CISA Publishes the FY20 Emergency Communications TA and SCIP Guide

October 21, 2019
10:45 am

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program (ICTAP) serves all 56 states and territories and provides no cost support to state, local, and tribal emergency responders and government officials through the development and delivery of training, tools, and onsite assistance to advance public safety interoperable communications capabilities.

CISA is pleased to publish the FY2020 Emergency Communications Technical Assistance (TA) / Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP) Planning Guide. This year’s Guide includes a number of new or enhanced offerings to help public safety and government officials meet the challenges in the rapidly changing ecosystem of voice and data interoperable communications.

The release of this Guide also coincides with the release of the 2019 update to the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP).  The 2019 NECP puts forth a vision for strengthening and enhancing emergency communications capabilities nationwide and a strategic plan for driving towards interoperability in this evolving emergency communications ecosystem. The NECP establishes six strategic goals focused on the following: Governance and Leadership; Planning and Procedures; Training, Exercises, and Evaluation; Communications Coordination; Technology and Infrastructure; and Cybersecurity.

During FY2020, CISA will continue to expand and, if needed, customize service offerings with a focus on supporting states and territories to address the following:

  • Coordinated statewide governance (e.g. State Mapping Tool, Interoperable Communications Reference Guides, etc.)
  • Comprehensive emergency communications planning (e.g. SCIPs, Tactical Interoperable Communications Plan [TICPs], and Field Operations Guides [FOGs])
  • Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) planning and implementation
  • Data operability and interoperability
  • Alerts and warnings
  • Broadband deployment
  • Cybersecurity education and awareness
  • Communications unit planning and procedures

For more information on CISA ICTAP and to view the FY2020 TA/SCIP Guide please visit: or contact

CISA Encourages Shared Communications System and Infrastructure (SCSI)

October 15, 2019
12:30 pm

Author: Robert "Dusty" Rhoads

Enhancing communications operability and interoperability remains a top priority for the public safety community. As such, first responders nationwide should be encouraged to find ways to collaborate with partners across all levels of government to share infrastructure, equipment, and services through the Shared Communications System and Infrastructure (SCSI) approach.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has developed the CISA SCSI 101 Factsheet to educate the public safety community on the vision and benefits of SCSI. Specifically, the factsheet outlines the governance, risk management, resource sharing, and operations considerations that need to be addressed to ensure project success, and provides examples of where this approach has worked previously.

CISA emphasizes how SCSI focuses on encouraging active resource sharing for organizations with national security, emergency preparedness, and public safety missions, and how this can:

  • Increase operability and interoperability
  • Improve spectrum use
  • Optimize resource usage and management
  • Streamline intra-agency and interagency operations
  • Decrease duplication of investments
  • Reduce capital and operations and maintenance (O&M) expenditures
  • Enhance operational coordination and economies of scale

For more information on SCSI, please visit or contact

Additional resources will be coming shortly, so stayed tuned to the SAFECOM blog for upcoming announcements!

NCSAM 2019: Be the Cyber Change

October 10, 2019
8:42 am

As more aspects of daily life go digital, the relationship between networks and devices is crucial. Evolving technology helps Federal, State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial governments engage and communicate efficiently and effectively, however, it also increases the risk of cyber threats. All Americans play a part in improving cybersecurity preparedness. Being safe online is a shared responsibility and creating a secure cyber environment requires all Americans to be personally accountable for their cybersecurity posture and be the cyber change.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), leads one of the national efforts to increase cybersecurity awareness and encourage all Americans to be responsible technology users. Throughout October, CISA and NCSA will promote the overarching theme of “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.”, to encourage all Americans to enable positive cybersecurity behavior changes and be accountable for their personal cybersecurity.

CISA and NCSA developed resources to educate the public on how they can “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.” throughout October and emphasize the importance of cybersecurity awareness year-round. Emergency response providers can help improve their organization’s and community’s cybersecurity posture by using the NCSAM 2019 resources to help Americans better understand cybersecurity best practices, increase their online security, and maintain a safe cyberspace for all. This October, encourage your stakeholders to take proactive steps to improve their online presence such as enabling multi-factor authentication on devices, updating privacy settings on all of online accounts, and learning to identify imposters on social media

The NCSAM 2019 Toolkit facilitates interactions within communities and encourages smart cybersecurity habits. The Toolkit includes talking points, sample social media posts, and engagement ideas that can be used to connect with an assortment of audiences. Additionally, on the NCSAM website you will find downloadable tip sheets, a trivia game, NCSAM-branded graphics and logos, and more that you can use in your outreach efforts to promote NCSAM to your stakeholders.

For more information about NCSAM 2019, please visit or reach out to We look forward to you joining us to build a safer and more secure online experience for everyone!

CISA Promotes Public Safety Communications in Indian County

October 4, 2019
4:45 pm

Author: CISA Tribal Affairs

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) continues to conduct tribal outreach to share information concerning free-of-charge services and offerings in the areas of emergency management and public safety communications.  CISA was honored recently with the opportunity to socialize the creation of the Agency and share information on our efforts to establish and support government-to-government relationships with individual tribal governments to support tribal sovereignty and self-governance.  CISA’s direct outreach and relationship-building during events hosted by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Northwest Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC) were sincerely appreciated by participating tribal leaders.

CISA participated during the NCAI Mid-Year Conference held June 23-26 in Sparks, Nevada. This event focused on tribal efforts to secure and protect tribal treaty and sovereignty rights, culture, and infrastructure through policies and laws.  Adrienne Roughgarden, State, Local, Tribal, Territorial, International (SLTTI) Section Chief, promoted CISA’s services and activities in support of public safety interoperable communications by participating on a panel discussion with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) and the National Weather Service titled “Building Your Emergency Preparedness Capacity: From Natural Disasters to Emergency Communications.”

CISA most recently presented a panel discussion and hosted an informational booth during the 6th Annual National Tribal Emergency Management Conference held August 21-23 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  This conference, hosted by NTEMC, is the largest gathering of tribal disaster preparedness, emergency management, hazard mitigation, and homeland security professionals in support of tribal emergency management programs.  Attendees from across CISA’s tribal and Alaskan Native village partner network included law enforcement, emergency management, police, fire and EMS professionals, and partners across all other levels of government.  The conference focused on the protection of critical infrastructure to include international borders, the Grand Coulee Dam, U.S. naval bases, major oil refineries, and international shipping lanes.

The CISA Tribal Affairs Program shared information on communications governance, the update to the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), Priority Telecommunications Services (PTS), and Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program (ICTAP) technical support and resources to facilitate relationship building.  CISA also worked to identify opportunities to provide direct government-to-government tribal consultation at the request of regional partners.  Robin Beatty, CISA Emergency Communications Tribal Liaison, moderated a panel discussion titled “What’s new at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency” on August 22.  Panelists included:

  • Kendall Carpenter, ICTAP Telecommunications Specialist, who addressed service offerings such as Emergency Support Function (ESF) #2 support through ICTAP;
  • Eric Runnels, Deputy Chief of CISA NECP Implementation & Grant Coordination Branch, who discussed the imminent release of the 2019 NECP and grant offerings; and
  • Bryan Stephens, PTS Area Representative (PAR), who provided an overview of PTS such as Government Emergency Telephone Services (GETS) and Wireless Priority Services (WPS).

These events brought together key representatives at all levels of government to advance discussions about critical issues impacting Indian Country. Each event supported CISA’s continued efforts to establish and maintain trusted relationships and provide direct tribal access to important public safety communications guidance, information, and resources available through CISA.  Such events are critical in supporting the development and strengthening of tribal public safety communications infrastructure.

CISA continues to promote and provide technical service offerings to strengthen public safety communications infrastructure and interoperability throughout Indian Country.  CISA has facilitated technical assistance to multiple tribes through ICTAP. Recent technical assistance offerings include:

  • Development of a systems engineering study;
  • Auxiliary Communications (AUXCOMM) training;
  • Supporting planning efforts for establishing a tribal dispatch center capability; and
  • Development of a Tactical Interoperable Communications Plan (TICP).

CISA is launching a pilot program to support the integration of communications governance best practices, as presented in the 2018 Emergency Communications Governance Guide for State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials, into tribal communications planning and implementation.  Along these lines, CISA is currently assisting a tribe with the planning and execution of a communications focused tabletop exercise, as well as the integration of governance into day-to-day operations.

To further our tribal outreach efforts, CISA plans to host an information booth during the NCAI 76th Annual Convention & Marketplace from October 20-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

For additional information on tribal activities or to request more information about services to tribes, please contact

The Updated NECP: Enhancing Communications for the Public Safety Community

September 25, 2019
8:47 am

SAFECOM and NCSWIC applaud the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for releasing comprehensive updates to the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP). The NECP is the Nation’s roadmap to ensuring emergency communications interoperability at all levels of government and, as such, is critical to the public safety community. As organizations with missions to improve public safety interoperability and communications, we worked collaboratively with CISA on this effort to ensure our members’ firsthand knowledge of emergency communications challenges, needs, and best practices are reflected in the NECP.

Using an iterative process, CISA engaged more than 3,500 public safety representatives from Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial public safety agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other groups in revising the NECP. Lessons learned from real-world incidents, results from the 2018 SAFECOM Nationwide Survey and the 2018 Nationwide Communications Baseline Assessment, and input from our stakeholder groups were used to inform the Plan’s goals, objectives, and success indicators. Earlier this year, our organizations issued a letter of endorsement which is included as an appendix to the NECP. SAFECOM Chair Gerald Reardon noted that, “This truly is a plan developed by the public safety community for the public safety community. As we collectively move toward implementing its objectives, we will be a more prepared Nation.”

Key updates to the NECP include adding a cybersecurity goal, emphasizing the importance of strategic and lifecycle planning, promoting the importance of evaluating and documenting lessons learned from training and exercises, underscoring the need for coordination of communications assets and capabilities at incidents and planned events, and focusing on effective and interoperable information sharing. John Miller, NCSWIC Chair, said, “The NECP has been refreshed to reflect current emergency communications needs and new technologies, but it also reemphasizes key points and remaining gaps we must close such as the necessity to maintain and upgrade legacy systems and the objective of having a dedicated Statewide Interoperability Coordinator in each state.”

To learn more about the updates to the NECP, we encourage you to participate in one of the three informational webinars CISA is hosting on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST
  • Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST
  • Wednesday, October 9, 2019, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm EST

A copy of the updated NECP is available for download at

For more information on the NECP, contact:

Release of Public Safety Messaging: A New Frontier for Collaboration and Interoperability Best Practices Guidance

September 20, 2019
9:27 am

Authors: Robert “Dusty” Rhoads & the Texas Broadband Applications and Information Sharing Strategic Advisory Group

Interoperable communications between public safety agencies ensure effective incident response coordination. To encourage this critical information sharing across over-the-top (OTT) messaging applications, the Texas Statewide Communications Interoperability Coordinator and the Texas Public Safety Broadband Program developed the Public Safety Messaging: A New Frontier for Collaboration and Interoperability guidance document.

The paper outlines four primary objectives to encourage OTT adoption and improve messaging:

  1. Provide an overview of the value of messaging applications in public safety communications
  2. Highlight the fragmented nature of the existing messaging landscape and the problems it will present to future interoperability efforts
  3. Present a list of preliminary requirements for effective messaging solutions
  4. Recommend next steps toward the sustainable adoption of secure public safety messaging

Public safety agencies looking to streamline coordination efforts through broadband messaging can use this document to study lessons learned from previous implementations and review recommendations for OTT application requirements for an effective and interoperable communication. The Texas Broadband Applications and Information Sharing Strategic Advisory Group intends to evolve these recommendations to align with best practices as they continue to emerge.

In addition, the 2019 National Emergency Communications Plan—the nation’s comprehensive strategic plan to strengthen and enhance emergency communications capabilities—encourages data interoperability through the development of effective and sustainable information sharing and data exchange standards, policies, and procedures. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is also supporting SAFECOM and NCSWIC efforts to develop an information interoperability framework to improve public safety communications.

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) Cryptographic 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


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