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Emergency Communications R&D Project

emergency communication two men with hard hats speaking into walkie-talkiesThe Emergency Communications R&D Project is focused on researching and developing solutions that will enhance and improve the ability of first responders to manage disasters and emergencies with maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

Each project is being managed by S&T’s Office of Mission & Capability Support on behalf of CISA, which ensures federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial (FSLTT) agencies have the necessary plans, resources, and training to support resilient, operable, and advanced interoperable emergency communications.

First responders are faced with many challenges to their ability to effectively and efficiently respond to and manage onsite disasters of all types—whether manmade or natural. The Emergency Communications project is spearheading R&D to address three priority issues challenging the nation’s first responder community. These projects are focused on the following critical capability areas:

  • Enhancing cybersecurity protections for Public Safety Answering Points/Emergency Communications Centers
  • Creating more effective and trusted Federated Identity, Credential, and Access Management capabilities for public safety community use
  • Developing data interoperability standards for computer-aided dispatch systems to facilitate more efficient sharing of data and information across jurisdictional and responder boundaries

Like the SRMNI projects, these emergency communications-focused efforts are supporting CISA activities—specifically those of its Emergency Communications Division—to further development of secure and operable and interoperable emergency communications for first responders.

As noted previously, this project is engaged in three distinct R&D efforts. Following are summaries of each research area:

CAD-to-CAD Interoperability

When first responders arrive at an event, they each use their own proprietary CAD systems to help establish situational awareness and coordinate the response. Because these systems are unable to communicate with each other, sharing vital data with other agencies—local, state and federal—is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

As a result, critical data is not available to all the responding organizations because the array of CAD systems involved are unable to electronically exchange information. This lack of interoperability impedes situational awareness and introduces operational inefficiencies that slowdown the effective response to an incident.

CAD-to-CAD is an effort to address the lack of data communications interoperability between different first responder’s disciplines and systems. The benefits of CAD-to-CAD interoperability include:

  • Reduction in response time
  • Increased personnel efficiency
  • Increased equipment/vehicle use efficiency

The reduction in response time is critical to saving lives and property.

The objective of the IJIS Institute R&D project is to create resilient public safety CAD-to-CAD interoperable communications that are standards-based, efficient, and support multi-discipline response to regional, multistate or national events.

ECC/PSAP Cybersecurity

The ECC PSAP information communications network is the backbone of the Nation’s Emergency Services Sector, including fire departments, law enforcement, and emergency medical services agencies. The PSAP or ECC is the focal point for how these agencies respond to 911 calls for help and serves this function over 240 million times each year.

Transition of 911 to the IP-based Next Generation 911 (NG911) brings the cybersecurity risks of the Internet to the 911 networks. An integral part of the CISA mission is to promote and support this critical national communications infrastructure and thus CISA is working to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the systems that perform these functions.  

The focus of this project is to protect one of the nation’s most important services—911—by predicting public safety cyber-needs both for vulnerable legacy systems and for the future interconnected Next-Generation (NG) 911 systems.

The SecuLore R&D project relies on predictive analytics that gather cyber analytics to build PSAP threat environment situational awareness. Predictive and cyber analytics are used to improve the detection and elimination of cybersecurity attacks against current and future emergency communications systems. Near-real-time behavioral threat analysis of the traffic hitting an emergency communications center’s network provides recommended remediation steps to address any identified attack. The project’s goal is to improve the cybersecurity defenses of the nation’s emergency communications infrastructure.

Furthermore, this project will complement CISA’s activities to improve the resilience of the nation’s vital emergency communications infrastructure. It is a critical undertaking since the number of cyber-attacks continues to increase and the number of NG911 systems being deployed across the country is growing.

Federated Identity Credential Access Management

Information Sharing and Safeguarding (IS&S) is a fundamental need of the U.S. public safety community. The community's IS&S requirements are substantial and increasing since it must respond to a wide range of challenging, multi-agency emergencies, including school shooting incidents and large-scale natural disasters.

Federated Identity, Credential, and Access Management (“Federated ICAM”) is a critical capability that can help advance public safety IS&S capabilities across FSLTT agency boundaries. Advancement of technical capabilities and solutions in these areas is critical to helping the public safety community fulfill its mission of ensuring the protection and well-being of U.S. citizens.

The primary goal of the Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation (GTARC) project is to substantially improve several key trustmark technologies, which provide standards, artifacts, software tools, and methodologies for managing IS&S and Federated ICAM trust relationships. With this improved framework, public safety agencies can migrate their information-sharing arrangements away from a status quo of hard-coded, brittle agreements and unscalable trust relationships and toward a new paradigm of agreements and trust relationships that are scalable, agile and adaptable to the rapidly evolving mission needs of agencies.

Trustmark software tools will help the public safety community better fulfill its mission through more effective trusted IS&S and Federated ICAM capabilities. The project addresses the most pressing gap in the current trustmark framework: The lack of effective software tools to support the framework’s primary use-cases, such as emergency communications interoperability.

Upgrading the trustmark framework’s Federated ICAM capability would help advance public safety IS&S communications across agency boundaries. The intent of the trustmark framework is to make IS&S and Federated ICAM trust criteria transparent and explicit so all parties to a trusted information-sharing transaction can understand exactly what criteria must be satisfied for trust and interoperability to exist as well as what assessment steps must be completed—through either a self-assessment process or a more rigorous third-party assessment.

The benefits of Federated ICAM to the public safety community are the following:

  • Increased agility and scalability of IS&S and Federated ICAM trust relationship management for public safety agencies
  • Decreased IS&S and Federated ICAM costs for public safety agencies
  • Increased information sharing among public safety agencies and their partners, leading to better mission outcomes
  • Improved effectiveness in fulfilling the public safety community’s mission of protecting U.S. citizens and saving lives

Following is the roster of Emergency Communications R&D performers and a brief summary of each of the three projects:

  • Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation: Information Sharing, Safeguarding & Federated Identity, Credential and Access Management 
    This R&D project is addressing the most pressing gap in the current trustmark software tools: the lack of mature software tools to support the framework’s primary use-cases such as emergency communications interoperability. 
  • IJIS Institute: CAD-to-CAD Interoperability
    The objective of the IJIS R&D Project is to achieve a resilient public safety CAD-to-CAD ecosystem that is efficient, interoperable, and supports multi-discipline response to regional, multistate, and national events. 
  • SecuLore Solutions: Creating A Cyber-Resilient Public Safety Infrastructure
    The scope of SecuLore’s project is using predictive and cyber analytics to improve the detection and elimination of cybersecurity attacks against current and future emergency communications systems.

For more information on how to work with us visit our Work with S&T page or email us at: IA_STMCS@hq.dhs.gov

Last Updated: 03/03/2022
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