need to enhance broadband connectivity. BroadbandUSA serves as a strategic advisor to communities which want to expand their broadband capacity and promote digital inclusion. It brings stakeholders together to solve problems, contribute to emerging policies, link communities to other federal agencies and funding sources, and address barriers to collaboration across agencies. BroadbandUSA provides information on resources (publications, services, funding and non-funding programs), news (news releases, cross-posted blogs), events (webinars, workshops), and publicly available products (permitting policies, agency points of contact).

 The resources located on the BroadbandUSA program website will help state’s efforts in deploying broadband in support of operability and interoperability of emergency communications, as well as overall economic development which broadband supports. 

 The website address is https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov.  If there are any questions regarding the BroadbandUSA program, please contact the program at https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/contact-us/broadbandusa.

 

April 30, 2018
12:09 pm

On April 12, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) hosted the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials Governance Guide Working Group in preparation for updating the Emergency Communications Governance Guide for State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials (the Governance Guide). This document was last revised and published in 2015. During the meeting, working group members appointed a Chair and Vice Chair to help guide future efforts.

About the Chair and Vice Chair:

Chair, Daniel Martinez represents the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon. Mr. Martinez retired in 2014 after serving as Fire Chief since 1981.  Upon his retirement, the Tribe appointed Mr. Martinez as their Emergency Manager. Mr. Martinez is working on important topics such as the Stafford Act declaration process for federally recognized Tribes and other impactful issues affecting emergency management in federally recognized tribes. He is an important figure in leveraging public safety communications equipment and networks.  Mr. Martinez’ role is vital to supporting the inclusion of tribal information within the 2018 version of the Governance Guide.

Vice Chair, Karla Jurrens serves as the Deputy Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) for Texas. Ms. Jurrens previously worked with the Sherriff’s Association for Texas. As the SWIC she was responsible for FirstNet stakeholder engagement within the 5,300 agencies, 254 counties, and three federally recognized Tribes within the state. She is a returning working group member who supported development of the2015 Emergency Communications Governance Guide for State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials.  Ms. Jurrens’ background and previous collaborative experience with OEC is a great leadership asset for the working group.

Under the leadership of Mr. Martinez and Ms. Jurrens, the working group is conducting a detailed review of the 2015 Emergency Communications Governance Guide for State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials. The feedback to be collected in the coming weeks will be used to support development of the revised Governance Guide.  We look forward to providing an update on our progress during the NCWSIC and SAFECOM in-person meetings in May.

We are currently seeking to expand our working group membership. If you, or a representative from your agency would like to participate in the working group, please email us at slttgovguide.hq.dhs.gov

To read about the working groups kick off meeting, see the post from April 4, 2018.

April 5, 2018
1:12 pm

Author: Robin Beatty, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC)

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Engagement

OEC coordinated with the NCAI to support a tribal emergency communications panel discussion at the Joint SAFECOM and National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC) meeting held in Norman, Oklahoma on November 7, 2017. The panel was moderated by Brian Howard, NCAI’s appointed representative SAFECOM and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). The panel featured Frank Harjo, Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Manager, Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, and Danae Wilson, Manager, Department of Technology Services, Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho. This was the first ever joint SAFECOM-NCSWIC tribal-focused panel and it provided an opportunity for SAFECOM members to learn about key tribal communications activities and challenges.

Additionally, a representative from the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho was invited by OEC to participate in the newly-established Communications Section Task Force and in this capacity to represent the equities of the NCAI within SAFECOM.

Tribal Response to the SAFECOM National Survey (SNS)

The SNS is now closed and OEC has coordinated through a variety of tribal channels to promote participation from Tribal Nations. The SNS is a nation-wide data collection effort with the goal of identifying emergency communications priorities for all types of communities across the country.  The data collected will be analyzed to represent the capabilities necessary for establishing operable, interoperable, and continuity of communications at all levels of government. OEC received over 50 tribal responses to the SNS. All responses will contribute towards the planned refresh of the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) in 2019. 

Governance Profiles Helping Tribes Strengthen Emergency Communications

OEC is also continuing efforts to establish and build collaborative relationships with federally recognized tribes through the Tribal Emergency Communications Governance Profile effort. This effort is building OEC’s understanding of tribal emergency communications operations, resources, and interoperable emergency challenges, which helps OEC to identify opportunities to assist tribes with assessing and improving their unique operable and interoperable communications capabilities.

The profile development process provides tribes with the opportunity to learn about free emergency communications related resources and services from DHS. These services assist with emergency management and national security emergency preparedness communications issues, training, processes, planning, and implementation. OEC is also able to facilitate interested tribes in building relationships between federal and state agencies, components, and organizations to strengthen their respective tribal emergency management engagements and efforts

Once drafted, the governance profile is shared with the respective tribe to assist tribal leadership with communications planning, resource management, and the grant application process. This is an on-going effort available to all federally recognized tribes. To date, OEC has completed 15 tribal profiles and is engaging additional tribes to initiate the profile development process.

For information about OEC’s tribal engagement and support, contact Robin Beatty at Robin.Beatty@hq.dhs.gov, or OEC Tribal Affairs at oectribalaffairs@hq.dhs.gov.

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