SAFECOM, NCSWIC Convene in Miami to Discuss Critical Issues Facing Interoperable Communications


Through collaboration at in-person meetings with emergency responders and policymakers across all levels of government, SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC), administered by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), work to improve multi-jurisdictional and intergovernmental emergency communications. These programs promote first responder communications in the event of disasters; foster interoperable communications capabilities at all levels of government; and promote and share best practices, standard operating procedures, and information to achieve and advance interoperable public safety communications. Members of these programs gathered in Miami, Florida, November 4-7, 2019, to participate in planned working sessions, open forum and round table discussions, and information collection efforts, providing direct expertise on the nationwide improvement of emergency communications interoperability as well as other critical aspects of public safety communications (i.e., land mobile radio, broadband, 911 and Next Generation 911, alerts and warnings, data interoperability, cybersecurity, etc.). Highlighted sessions are described below. For more information, please view the full summary.

Fireside Chat with the First Responder Network Authority

Attendees engaged in an active discussion with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) and AT&T on current and future products and services. The FirstNet Authority supports the building and deployment of a nationwide public safety broadband network and has worked with both SAFECOM and NCSWIC for years to collaborate and exchange information on these efforts. The panel referenced a valuable tool: FirstNet Authority’s new roadmap. The roadmap provides public safety’s greatest operational needs and charts a course for the delivery of its proposed capabilities. The FirstNet Authority provides other related resources through its website, such as Frequently Asked Questions and a fact sheet for download.

Improving you Cybersecurity Governance Posture

Attendees learned about CISA’s cybersecurity programs available to the public safety state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) community to increase organizational resilience against cyber risks and the National Governors Association’s (NGA) ongoing efforts to improve cybersecurity governance. Sean McCloskey, CISA, highlighted key cybersecurity resources, including access to CISA’s Cybersecurity Framework web resources, which stakeholders can use to enhance their cybersecurity posture; the Cyber Resilience Review, which includes guidance on how an organization can evaluate their operational resilience and cybersecurity practices of critical services; and the Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE), which provides free, online cybersecurity training to federal and SLTT government employees, federal contractors, and veterans. Khristal Thomas, NGA, discussed the various resources available through NGA’s Resource Center for State Cybersecurity, including frameworks, best practices, and policy workshops that are available to participants to support their organizational needs for improved cybersecurity.

Work Continues on the Updated National Emergency Communications Plan

CISA, SAFECOM, and NCSWIC program leadership presented information on the newly-released revision to the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), including the collaborative stakeholder engagement process and key updates and additions since 2014. SAFECOM and NCSWIC are taking an active stance on implementing the priorities, including establishing a joint team from both programs to ensure progress toward the plan’s recommendations. SAFECOM and NCSWIC leadership have both come to agreement that guidance coming out of the revised NECP will be reflected in the programs’ Strategic Plans, which includes proposed product development and activities for calendar year 2020 and beyond.

SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum Revision

The SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum, developed by SAFECOM, was designed to assist emergency response agencies and policy makers with planning for and implementing data and voice interoperability communications solutions. In 2019, SAFECOM established a working group under the Education and Outreach Committee to revisit the Continuum’s content and assess its applicability in our ever-expanding and advancing emergency communications environment. The impetus for establishing the group also came on the precipice of the 2019 NECP update, within which recommendations were made to include cybersecurity in the Continuum as a critical element. Jay Kopstein, Working Group Chair, and Deante Tolliver, CISA Working Group Lead, provided an update on the working group’s recommendations and encouraged participants to engage in an interactive working session to provide further feedback. SAFECOM and NCSWIC members debated whether security should be included as a stand-alone lane or reflected throughout existing lanes of Continuum. SAFECOM is currently seeking input on revising the SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum, to contribute to this effort please email the SAFECOM Inbox at SAFECOMGovernance@hq.dhs.gov.

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