The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) supports and promotes communications capabilities used by emergency responders and government officials across the country. In its efforts to advance interoperability, CISA develops the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), which is the Nation’s strategic plan that establishes goals, objectives, and actions to enhance and improve interoperable and operable emergency communications. The 2014 NECP recognized the broad nature of emergency communications, which includes interoperable communications for emergency medical personnel.
To aid in 2014 NECP implementation, Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a demonstration project that leverages existing technologies and engages non-medical professionals to help establish or sustain statewide medical communications systems and use existing infrastructure to improve the delivery of rural medical care. In 2016, DHS established the Rural Emergency Medical Communications Demonstration Project (REMCDP) to work with a public health or medical facility to examine communications barriers and identify solutions that enhance existing emergency communications infrastructure. Following a competitive selection process, DHS awarded $2,000,000 to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) for its First Hands Program in September 2016. The First Hands Program combines medical and land mobile radio communications education with hands-on exercises to empower first responders providing medical aid in rural communities.
The 2016 REMCDP period of performance ended April 30, 2019. UMMC’s 2016 REMCDP accomplishments include training more than 5,400 first responders across Mississippi, improving Mississippi’s statewide public safety communication system, and extending the system’s use to support and improve rural medical care, coordination, and communications.
In recognition of continued NECP development projects, Congress authorized a second round of REMCDP funding. After a merit review process, DHS awarded $2,000,000 to UMMC to expand its First Hands Program during the two-year period of performance beginning October 1, 2018. UMMC will use 2018 REMCDP funds to continue the First Hands Program to fulfill unmet course demand, develop a just-in-time training and operational vehicle platform for rapid deployment, and design a refresher program for graduates of the First Hands Program. In addition, UMMC will develop a companion course for all Mississippi public safety communication personnel and dispatchers, entitled the First Voice Program.
CISA is applying the 2016 REMCDP best practices to the 2018 REMCDP, as well as sharing lessons learned with other communities to serve as a repeatable model for addressing rural population healthcare needs.
Access to the REMCDP Notice of Funding Opportunity and supplemental materials providing additional information on the grant opportunity are also available here:.