Communications Unit


The resources in this section provide information and training resources on information and communications technology management within the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS) Communications Unit. 

Communications Unit

Communications Unit staff install and test communications equipment, superviseCommunications Unit and operate the incident communications center, distribute, and recover communications equipment assigned to incident personnel, and maintain and repair communications equipment on site.

Most complex incidents have an incident Communications Plan. Staff in the Communications Unit produce this plan, as they are responsible for assigning radio frequencies; establishing voice and data networks for command, tactical, support, and air units; setting up on-scene telephone and public-address equipment; and providing any necessary off-incident communication links.

Communications Unit Organization Chart
*Source: National Incident Management System: Third Edition, October 2017

 

Communications Section Task Force Publications

SAFECOM, in coordination with the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC) and CISA, established the Communications Section Task Force to address challenges associated with supporting information and communications technology (ICT) management within NIMS ICS. The Communications Section Task Force continues to work towards the development of: 1) a nationwide federated governance framework to promote and provide consistent recruitment, training, retention, and support for communications needs at all-hazards incidents; 2) national standards for qualification, certification, and credentialing; 3) updated training courses and curriculum; 4) clarification of existing position descriptions (e.g. Communications Unit Leader (COML), Communications Technician (COMT), Radio Operator (RADO), etc.) to include the all-hazards environment; and 5) new information technology positions.

The products and resources below were developed by the Communications Section Task Force to support the Incident Management communications needs and the Communications Unit.
 

  1. Defining the Future State of the Communications Section Fact Sheet - 2018 (.pdf, 60.85 KB)
    The Communications Section Task Force: Defining the Future State of the Communications Section Fact Sheet highlights the Communications Section Task Force's purpose, goals, and vision for the future of a Communications Section.
     
  2. National Incident Management System (NIMS) Refresh Letter - 2016 (.pdf, 58.49 KB)
    The Communications Unit Working Group, on the behalf of SAFECOM, developed and sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ask for a revision of the Communications Unit Leader (COML) position within the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS).
     
  3. An Unmet Need: National-Level Governance for the NIMS/ICS Communications Unit (white paper) - 2017 (.pdf, 507.50 KB)
    The white paper investigates the communications environment and addresses concerns put forth by the emergency communications community of responders.

 

Information Technology Service Unit Leader (ITSL) 

The SAFECOM-NCSWIC Communications Section Task Force created the ITSL position to address the growing challenges faced by communications personnel at supporting Information Technology needs within the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS). The rapid evolution of technology and data capabilities, coupled with the increasing reliance on real-time data and video communications services, can press the effective span of control of services beyond acceptable limits and can cause an unsatisfactory response to the demands for resources needed to effectively share data and geospatial information.  Additionally, the proliferation of data services within the incident management organization present new risks and threats to response and recovery. Most notably, the increased exposure to cyber-attacks. This dynamic information and communications technology (ICT) environment has driven the increasing need for an ITSL.

The ITSL manages the personnel and operational aspects of ICT data services during incidents to ensure Incident Command/Unified Command, Emergency Mangers, and incident/event responders have access to the ICT systems they need. ITSL staff prepare and implement incident information technology plans and incident cybersecurity plans while also managing the establishment of IT communications systems, equipment, and services. While the COML and ITSL have separate roles and responsibilities, it is imperative they always coordinate to maintain system capabilities and performance.

Additionally, the ITSL is responsible for developing plans for the effective use of incident equipment and facilities, installation and testing of ICT equipment, supervision of the HELP, distribution of ICT equipment to incident personnel, and maintenance and repair of ICT equipment.

Currently, the ITSL is awaiting approval as a position within NIMS ICS. However, it is recognized by CISA, SAFECOM, NCSWIC, and several states.

For more information and resources regarding the ITSL, visit the FY2021 Emergency Communications Technical Assistance Planning Guide (.pdf, 2.36 MB) or email TARequest@cisa.dhs.gov.

 

CISA Field Operations Guides

National Interoperability Field Operations Guide Version 2.0 (.pdf, 3.81 MB)US Department of Homeland Security
The National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG) has been updated to version 2.0 and can be viewed and/or downloaded by clicking on the link above. New content in version 2.0 includes references on Information Technology, Emergency Wireless Carrier Services, Interference Management, Encryption, and Cybersecurity. The NIFOG is a technical reference for emergency communications planning and for radio technicians responsible for radios that will be used in disaster response. The NIFOG includes rules and regulations for use of nationwide and other interoperability channels, tables of frequencies with standard channel names, and other reference material, formatted as a pocket-sized guide for radio technicians to carry with them.

Get the eNIFOG App
The eNIFOG app is an electronic version of the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG). The eNIFOG app gives users easy access to NIFOG information, offering a content index with shortcuts to reference sections, tables, figures, or images. Navigation links allow users to jump directly to regional quick references as well as bookmark Favorites to develop their own personalized access to critical information for their territory. eNIFOG can be downloaded and then taken to the field as an offline reference, to be used without the need of a cellular or data connection. On your mobile device, search for “eNIFOG” on Apple’s App Store or Google Play to download the app.

Questions?
E-mail NIFOG@cisa.dhs.gov to get more information, request help, or offer feedback.

 

 

Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG) Version 1.1 (.pef, 3.27 MB)U.S. Department Of Homeland Security
The Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG) is a reference for auxiliary communicators who directly support backup emergency communications for State/local public safety entities, or for an amateur radio organization supporting public safety.

Get the eAUXFOG App
The eAUXFOG mobile app is an electronic version of the Auxiliary Communications Field Operations Guide. The eAUXFOG mobile app gives users easy access to public safety information and information used by Auxiliary Communicators (AUXCOMM) (i.e., ARES, SATERN, REACT, CAP, LDS, HWN, ect), offering a content index with links for quick jumps to reference sections, tables, figures, or images. Navigation links allow users to jump directly to regional quick references as well as add customizable bookmarks called Favorites to develop their own personalized access to critical information for their territory. eAUXFOG can be downloaded and then taken to the field as an offline reference, to be used without the need of a cellular or data connection. On your mobile device, search for “eAUXFOG” on Apple’s App Store or Google Play to download the app.

Questions?
E-mail AUXCOMM@cisa.dhs.gov to get more information, request help, or offer feedback.  

 

 

Communications Unit Student Training Resources

Communication Unit Training Resources
Documents and videos supporting CISA's training resources.

FEMA National Preparedness Course Catalog
The National Preparedness Online Course Catalog provides searchable, integrated information on courses provided or managed by FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), Emergency Management Institute (EMI), and National Training and Education Division (NTED).

CISA Emergency Communications Technical Assistance (TA) Planning Guide (.pdf, 2.36 MB)
The CISA Emergency Communications TA Planning Guide is an "evergreen" document that is regularly updated as TA and Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP) offerings are modified, added or deleted. The guide provides an overview of CISA’s course offerings and other resources. 

 

Communications Unit Instructor Training Resources

State-Sponsored CISA Recognized Communications Unit Instruction (SS-COMT, SS-COML, SS-AUXCOMM/AUXC)
The State-Sponsored CISA Recognized Communications Unit Instruction Program enables a state to use its own CISA recognized instructors to teach CISA curricula utilizing materials provided by CISA. Students receive CISA course completion certificates for COMT and AUXCOMM training, and FEMA EMI course completion certificates for COML training. State-Sponsored instructors are required to acquire and maintain the same instructor prerequisites as the CISA contracted instructors. See page 49 of the Emergency Communications Technical Assistance (TA) Planning Guide for more information.

CISA Emergency Communications Technical Assistance (TA) Planning Guide (.pdf, 2.36 MB)
The CISA Emergency Communications TA Planning Guide is an "evergreen" document that is regularly updated as TA and Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP) offerings are modified, added or deleted. The guide provides an overview of CISA’s course offerings and other resources. 

Communications Unit Personnel Position Task Book Sign-Off Process Template (.pdf, 386.82 KB)
This template is intended to shepherd SWICs and/or state governing communications bodies through the basic processes and procedures necessary for establishing a COMU PTB sign-off process. This document is meant to guide, rather than restrict. Not all items may be applicable to every program.

FEMA National Preparedness Course Catalog 
The National Preparedness Online Course Catalog provides searchable, integrated information on courses provided or managed by FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), Emergency Management Institute (EMI), and National Training and Education Division (NTED).

 

 

 

 

 

For more information and resources regarding the Communications Unit, please contact cstf@cisa.dhs.gov.

 

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