Communications interoperability remains a nationwide challenge
Only six major U.S. cities have achieved full, “advanced implementation” of interoperable communications, according to a nationwide assessment conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.
Interoperable communications involve policies, technology and training that enable law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services from multiple jurisdictions in a common community to communicate effectively within one hour of an incident. Each city/area was graded in three categories:
* Governance: Is there a formal decision-making group and a strategic plan in place to achieve interoperable communications?
* Standard Operating Procedures: Is there an SOP that has been reviewed and implemented for all participating agencies?
* Usage: How often and easily are the interoperability solutions being used? Has a training excercise been completed?
The cities/areas that achieved advanced implementation across the three categories were San Diego; Minneapolis/St. Paul; the District of Columbia; Columbus, Ohio; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Cheyenne, Wy.
“The 9/11 Commission identified interoperable communications as a major challenge — and many communities listened by taking the sometimes difficult steps necessary to close communication gaps among first responders,” says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Their experience proves that basic interoperability at the command level is achievable. We’re committed to making this a priority in every major urban area, and we’ll continue to push for closing these gaps by the end of 2008.”
Since 2003, DHS has awarded $2.9 billion in funding to enhance state and local interoperable communications efforts. While scorecard findings will not directly impact Homeland security grant funding, it is expected that eligible communities will use the scorecard to target their investment justifications and improve interoperable communications capabilities.