DHS to Update National Emergency Communications Plan This Year
March 22, 2010
After completing many of the milestones in the national emergency communications plan (NECP) released in August 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) is set to release an updated NECP later this year. OEC has achieved more than 80 percent of the milestones due at the Jan. 30 halfway point, said Chris Essid, DHS OEC director.
All states have statewide communications interoperability plans (SCIPS), and the updated NECP will roll in the state plans. Forty-four states and territories now have full-time interoperability coordinators, said Essid, who was one of the nation’s first interoperability coordinators before moving to DHS in 2007 from the commonwealth of Virginia. In addition, OEC soon plans to announce regional coordinators for each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions. OEC has about 40 employees, but will have more than 50 staff members after the regional coordinators are hired. The office, established through the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, also plans to hire a deputy director.
Essid said the FCC’s recently released national broadband plan information related to public safety will be included in the updated NECP, along with Safecom information. However, he noted that mission-critical voice is still the key driver of the plan. “LMR is here for the next 15 to 20 years at least,” he said. “Broadband is years away, and mission-critical voice isn’t part of broadband yet. We’ll have strategies to migrate to new technologies when they’re ready.”
The NECP’s original three goals that establish a minimum level of interoperable communications and deadlines for authorities will be rolled over to the updated plan. The goals include:
1. By 2010, 90 percent of all high-risk urban areas designated within the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
2. By 2011, 75 percent of non-UASI jurisdictions can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
3. By 2013, 75 percent of all jurisdictions can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within three hours of a significant event, as outlined in DHS’ national planning scenarios.
Separately, Essid addressed the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examining the Emergency Communications Preparedness Center (ECPC), also enacted in the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006. ECPC is an interagency body intended to serve as the focal point and clearinghouse for intergovernmental emergency communications information sharing.
Essid said the center is focused on enhancing grant guidance and bringing down legal barriers that hinder shared infrastructure arrangements between the federal government and state and local agencies. He said that ECPC and Safecom will work to share information.