The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) was established by the Department of Defense’s National Communications System, in 1994, to meet White House requirements for a survivable, interoperable, nationwide voice band service for authorized users engaged in national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) missions.
With specialized processing in local and long-distance public telephone networks, GETS provides NS/EP users a high rate of call completion during network congestion or outages arising from natural or manmade disasters. GETS is complemented by the Wireless Priority Service (WPS), which provides priority for cellular calls, and by Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP), which provides priority restoration and expedited installation for vital voice and data circuits. WPS and TSP are provided in accordance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Report and Orders.
Following three years of groundbreaking design and implementation, the first GETS call was completed one minute after midnight on September 30, 1994, between Richmond, Virginia, and Potomac, Maryland. This successful call marked GETS limited priority capability implementation in the long-distance networks. One year later, Lieutenant General Albert J. Edmonds, Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and National Communications System Manager, placed the first GETS call to the White House. This was the first GETS call made to achieve initial operational capability (IOC)—in accordance with White House tasking. In September 2001, GETS achieved Full Operational Capability (FOC) providing a nationwide end-to-end priority service including the Local Exchange Carriers.
Since its inception, first responders have relied on GETS during emergencies. The 1995 Kobe earthquake was the first natural disaster where GETS assisted in emergency response efforts. Since then, GETS has been used for domestic and international priority calling during a variety of natural and manmade disasters.
During the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, over 18,000 GETS calls were completed at a 95% call completion rate, allowing the response teams to communicate on decisions, support needs, and recovery efforts. GETS users also distributed information and coordinated activities among government officials and emergency personnel during the destructive Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma that hit the Gulf Coast states in 2005.
GETS is also available for priority communications involving national level events. The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the 2009, 2013, and 2017 Presidential Inaugurations, along with the 2018 California Wildfires and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 are just a few of countless occasions where GETS was available for emergency communications to overcome network congestion.
GETS continues to support officials from federal, state, and local governments, U.S. territories, tribal, and other qualified NS/EP industry and non-profit organizations. GETS subscribers are in all 56 states and U.S. territories, military installations, and U.S. embassies worldwide.
Now, more than ever, GETS subscribers are ready for any situation, big or small, when they need to complete their critical calls.