Agencies make progress toward interoperability
This is an important year in the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP). It is the year that the first of three major interoperability goals in the NECP must be accomplished, and officials say they are on schedule.
Published in 2008, NECP’s goal for 2010 is for 90 percent of all high-risk urban areas designated within DHS’ Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) to demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies. By 2011, non-UASI jurisdictions should be able to reach the same level of interoperability, and by 2013, 75 percent of all jurisdictions should be able to respond to significant events within three hours.
Most public safety professionals say they will be able to achieve those goals, according to a survey released in October by Herndon, Va.-based CDW Government. Fifty-three percent of respondents to the survey said they would meet the 2011 goal, and 74 percent anticipated being able to meet the 2013 deadline.
To meet those goals, there are some big challenges to overcome, says Mike Simpson, Texas’ appointed Statewide Communications Interoperability Coordinator, who leads that state’s efforts to comply with the NECP. For example, Texas, like other states, is working to meet the Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials Project 25 (P25) standard, which allows emergency radio communication between agencies from different parts of the country.
Changing radio equipment, however, can be expensive, Simpson says. “We, in Texas, have estimated for us to get to P25, [we need] around $1 billion by 2015, and we don’t have all that money identified,” he says.
Still, Simpson says he is confident the NECP goals will be met in time. “There has been a huge amount of progress just in the last couple of years, and I see better things in the next few years,” he says.
The NECP can be downloaded at www.safecomprogram.gov/SAFECOM/natlemergencycommplan.
2010: Multiple jurisdictions and agencies in 90 percent of urban areas designated within the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) are able to communicate within one hour for routine events.
2011: 75 percent of non-UASI jurisdictions achieve the same level of interoperability achieved by UASIs in 2010.
2013: 75 percent of all jurisdictions are able to coordinate an emergency response within three hours of a significant incident as outlined in national planning scenarios.