Emergency Communications Guidance Documents and Publications

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has developed reference guides, fact sheets, case studies, templates, and other documents to aid the emergency response and national security and emergency preparedness community in establishing emergency communications capabilities.

Operational Interoperability Guides

  • National Interoperability Field Operations Guide: The National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG) is a collection of technical reference material for radio technicians who are responsible for radios and radio communications during disaster response and recovery efforts.
  • National Emergency Communications Plan Assessment Guide: The National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) Assessment Guide provides practical guidance for assessing interoperable communications capabilities. Users may use the guide to identify challenges and successes and to build effective strategies for achieving and sustaining interoperability. This guide is intended for use by Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWIC), Urban Area Working Groups, and tribal representatives. Additional information on the NECP can be found at www.dhs.gov/necp.
  • Interoperability Continuum: The Continuum breaks down interoperable communications according to five key components: governance, standard operating procedures (SOPs), technology (data and voice), training and exercises, and usage. Emergency response agencies and policy makers are encouraged to use the Continuum to plan and implement interoperability solutions.
  • Communications Interoperability Performance Measurement Guide: Interoperable capabilities have improved in recent years using a multi-dimensional view of the issue, implementing statewide strategic planning across the nation, and developing a national plan that presents a unifying vision. Today's national goals target practical outcomes and impacts rather than means to achieve these ends. This guide addresses current performance measurement efforts and presents a systematic process to build a performance management framework, apply it, and use results to refine strategy to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Interoperability Planning for Wireless Broadband: Created in coordination with the emergency response community, this document assists SWICs with planning for wireless broadband use for emergency communications.
  • Public Safety Communications Evolution Brochure: This brochure was developed to help educate the public safety community and elected and appointed officials about the future of emergency communications; to describe the evolution of emergency communications and how use of traditional land mobile radio (LMR) communications may converge with wireless broadband going forward; and to discuss key requirements that must be met to achieve the desired long-term state of convergence.
  • Creating a Charter for a Multi-Agency Communications Interoperability Committee: This tool provides guidance for developing charter documents for multi-agency communications interoperability committees. It lays out in a recommended Charter structure with suggested sections. Each section poses questions pertinent when writing charter content. Sample test is included for reference.
  • Operational Guide for the Interoperability Continuum: At the Urban Area Summit held in Washington, D.C. in October 2004, public safety practitioners and leaders from the 10 RapidCom urban areas along with key stakeholders from the local, state, and federal levels convened to share best practices, lessons learned, and notable experiences gained from planning and implementing communications interoperability solutions. This report shares the valuable information learned from the representatives of the public safety community that participated in RapidCom and provides a useful framework for communities and regions in their communications interoperability planning efforts.

Grant Guidance and Best Practices

  • Emergency Communications System Life Cycle Planning Guide: CISA collaborated with practitioners to develop the System Life Cycle Planning Guide to assist with design, implementation, support, and maintenance of public safety communications systems. The guide provides numerous steps and a high-level description of each area of systems life cycle management. The guide serves as a starting point from which an organization can begin to plan and budget for a public safety system implementation. The guide also provides information to help educate agency or jurisdictional leadership on the complexity of public safety systems and supports system justifications.
  • Data Messaging Standards Guide for Requests for Proposals: DHS released a Data Messaging Standards Guide for Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Developed with practitioner input, the Guide is intended to assist procurement officials who develop RFPs for emergency response information technology systems. The guide requires manufacturers to incorporate Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL) messaging standards into their products. EDXL standards enable emergency responders to share critical data—such as maps, situational reports, or alerts—seamlessly across disparate software applications, devices, and systems. Effective exchange of these types of data is essential during emergency response operations.

Governance Systems

  • Establishing Governance to Achieve Statewide Communications Interoperability: A Guide for Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan Implementation: Developed by CISA, this guide provides a methodology to implement Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP) strategic initiatives by leveraging collaborative practitioner-driven statewide governance. The guide promotes a coordinated practitioner-driven approach to ensure comprehensive implementation of communications interoperability strategies outlined within the NECP; for each state’s SCIP; and, within regional/local strategic planning documents. Specifically, the guide supports NECP Initiative 1.1: “Facilitate the development of effective governance groups and designated emergency communications leadership roles.”
  • Regional Intrastate Governance Guide for Interoperable Emergency Communications Efforts: Developed with stakeholder input, this guide explains how to establish regional governance organizations for emergency communications. Regional governance organizations support strong statewide governance, unite stakeholder voices and ensure that local concerns are heard and addressed at the state level. Additionally, these organizations can provide a new ways for establishing procedures, for communicating, and for sharing regional resources.
  • Regional Interoperability Communications Plan: This document offers states guidance on completing the Regional Interoperability Communications Plan (RICP) template and further explains the types of information contained in each of the sections of the RICP template. It is a companion guide to the RICP template itself, which states can customize before sending the RICP template to its regions for completion. CISA provides states and their regions with a template that can be easily adapted for specific needs.
  • Regional Interoperable Communications Plan Template: The RICP template assists states with regional strategic planning efforts by documenting regional strategies for achieving communications operability and interoperability. SWIC and State Regional Coordinators can adapt and customize this template based on state’s needs. The RICP template uses a standardized format to collect information, ensuring the same information is gathered, leveraged for SCIP updates, and shared with other regions for planning and emergency response purposes. The RICP is designed to align the state and regional communications interoperability plans, objectives, and goals to the NECP.

Writing Guides and Templates

Helpful Resources

  • Communications-Specific Tabletop Exercise Methodology: Provides a detailed, systematic approach to effectively plan, conduct, and evaluate an interoperable communications-specific Tabletop Exercise (TTX). These exercises help localities identify interoperability capabilities and gaps within existing processes.
  • Technical Assistance Catalog: CISA regularly updates the Technical Assistance (TA) Catalog as technical service offerings are modified, added or deleted. These no-cost TA service offerings include instruction and assistance with planning, governance, operational, and technical aspects of developing and implementing interoperable communications initiatives. Requesting organizations may combine or tailor many CISA/ICTAP service offerings to meet their specific needs. Send questions or comments regarding the TA catalog to ECD@cisa.dhs.gov.
  • Tactical Interoperable Communications Plan Template: The Tactical Interoperable Communications Plan (TICP) is designed to allow urban areas, counties, regions, states, territories, tribes, or federal departments and agencies to document interoperable communications governance structures, technology assets, and usage policies and procedures. The TICP defines the breadth and scope of interoperable assets available in the area; how those assets are shared; how their use is prioritized; and the steps individual agencies should follow to request, activate, use, and deactivate each asset. Completed TICPs were required for all 2005 Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) sites and are encouraged for newly designated UASI (and non-UASI) cities, counties, multi-county regions, tribes, and states/territories. The TICP Template provides a description of the standard structure of a TICP and the relevant sections to be populated according to the unique needs of an urban area, county, region, state, territory, tribe, or federal department and agency. The TICP Template was recently updated and reorganized so that each asset type and its associated standard operating procedure are now in the same section. Additional updates include:
    • Added mobile communications assets
    • Added a referenced materials appendix
    • Updated and expanded the Incident Command System appendix
    • Replaced the Training section with a Regional Emergency Resource Staffing section
    • Added a section on the Communication Assets Survey and Mapping tool
  • First Responder Mobile Applications Development Best Practices Guide: Provides assistance to developers in understanding the public safety market and was created together with mobile application developers, public safety personnel, and commercially available best practices

Emergency Communications Case Studies

Emergency Communications Fact Sheets


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