Author: Ronald Hewitt, Former Assistant Director for Emergency Communications, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, U.S Department of Homeland Security
On behalf of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), I am releasing the Fiscal Year 2019 SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants (SAFECOM Guidance). This document is updated annually to provide current information on emergency communications policies, eligible costs, best practices, and technical standards for state, local, tribal, and territorial grant recipients investing federal funds in emergency communications projects.
The SAFECOM Guidance aligns with the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), which emphasizes the need to enhance governance structures, plans, and protocols that enable the emergency response community to communicate and share information under all circumstances. It aims to maximize the use of all communications capabilities available to public safety officials—voice, video, and data—and to ensure the security of data and information exchange. To accomplish this, grant recipients must engage the whole community in preparedness activities. Similarly, the SAFECOM Guidance addresses the rapidly evolving emergency communications ecosystem and encourages grant recipients to support the concepts and recommendations within the NECP.
This year’s funding priorities remain consistent with previous SAFECOM Guidance releases. Department of Homeland Security grant recipients investing in emergency communications are still required to comply with SAFECOM Guidance Appendix D. All grant applicants are encouraged to coordinate with their statewide governance bodies and emergency communications leaders (e.g., Statewide Interoperability Coordinators) to ensure projects support the state or territory’s strategy to improve interoperable emergency communications. In addition, grant applicants should work with public and private entities, and across jurisdictions and disciplines, to assess needs, plan projects, coordinate resources, and improve response through cross-training and joint exercises. These coordination efforts are important to ensure that interoperability remains a top priority. Key changes to the Guidance include restructuring Appendix B—Technology and Equipment Standards for an easier format with comprehensive system lifecycle planning and cybersecurity guidelines upfront, and detailed technical standards and resources for various public safety systems.
The SAFECOM Guidance encourages grant applicants to participate, support, and invest in planning activities that will help states or territories prepare for deployment of new emergency communications systems or technologies. At the same time, there is a need to sustain current land mobile radio (LMR) systems into the foreseeable future. Grant recipients should continue developing plans and standard operating procedures, conducting training and exercises, and investing in standards-based equipment to sustain LMR capabilities, while concurrently planning for the integration and deployment of new technologies. Grant recipients must also consider cybersecurity risks across all capabilities when planning operable, interoperable, and continuity of communications.
As in previous years, CISA developed the SAFECOM Guidance in partnership with SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators. CISA also consulted federal partners and the Emergency Communications Preparedness Center to ensure emergency communications policies are coordinated and consistent across the Federal Government. Grant applicants are encouraged to reference this document when developing emergency communications investments for federal funding, and to direct any questions to my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.