OEC at IWCE: Day Five

Author: Ken Bradley, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) Office of External Affairs

International Wireless Communications Expo

The International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) is the leading event for communications technology, bringing over 7,000 industry professionals all in one place. The Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) is partnered with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Science and Technology (S&T) at Exhibit Hall this week in Booth #3345. Additionally, today OEC is partnering with its public safety partners in two sessions:

Emergency Communications during 2017 Hurricanes

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc on the southeastern United States, Puerto Rico and United States (US) Virginia Islands in late 2017. This panel of DHS OEC subject matter experts who deployed both within the contiguous US and to the Caribbean Islands discussed the issues of destroyed public safety communications infrastructure, work arounds to effect emergency communications, their involvement in the emergency support function number two (ESF-2) response. The panel covered how OEC is supporting the recovery efforts through technical assistance and how OEC resources including statewide planning, back-up plans, training and testing the plans on a regular basis can better prepare for natural disasters. During this interactive session, panelist and participants provided lessons learned and best practices.

Resilient Comms on the Fireground

Communications were also challenging during the catastrophic wildfire season in California this last fall due to the widespread destruction of communications infrastructure. Various communications systems infrastructure including government land mobile radio (LMR) systems and private wireless carriers were impacted by the destruction of sites and towers. The remaining wireless infrastructure was often saturated by the public leaving incident data services sparse for first responders. 

Incident communications involving data services are often significantly lacking behind the curve. To address this OEC is working with SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC) to explore the role of the Communications Unit, ensuring it is in the most logical and efficient structure to provide effective incident communications within the incident command system (ICS). The panel discussed the progress of these changes and how this potential move would impact the future of incident communications.