National Governors Association (NGA) White Paper Released

Author: Department of Homeland Security, Office of Emergency Communications

In 2016, the National Governors Association (NGA Center for Best Practices and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) launched a Policy Academy on Enhancing Emergency Communications Interoperability. The purpose of this academy was to assist states with addressing emergency communication issues that have an impact nationwide and to help shape national-level policy.

In April 2017 NGA released a white paper, which provided lessons learned and recommendations following the execution of the Policy Academy workshops with the five states—Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Utah and West Virginia—to develop and strengthen governance structures for public safety communications.

Each workshop was tailored to the needs and challenges of the individual state, but collectively focused on identifying interoperable communications best practices, strategies for overcoming barriers to statewide implementation of their interoperable plans, and methods for enhancing collaboration between governors’ offices and the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC). One critical finding was that governors, who have authority over state agencies and the ability to convene key stakeholders, are central to helping states solve challenges related to interoperability and governance.

The white paper outlines the following recommendations from lessons learned during the Policy Academy, which may assist states with their efforts to maintain, upgrade, and build out their emergency communications systems:

  • Governors can establish, or reinvigorate, an active governance body to ensure consensus, coordination, and support;
  • Public safety personnel can revitalize and take advantage of the Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP) with a messaging strategy that informs executive decision makers;
  • Governors and staff can engage the legislature to promote understanding and long-term support of the SCIP; and
  • Governors can empower the SWIC, and ensure close coordination among the SWIC, the broadband point of contact, and the state 9-1-1 administrator to support the state’s SCIP.

At the spring National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators meeting in San Antonio, Texas, Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWICs) discussed the white paper and shared ideas on implementation. . Although some SWICs are already implementing the recommendations, many acknowledge there continues to be some roadblocks engaging local and state decision makers. NGA and OEC encourage the public safety community to use the recommendations as an impetus to engage governors and their staff on prioritizing statewide governance to enhance emergency communications interoperability. As a next step, OEC plans to incorporate best practices and recommendations from the Academy into OEC’s technical assistance offerings and SCIP workshops.

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