Resilient Together, Highlighting the Importance of Emergency Communications


By Zachary Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, Emergency Communications Division

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Each April, CISA celebrates Emergency Communications Month and spotlights the critical role of emergency communications in safeguarding our nation. Critical messages are being sent and received every minute of every day across the airwaves and the wires that crisscross this country. Each message, whether it is national security communications or a call to 911, is crucial to the citizens counting on the message to reach its destination. This is the importance of emergency communications; it is the foundation of a resilient community. 

We face a world of increasing and evolving threats impacting emergency communications from a multitude of sources:  natural, man-made, physical, and cyber. As a nation, we are collectively working to build resilience across industries and our communities in the face of these threats. Building resilience into emergency communications is at the root of everything we do.

The importance of emergency communications is personal to me. As an active volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, I have witnessed firsthand the critical moments when a 911 call becomes a lifeline for someone facing potentially the worst day of their life. When I enter a burning building, it is the clarity and reliability of emergency communications that serve as my lifeline. In the aftermath of a devastating storm, emergency communications are the community’s lifeline. Our collective reliance on emergency communication isn’t about convenience; it is a matter of life and death.

At CISA, we recognize we can’t do this alone. Our partnerships across the public safety community, through SAFECOM and NCSWIC, ensure that our efforts are nationally aligned with emergency response providers across federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and international borders. As an emergency response provider, I am thankful for CISA’s dedication to working with stakeholders and see myself represented in these bodies. 

Building resilient communications takes work, and at CISA we are positioned to help our stakeholders and partners build more resilient communications by focusing on interoperability, collaborative communications planning, and expanding the priority service capability. These three functions are essential to provide emergency communications for all emergency preparedness stakeholders. 

Each of us must examine our methods of communicating during times of crisis or when communicating mission-critical information. Incorporating elements such as adopting Priority Services or developing a PACE Plan in order to ensure our transmissions reach their intended destination, will make our operations more effective. CISA offers technical assistance to assist emergency communicators and advance public safety interoperable communications capabilities resiliency. Resources such as the NIFOG and developments such as the transition to NG911 or the updates to NIMS/ICS to include the Information and Communications are all examples of the ongoing commitment CISA has to continuing to promote the advancement of our nation’s resilient communications.

The citizens of our great nation deserve the best service that our public safety, critical infrastructure, and national security services can provide. For those services to operate at peak performance, emergency communications must flow seamlessly.  This April, join me in showing appreciation for the successful 911 call, the firefighter's connection on their radio, and the critical infrastructure operator's restoration of service. Each of those communications affects someone’s life in ways beyond what we may ever know, and each one of them matters. Communications interoperability is a challenge CISA works to tackle every day, and we are making tremendous strides toward being more resilient, together.