CISA at 2019 APCO: Day 1

August 11, 2019
1:41 pm

Author: Ken Bradley, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Office of External Affairs

Association for Public-Safety Officials (APCO) Conference

APCO 2019, APCO International’s Annual Conference and Expo, is the premier event for public safety communications officials, from frontline telecommunicators to communications center managers to public safety communications equipment and services vendors.  Over 5,000 attendees represent a wide range of organizations, including emergency communications centers, law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical services, and government agencies, along with service providers and commercial vendors. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) at Exhibit Hall on Monday and Tuesday in Booth #659, but first CISA partnered with its public safety partners in the session Project 25 for the Future: What’s New Today and What’s Coming Next.

Project 25 for the Future: What’s New Today and What’s Coming Next

This session was hosted by the Project 25 Technology Interest Group (PTIG), which is a forum for users and vendors of the Project 25 (P25) standard that provides resources to include standards updates, case studies, conference presentations, frequently asked questions, and more.  P25 is a living standard that continues to be maintained and expanded as technology evolves and as the communications needs of the public safety community evolve.

The speakers provided a status update regarding updates to various P25 standards and progress toward an interworking function (IWF) linking land mobile radio (LMR) and long-term evolution (LTE) systems, P25 link layer encryption to include key management to improve interoperability, and P25 system and console interoperability including P25 testing updates.

P25 updates for 2019 addressed air interfaces and a revision to the trunking control channel message standard.  The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) TR-8 representative provided a summary of the Joint TIA/Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) Working Group on P25/LTE Interworking and a number of updates to the P25 Suite of Standards.  P25 link layer encryptions helps to ensure integrity, confidentiality, and key distribution.  Integrity ensures the message has not been altered, confidentiality ensures the message is only received by the intended parties, and key distribution ensures the receiving parties have the means to securely communicate.   A current challenge is with P25 end-to-end encryption for voice calls and packet data protects the contents of the transmission because end-to-end encryption by itself does not protect against intercepting the identities of the parties involved in a call.  Concepts to understand for key management are the link encryption facility (LEF) securely stores and distributes link layer encryption (LLE) Cyptographic key material and LLE key management provides for a hierarchy of keys and multiple key distribution methods: broadcast key distribution, group key distribution, and individual key distribution.

Jim Downes, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is the current P25 Steering Committee Chair.  Jim addressed P25 system interoperability and current projects the Federal Partnership for Interoperable Communications (FPIC) is currently working on to improve interoperability.  Mr. Downes provided an update of the Project 25 Steering Committee activities and summarized the continued progress in maintaining current standards updates and the necessary compliance testing necessary to ensure interoperability. He stressed the importance of continued user involvement and the continued partnership with the TIA TR8 members and the DHS Compliance Assessment Program Office. The importance of the interoperability testing and results was also addressed.

In summary, the state and local public safety community continues to be very connected to and interested in the P25 Standards development process and how user input can affect updates to the current standards.  Additionally, the challenges of encrypted interoperability and how P25 can effectively interface with LTE, both commercial and with FirstNet, are of critical and immediate interest to the public safety community. 

CISA continues tomorrow with a panel entitled Protections, Capabilities, and Real-World Deployments of Encryption Protocols and starts exhibiting with S&T at ACPO 2019. For CISA’s full schedule of events at APCO 2019, please visit the SAFECOM Blog.

CISA at 2019 APCO Conference

August 8, 2019
3:36 pm

Author: Ken Bradley, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Office of External Affairs

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will be at the 2019 Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (ACPO) Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland, from August 11 to 14.

This year CISA is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) at the Exhibit Hall in Booth #659 or you catch us at one of the many panel discussions we’ll be participating in at APCO with our public safety partners:


Sunday, August 11th

P25 for the Future: What’s New Today and What’s Coming Next

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM; Room 343-344

James Downes, Steve Nichols, Andy Davis, Jeremy Elder

Monday, August 12th

Protections, Capabilities and Real-World Deployments of Encryption Protocols
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM; Room 343-344

James Downes, Allan Massie, John “JT” Bryant, Scott Wright, Keith LaPlant

Tuesday, August 13th

DHS Efforts to Improve Emergency Communications

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM; Room 321

Serena Reynolds, John Merrill
Second General Business Session
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM; Room 307-310
Ron Hewitt, CISA Assistant Director for Emergency Communications
Wednesday, August 14th
The National 9-1-1 Data System: Aggregating Uniform Datasets for Optimal 9-1-1 Systems
1:45 AM – 2:45 AM; Room 301-303

Jerry Jaskulski, Laurie Flaherty, Robert Brown, Darlene Pankonie
For more information regarding CISA's participation in the 2019 APCO Conference, please visit

NCSWIC Chair Note

August 6, 2019
3:57 pm

Author: Joe Galvin, Illinois SWIC, NCSWIC Chair

2019 has been busy yet productive! Thank you to everyone who attended the SAFECOM and National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators’ (NCSWIC) meetings, on April 22-25, 2019, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The NCSWIC held a dynamic plenary meeting with members and engaged in sessions including the benefits of Geographic Information Systems for Emergency Communications, the First Responder Network Authority’s products and services, NCSWIC’s Interoperability Performance Measures, and the NCSWIC Academy, which is currently under development.

I would like to recognize the hard work and input from NCSWIC Members who continue to contribute in a multitude of ways in the first half of the year. Aside from the meetings in Pittsburgh, the Joint SAFECOM-NCSWIC Funding and Sustainment Committee held an in-person meeting in March 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Additionally, the NCSWIC Planning, Training, and Exercise Committee met in-person in April 2019 in Boise, Idaho. Your ongoing participation plays a massive role in developing the helpful products we provide to the public safety community.

I look forward to sharing more accomplishments throughout the year and collaborating with members heavily to address NCSWIC’s future, and how to advance the program forward through implementation of the NCSWIC Academy and updates to the NCSWIC Charter and NCSWIC Strategic Plan. If you have any you have questions regarding NCSWIC’s current and upcoming initiatives, or meetings, please do not hesitate to reach out to




DHS Priority Telecommunications Services Help Calls Go Through During Hurricane Season

August 6, 2019
3:46 pm

Author: CISA Priority Services Team

On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane along the Florida Panhandle.  It was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to strike in the contiguous United States in terms of pressure and the fourth-strongest land-falling hurricane in terms of maximum sustained wind speed.

Severely impacted by the catastrophic damage from storm surge and wind, was cellular service to the region.  A report of Hurricane Michael’s effect on telecommunications by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) examined why it took so long to restore cellular service to the Panhandle.  “Hurricane Michael demonstrated starkly how some wireless providers in the Florida Panhandle were able to rebound from this devastating storm through foresight and appropriate planning, while others stalled in their efforts to restore service,” the report said.

The aftermath of Hurricane Michael is a reminder that plans need to be in place to restore public safety telecommunications after a natural disaster occurs.  With the 2019 hurricane season here and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicting 9 to 15 named storms and 4 to 8 hurricanes, the time to make or review plans is now.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers a suite of priority communications services to support national security and public safety communications.  The Priority Telecommunications Services (PTS) program includes:

  • Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) provides priority calling when landline networks are congested.
  • Wireless Priority Service (WPS) provides priority calling when cellular networks are congested.
  • Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP) provides priority for installation and restoration of critical data and voice communications circuits.
    To spread the word on the PTS program to state and territorial government agencies, CISA has enlisted the efforts of PTS Area Representatives (PARs).  Each PAR works within two assigned Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions (plus one PAR to work with the Federal Government).  The PARs work in a coordinated effort with the CISA Emergency Communications Coordinators to conduct outreach efforts.  Through face-to-face meetings, participation at conferences, and other activities, the PARs speak to the benefits of the PTS program and provide information and guidance on how to enroll.
    If an organization does not already have GETS, WPS, and TSP, it is encouraged to enroll in these programs as a part of its emergency communications planning to help communicate during events like hurricanes.  For more information or to enroll in the programs, please visit,, or

CISA Supports Public Safety’s Transition to NG911

July 10, 2019
8:43 am

Author: Ken Bradley, CISA External Affairs

On June 14 -18, 2019, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) engaged the 9-1-1 community at the National Association of State 9-1-1 Administrators (NASNA) meeting and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) Conference in Orlando, FL. 

During the June 15, 2019 NASNA meeting, Assistant Director for Emergency Communications, Ron Hewitt,  briefed State 9-1-1 Administrators on the CISA organization, provided updates on the SAFECOM and National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC) Next Generation 911 (NG911) Maturity State Self-Assessment Tool, highlighted emergency communications governance initiatives, and discussed the 2019 National Emergency Communications Plan release.

“The frequency and complexity of emergencies are on the rise during a time when technology is advancing at a faster pace than any other time in history,” Hewitt said.  “As technology advances, communications capabilities available to emergency responders—voice, video, and data— will transform the emergency communications landscape, providing greater situational awareness to dispatchers and emergency responders.  To prepare 9-1-1 public safety stakeholders for these rapid technology advances, CISA is committed to delivering products and services to support the flow of secure and seamless information.”

During the NENA Conference, CISA engaged with stakeholders in the Exhibit Hall and participated on three panel presentations with SAFECOM, NCSWIC, NASNA, and federal public safety partners from the National 911 Program. 

During the first panel, Are You NG-Ready? CISA’s Gerald “Jerry” Jaskulski, was joined by SAFECOM member Stephen Verbil, State of Connecticut Emergency Telecommunications Manager, California SWIC Budge Currier, from the California Office of Emergency Services, and Laurie Flaherty, U.S. Department of Transportation, National 911 Program.  The panelists discussed the NG911 Maturity State Self-Assessment Tool developed by the SAFECOM NCSWIC NG911 Working Group and provided a video demonstration for the session’s attendees. 

The Working Group, building on the work of the Federal Communications Commission’s Task Force on Optimal Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Architecture, believe that public safety administrators and practitioners would benefit from more in-depth insight into their own efforts to assist PSAPs in the transition to NG911.  The Tool provides 911 authority stakeholders with a more granular understanding of the essential NG911 system and will allow PSAPs to better plan their NG911 transition action steps. 

The Tool was designed to assist PSAP administrators in assessing their progress toward migration to NG911 and to identify gaps in their planning efforts.  Other benefits include identifying unmet needs and justifying additional investments.  The results can be used to help educate elected officials and policy makers about NG911 and how to achieve successful migration to the capabilities it will provide.  The working group is currently seeking volunteers to pilot the Tool and those interested should contact:

On Tuesday, June 18, 2019, Jerry Jaskulski participated on two additional panel presentations, the first on Nationally-Uniform Data: Improving the 9-1-1 Data Set, which covered the challenges in comparing 911 data at the state and sub-state levels. The panel provided an overview of the National 911 Program’s 911 Data and Information Sharing Strategic Plan that was recently released.  The Strategic Plan is intended to provide a framework for standardizing 911 data and use.  The panel discussed how stakeholders can use the Plan as a model for collecting 911 data to inform decision-making, which would help:

  • Administrators improve planning
  • Public safety agencies gain situational awareness
  • Federal agencies make better programmatic support decisions
  • States allocate funds more accurately to match needs
  • Local agencies define and identify infrastructure improvements.

The final panel, NG911 Migration Resources: Are you Ready?, highlighted resources and products available to agency leaders that contain lessons learned and models for transitioning to NG911.  During this session Jerry Jaskulski provide an update on the SAFECOM NCSWIC NG911 Working Group’s NG911 Maturity State Self-Assessment Tool and covered other products the working group created including the Cyber Risks to Next Generation 911 document. 

The NASNA meeting and NENA Conference were a great success for CISA in providing the 911 community with updates on how the Agency is working to support public safety. By sponsoring the SAFECOM NCSWIC NG911 Working Group that is creating products, having PSAPs volunteer to pilot the NG911 Maturity State Self-Assessment Tool, and engaging Federal stakeholders that own and / or operate PSAP facilities, the communications ecosystem stakeholders have reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate with CISA and improve interoperable communications.

ISSI and CSSI Implementation Guidance

May 22, 2019
1:33 pm

Author: Jim Downes, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

The Federal Partnership for Interoperable Communications (FPIC), in conjunction with SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Coordinators (NCSWIC), has published a guidance document for the emergency communications user community concerning implementation of Project25 (P25) Inter-RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) and Console Subsystem Interface (CSSI) technologies.

As the public safety community continues to recognize the importance of land mobile radio (LMR) operability and interoperability, interest in ISSI and CSSI technology has increased. Given this heightened interest in both technologies, the FPIC developed an ISSI/CSSI User Focus Group to:

  • Explore the ISSI/CSSI technology offerings;
  • Document successful deployments, existing challenges, and impediments to deployments;
  • Illustrate the complexities of ISSI/CSSI implementations; and
  • Identify actionable solutions for addressing implementation challenges.

The ISSI/CSSI User Focus Group developed the Best Practices for Planning and Implementation of P25 Inter-RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) and Console Subsystem Interface (CSSI): Volume I to address pre-planning, partnerships, and governance practices that are essential for planning an ISSI and/or CSSI implementation. The document—which is the first in a series of “best practices” documents—includes a one-page “Best Practices Checklist,” incorporating important steps such as developing a thorough understanding of what ISSI- and CSSI-enabled systems can and cannot do, and coordinating ISSI governance with existing systems management and governance. Volume 1 also details benefits of interoperability enhancements and the potential for infrastructure sharing through an ISSI/CSSI for those agencies interested in implementing either or both technologies.

The best practices contained in Volume 1 are an extensive collaborative effort of the FPIC ISSI/CSSI User Focus Group, which primarily consists of non-federal (state and local) public safety entities. The Joint SAFECOM-NCSWIC Technology Policy Committee also reviewed and approved the document prior to approval by the SAFECOM and NCSWIC Executives Committees (ECs).

The Best Practices for Planning and Implementation of P25 Inter-RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) and Console Subsystem Interface (CSSI): Volume I document is available at For those interested in learning more about ISSI and CSSI implementation, or for those interested in FPIC-related activities, please visit for more information.

SAFECOM/NCSWIC Announces Release of the Ten Keys to Improving Emergency Alerts, Warnings, and Notifications Best Practices Guidance

April 29, 2019
11:56 am

Author: Dave Nolan, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Emergency alert, warning, and notification (AWN) systems protect lives and property by identifying information about an impending threat, communicating that information to those who need it, and facilitating the timely taking of protective actions.

To enhance this critical information sharing across all AWN systems, SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, developed the Ten Keys to Improving Emergency Alerts, Warnings, and Notifications.

Alert originators, managers, system administrators, system operators, and emergency managers from government and non-government organizations alike, can leverage the below best practices, known as the “Ten Keys,” to improve whole-community public emergency messaging:

  • Establish Governance: Establish strong governance and collaborate with existing authorities to create communication pathways to facilitate timely and efficient information sharing
  • Identify and Coordinate with Others: Partner and coordinate with existing AOs, emergency managers, organizations within a jurisdiction and neighboring jurisdictions, public safety communications centers and answering points, public information officers, critical infrastructure sectors, community members and organizations, and communications providers
  • Develop Plans, Policies and Procedures: Identify, establish, document, field-test, and continually evaluate plans, policies, and procedures against the evolving AWN landscape
  • Account for Diverse Populations: Ensure whole community inclusion, as diversity and accessibility influence the ways in which people receive, interpret, and respond to messages. Understanding how messages reach these various demographics and using a variety of communications pathways is necessary for ensuring AWN effectiveness
  • Maintain Security and Resiliency: Ensure cybersecurity across networks, devices, systems, and user interfaces. Secure infrastructure and foster resiliency as manmade and natural disasters can impact AWN issuances if not properly mitigated
  • Incorporate Safeguards: Incorporate internal safeguards, across the entire AWN lifecycle—human and machine—to protect against system misuse and prevent false messaging
  • Train, Exercise and Test Systems: Conduct trainings, exercises, and tests of AWN systems with stakeholders and partners on a regular basis to maintain proficiencies; lessons observed from these activities should be evaluated, documented, and incorporated into future operations
  • Eliminate Issuance and Dissemination Delays: Eliminate issuance and dissemination delays by creating message templates, expediting information sharing, identifying and establishing triggers, and avoiding ad-hoc decision making
  • Deliver Actionable Messaging: Provide comprehensive, targeted, and specific messaging. Remain mindful of creating alert fatigue, but err on the side of public safety when dealing with conflicting or uncertain information
  • Monitor and Correct Misinformation: Monitor for changes in the situation and inaccurate spreading of information, and correct inaccurate or false messaging accordingly

For additional information about this document or AWN best practices, please contact: and For more resources, please visit:

Public Safety Strategic Collaboration Meeting: Day 2

April 24, 2019
4:18 pm

Author: Ken Bradley, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Office of External Affairs


Today, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) partnered with SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC) for the second day of the Public Safety Strategic Collaboration Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.  Today’s sessions included a range of presentations and interactive panels with public safety partners from around the U.S. and all levels of government.

Emerging Alerts, Warnings, and Notifications Capabilities

Antwane Johnson, Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems (IPAWS) Program, and Budge Currier, California Statewide Interoperability Coordinator, presented on significant improvements to alerting and notification capabilities effective this fall.  Public safety organizations use alerts, warnings, and notifications to communicate weather conditions, evacuations, amber alerts, and more to the public.  Alerts can be sent in multiple languages and a variety of formats, including ring tones and text-to-speech.  Mr. Currier also provided examples of how California is integrating alerts and warnings into the state’s Next Generation 911 (NG911) and how it is being rolled out across the state.

Panel and Working Session: SAFECOM’s and NCSWIC’s Roles Instituting a “Security First” Perspective to Mitigate the Cyber Threat

Dusty Rhoads, CISA, opened up the session by discussing the importance of cybersecurity in the public safety community and the inclusion of cybersecurity initiatives in the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP).  Michael Ogata, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Public Safety Communications Research Program (PSCR), discussed how to leverage the NIST Cybersecurity Framework for improving critical infrastructure and cybersecurity.  The goal of the framework is to provide a common language for cybersecurity policies and initiatives and guidance on how an organization can create their own cybersecurity initiatives.  Mark Hogan, SAFECOM (At-Large), Director of Asset Management, City of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Richard Jackson, Information Security Manager, Asset Management, City of Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Captain George Perera, SAFECOM (At-Large), Miami-Dade, Florida, Police Department, provided real-world examples of cybersecurity attacks on local systems and their large-scale effects on surrounding organizations and response.  Speakers emphasized utilizing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework as a first step and tool when developing cybersecurity policies and plans.

A Proposal: Leveraging SAFECOM and NCSWIC to Address Information Interoperability

Chief Jonathan Lewin, SAFECOM (Major Cities Chiefs Association), Chicago Police Department was joined by Rob Dew, CISA, and John Contestabile, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, to engage SAFECOM and NCSWIC members on establishing a joint working group to further develop and implement an interoperability framework that addresses the need for end users to access standardized, interoperable, and consumable information at the scene.  Chief Lewin provided examples of data and information technology the City of Chicago has integrated to assist law enforcement in responding to incidents.  Chief Lewin’s examples were used to show a need for public safety to address this issue.  SAFECOM member Charlie Sasser, National Association of State Technology Directors, volunteered to participate in the working group.

SAFECOM/NCSWIC Committees and Working Groups

SAFECOM and NCSWIC broke out into committees and working groups for the afternoon, which included the following groups:

  • Joint Technology Policy Committee
  • SAFECOM Governance Committee
  • Next Generation 911 Working Group
  • NCSWIC Governance Committee
  • Joint Funding and Sustainment Committee
  • SAFECOM Education and Outreach Committee
  • NCSWIC Planning, Training, and Exercise Committee

Public Safety Strategic Collaboration Meeting: Day 1

April 23, 2019
5:29 pm

Author: Ken Bradley, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Office of External Affairs

SAFECOM  Meeting

Today, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) partnered with SAFECOM to kick off the Public Safety Strategic Collaboration Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.  The day had a range of presentations and interactive panels with public safety partners from around the U.S. and all levels of government.

State of the State

The first presentation of the day came from our host Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC), Mark Wrightstone, Pennsylvania SWIC.  Mark provided updates from around the Commonwealth about their alerts, warning, and notifications system; enhanced 911 system; and broadband and land mobile radio systems.  Coverage maps for new Project 25 (P25) VHF systems and broadband coverage from the First Responder Network Authority were shared.

2019 National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP)

The NECP is in its third iteration, the first was in 2008 and the second was in 2014.  CISA is required to update the NECP periodically and Nationwide Baseline Assessment every five years.  The 2019 version incorporates feedback and data from 2018 SAFECOM Nationwide Survey, addresses improvements in technology such as broadband including the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network built by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), Next Generation 911, and cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities, while also sustaining legacy systems.  The NECP expands on the emergency communications ecosystem developed in the 2014 NECP, utilizing a new graphic to explain how emergency communications occur as technology and threats continue to expand and change. 

Eric Runnels, CISA; Chris Lombard, SAFECOM; and Mike Murphy, SAFECOM discussed how public safety’s feedback was incorporated into the 2019 Plan including members from SAFECOM and NCSWIC participating in a working group, publishing the draft document for public comment, and stakeholder adjudication meeting.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Updates

During this session, SAFECOM members received an update from Sridhar Kowdley, DHS Science and Technology Directorate, Office of Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC).  The panel discussed the recent S&T reorganization and current work performed through OIC.  Specifically, the session highlighted the December Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) Technology Experiment held in Houston and the P25 Compliance Assessment Program (CAP).  Sridhar discussed efforts to establish a laboratory to test equipment to ensure it complies with P25 standards. He also highlighted alerts, warnings, and notifications guidance materials and information sharing assessment tools available to stakeholders.

The Impact of Emerging Technology on Public Safety Communications: The California Experience

Budge Currier, California Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC), discussed recent efforts in California to deploy a cloud-based computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and Next Generation 911 (NG911) across California. This session highlighted best practices and lessons learned for integrating new technologies to promote interoperability.  The session also highlighted lessons learned from recent wildfire response efforts and sending alerts, warnings, and notifications.

Drones and Public Safety

Former SAFECOM Chair, Chief Charles Werner (Ret.), National Public Safety Council of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) was joined by Anna Gomez, Attorney, Wiley Rein LLP, and Sarah Ellis Peed, CISA.  Chief Werner provided footage from recent incidents where drones were used to assist public safety during wild fires, protest rallies, lava flow, and bridge collapses.   Drones are safely able to provide hazardous environmental feedback to responders during search and rescues, evacuations, and assist with law enforcement incidents.  Anna covered rules, regulations, and requirements for operating UAS, as Congress and the FAA continue to update regulations to provide oversight.  As UAS technology continues to evolve, so do the laws and regulations to users.  Sarah, CISA National Risk Management Center, discussed risk and vulnerabilities for safe and secure use of UAS regarding payloads; however, focus was given to how to operate safely and securely.  In addition to drones being used by public safety, adversaries are interested in gaining access to data and footage.  Similar to body cameras, public safety needs to secure the data and information from drones.  Public safety should think about how the data being stored, transferred, secured, as well as supply chain risk.  Counter UAS includes jammers to disrupt communications.  Sarah urged SAFECOM members and their communities to participate in Critical Infrastructure Advisory Council (CIPAC) working groups that are working on the new authorities that are being authorized to the Department of Homeland Security for counter UAS. 

Smarten Up: The Intersection of Public Safety Communications and Smart City Technologies

Karen Lightman, Executive Director, Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Dr. Leonard Weiss, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, EMS Medical Director, Assistant Medical Director, STAT MedEvac, University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Jon Peha, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Public Policy CMU, Santiago Garces, Director Innovation and Performance, Chief Innovation Officer City of Pittsburgh, and Chief Werner discussed challenges related to increasing interconnectivity of urban technologies, as demonstrated through Smart Cities, and how data interoperability and management pose unique challenges and opportunities to SAFECOM.  Dr. Weiss provided examples where geolocation failed to save a young women’s life calling 911 from outside an emergency room, telemedicine responses to airlines in flight, as well as, his involvement in the tragedy at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue active shooter incident.  Chief Werner discussed the importance of public safety participating in Smart City projects to ensure data interoperability.  Santiago discussed examples of recent flooding in South Bend, IN, where geo-mapping was used for evacuations, drones were used for structural assessments, and communications challenges with IT and public safety assisting with regional coordination.  Jon addressed how his research, working with public safety agencies, the FCC, and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy have effected real world events such as disseminating information to non-English speakers during disasters (Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico), body worn camera, and Smart Cities.  The panel addressed proposed questions from Karen and from the audience.

NCSWIC PTE Committee In-Person Meeting

April 18, 2019
1:02 pm

National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Logo

The National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC) Planning, Training, and Exercise (PTE) Committee focuses on capturing best practices and streamlining information sharing for training and exercise processes related to public safety communications at all levels of government. The Committee coordinates closely with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on service offerings. The NCSWIC PTE Committee met in Boise, Idaho, April 9-10, 2019, to discuss the COMM-X Portal, exercises-in-a-box templates, and outreach products. Participants also toured the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

COMM-X Portal Update

Jessica Kaputa, CISA, and Cary Martin, CISA, provided a demonstration of the COMM-X Portal and updated the committee on progress. ​The COMM-X Joint Training and Exercise Portal for Emergency Communications is a one-stop-shop for planners and operators to access emergency communications-specific training and exercise material, events and resources hosted on the Homeland Security Information Network.

The COMM-X Portal Beta version was launched on April 15th for a 30 days for users to upload training and exercise documents and provide feedback on potential improvements. For feedback or questions on the COMM-X Portal, please contact the team at

A "ton" of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWICs) check out the NIFC scale.

Exercises-In-A-Box Update

John Miller, New Jersey Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) and NCSWIC PTE Chair, and Thomas Gonzalez, Texas Department of Public Safety, provided an update on the exercises-in-a-box templates. The committee is currently working on three exercises-in-a-box templates to upload on the COMM-X Portal and share with training and exercise coordinators for use in their exercise planning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Support Function #2 Earthquake Situation Manual will be published on the NCSWIC resources page and the COMM-X Portal in May.


Participants went on a tour of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), located in Boise, Idaho. The NIFC is the nation's support center for wildland firefighting and eight different agencies and organizations are part of NIFC. Decisions are made using the interagency cooperation concept, as NIFC has no single director or manager. The committee saw the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC), the NIFC radio cache, Boise BLM Smokejumper School, and the National Weather Service – Boise.


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