Salute to Emergency Communications Coordinators: Stories from the Field

From planning to disaster response to assessments, our Emergency Communications Coordinators engage stakeholders across the nation and address the complex issues facing the emergency communications ecosystem.
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April is Emergency Communications Month and is a time to acknowledge the important impact of state and local emergency communication professionals nationwide. These stories from the field represent some of the many ways CISA supports emergency communications teams enhance their resiliency and increase security.

Governance and Planning

Region 9: Roadmap to Emergency Communications Resilience

In January 2023, Region 9’s Emergency Communications Coordinator (ECC) supported a Roadmap to Resilience discussion for the Chumash Tribe of Santa Ynez to build an Emergency Communication Roadmap. Through the Roadmap to Resilience program, CISA supports communities’ efforts to build emergency communications resilience and interoperability by helping them to leverage current assets, build connectivity gaps, strengthen partnerships within the region, and build capacity within the residents and the surrounding community. Here, CISA was successful in helping the Chumash Tribe of Santa Ynez build and create advance strategic communication interoperability plans.

Region 9: Supporting Emergency Communications with International Partners

In March 2023, Emergency Communications Coordinators (ECCs) from across the United States welcomed a delegation from the Dominican Republic. As part of the visit, the delegation attended briefings on emergency communications and cybersecurity and visited emergency operations centers and public safety answering points across the East Coast. This visit was a continuation of Region 9 ECC’s work at the U.S. Embassy to the Dominican Republic as a part of the Embassy Science Fellows Program. Engagements and outreach like this visit support the greater U.S. foreign policy mission to build and promote our international partners’ security and resilience.

Region 2: Building on Successful Practices: Emergency Communications Resilience

Following the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017, Region 2’s Emergency Communications Coordinator worked with territorial officials to structure governance and mature the territory’s emergency communications systems to increase resilience. These general good government practices were designed to prepare for the inevitable next storm. As testament to this work and the continuing work to support emergency response, communications were sustained during Hurricane Ian in September 2022.

Disaster Response

Region 4: Communications are Maintained and Restored Despite Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian was a major Category 4 hurricane that caused widespread catastrophic damage in Florida. Communications were maintained and restored thanks to Region 4’s Emergency Communications Coordinator’s close work with Florida’s statewide emergency communications governance officials. Past hurricanes have informed state-designed emergency communications and response plans to be able to withstand and recover from major weather events.

Region 4: Building Relationships in the Field: Early Response to Kentucky Flooding

The impact of the partnership between state and local emergency communications officials and CISA’s Emergency Communications Coordinator (ECC) program is exemplified by the response during the 2022 summer flooding in Kentucky. Region 4 ECC’s preexisting relationship with the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) and knowledge of the public safety communication systems led the SWIC to call on the ECC. The ECC provided support coordinating incoming Incident Management Teams and other resources even before a disaster declaration was declared.

Exercise and Focused Support

Region 8: Active Shooter Communications Exercise at Major International Airport

The primary objective of the exercise was to assess the effectiveness of communications during an attack on a major international airport. Further, CISA wanted to assess how agencies could communicate with one another and with on-site personnel without overtaxing the radio system towers. The airport police and regional public safety authorities worked with a CISA Emergency Communications Coordinator to plan and execute this exercise. The training resulted in an after-action report that documented the learnings and served as an action plan for stakeholders to use as a step-by-step guide to continue to increase preparedness.

Vulnerability and Cyber Assessments

All Regions: 911 Center Cyber Assessments

Across the nation, 911 centers are increasingly being targeted by malicious actors seeking to disrupt critical, lifesaving services. As they transition to NG911, new opportunities for attacks are introduced that can disrupt or disable operations. Supervisors and staff need reliable guidance to minimize the impact and quickly restore operations. CISA Emergency Communication Coordinators have partnered with CISA Cyber Security Advisors to conduct assessments of centers nationwide to help them be better positioned to prevent and recover from these attacks. They are also sharing tools, resources, and actionable steps to help enhance the resiliency of emergency communications systems to better respond to cyber disruptions.

Special Event Planning and Preparedness

Region 9: Overcoming Winter Weather at the Ski World Cup

An alpine mountain environment presents its own unique challenges for maintaining communications, combined with record snowstorms and crowds of spectators and broadcasters attending the Men’s Giant Slalom Event. This event was held at the Palisades ski resort in Lake Tahoe in February 2023. Local and race officials worked with one of the Region 9 CISA Emergency Communications Coordinators to develop communications plans and to monitor communications during the event.

Region 4: Strong Connections at the World Games

The World Games is an international multi-sport event. From July 7th to the 17th of 2022, it was held in Birmingham, Alabama. This widely attended, 11-day event could have easily taken a toll on communications where there are limited resources available. However, CISA Emergency Communications Coordinators worked with the planning team for a year in advance of the event to implement safeguards to protect the communications systems. The event was successful, and the preplanning helped event management to handle the inevitable real-time adjustments to maintain communications.

Region 9: Critical Communications for Diplomatic Summit

The Summit of the America’s was held in Los Angeles in 2022 and included heads of state and government from across the Western Hemisphere. President Biden attended this event in addition to other high-profile leaders, requiring special security planning. An Emergency Communications Coordinator (ECC) from Region 9 worked with the U.S. Secret Service to assist with critical emergency communications. The ECC worked closely with the California Statewide Communications Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) to support the coordination with state and local communications authorities and the wireless broadband companies to ensure plans were in place for seamless and reliable communications. The advance planning resulted in the maintenance of communications throughout this high-profile event.

Regions 9 and 10: Loud and Clear at the Super Bowl

Emergency Communications Coordinators from Regions 9 and 10 supported this year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. The event’s success depended on great teamwork between federal, state, and local partners. An event of this size requires detailed advance planning and testing. The ECCs conducted talk group testing with the major stakeholders to ensure all were prepared and practiced with the communications plan details. The year of planning and close relationships developed with the local managers and stakeholders allowed for quick proactive resolution of any potential issues. The event was a great success with communications maintained throughout the major event.