David G. Boyd, Ph.D.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
SAFECOM functions as the key Federal coordinator for promoting and providing support to local, tribal,
state, and Federal public safety agencies for the improvement of public safety response through more effective and efficient
interoperable wireless communications. As a public safety practitioner-driven program, SAFECOM is working with existing Federal
communications initiatives and key public safety stakeholders to improve processes for the cross-jurisdictional and cross-disciplinary
coordination of existing systems and future networks. Through the development of the Public Safety Communications Statement of
Requirements (SoR) and the Public Safety Architecture Framework (PSAF), SAFECOM is providing the public safety community and
Federal agencies guidance on new technologies to achieve communications interoperability.
SAFECOM responsibilities are shared between two offices. The Office of Emergency Communications (OEC)
supports SAFECOM’s development of guidance, tools and templates. The Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC)
supports SAFECOM-related research, development, testing, evaluation and standards. OEC is managed by the Office of Cybersecurity
and Communications within the Directorate for National Protection and Programs. OIC is managed by the Science and Technology Directorate.
Progress to Date
- Statement of Requirements for Public Safety Wireless Communications and Interoperability: Released the first ever comprehensive Statement of Requirements for Public Safety Wireless Communications and Interoperability, developed with input from the emergency response community and in partnership with the National Institute of Justice’s CommTech Program
- Public Safety Architecture Framework: Published the Public Safety Architecture Framework which identifies future communications requirements for crucial voice and data communications and relates those requirements to technology and standards in the form of a comprehensive framework. Placing operational needs, technology, and standards into a framework helps identify technology and standards necessary to achieve interoperability and locate where there are gaps in the technology and standards. This framework also helps to identify existing standards that can be leveraged to improve interoperability as well as relate operational requirements to system requirements to technical requirements
- RapidCom: Managed the RapidCom initiative which provided assistance to ten high-threat urban areas to help improve incident-level interoperability capabilities. RapidCom aided incident commanders in their efforts to communicate with each other and their command centers in a timely fashion
- SAFECOM Table Top Exercise: As a result of RapidCom, SAFECOM developed a table top exercise addressing wireless interoperable communications that will be replicable. This information is designed to be used by other urban areas, beyond the original top ten high-threat urban areas of the original initiative. The scenario-based exercise provides a forum for discussing regional communications interoperability capacity, strengths, and weaknesses
- SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum: Developed the Interoperability Continuum, which identifies the five critical elements of success that must be addressed to develop a sophisticated interoperability solution – governance, standard operating procedures, technology, training and exercises, and usage of interoperable communications. The Interoperability Continuum is a planning tool that provides a framework from which all emergency response agencies at the Federal, state, local, and tribal levels can use for planning and implementing their interoperability solutions
- Statewide Communication Interoperability Planning: Partnered with the Commonwealth of Virginia to develop a strategic plan for statewide communications and interoperability derived with practitioner input; based on this process, developed the Statewide Communications Interoperability Planning Methodology which details key phases and steps in developing a statewide interoperability plan
- National Interoperability Baseline Survey: In December 2006, SAFECOM released the results of the National Interoperability Baseline Survey. The survey was administered to 22,400 emergency response agencies to determine and measure the capacity for interoperable communications among law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical service agencies across the Nation. The data gathered through the survey helps to guide and measure the effectiveness of future communications interoperability improvement efforts that Federal, state, local, and tribal emergency response organizations execute
- Statewide Interoperability Planning Guidebook: States and Territories were required by the FY06 and FY07 Homeland Security Grant Program to develop and adopt Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans (SCIPs) by the end of 2007. SAFECOM developed the Guidebook to provide States and Territories with a step-by-step guide for developing a strategic interoperability plan. With SAFECOM’s guidance and assistance, all 56 States and Territories submitted SCIPs by December 3, 2007
- Grant Guidance: Created coordinated Grant Guidance with input from the emergency response community to help maximize the efficiency with which interoperable communications related grant dollars are allocated and spent; this guidance was incorporated in the FY03 Federal Emergency Management Agency and FY03–06 Office of Community Oriented Policing Services grant awards, as well as Office for Domestic Preparedness grant packages in FY04. In addition, the guidance has been incorporated in the FY05-07 Homeland Security Grant Program and the Department of Commerce’s FY07 Public Safety Interoperable Communications Grant Program. For the first time, grants for interoperable communications equipment across departments had similar requirements which streamlined the grants process for local-level emergency response groups
- Compliance Assessment Program: SAFECOM developed a Compliance Assessment Program in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to ensure equipment meets Project 25 communications standards. The safety of emergency responders will be enhanced when industry’s claims of standards compliance can be measured objectively and independently
- Tools and Guidance Documents: SAFECOM has continued to work with practitioners to develop tools and guidance documents to assist the emergency response community in planning for and implementing interoperability solutions. Examples of tools and guidance documents produced include, among others: Creating a Charter for a Multi-Agency Interoperability Committee; Writing Guide for Standard Operating Procedures, and the Writing Guide for a Memorandum of Understanding
- Program Coordination: Assisting the Disaster Management initiative in creating a governance framework emphasizing local and State emergency response needs. Additionally, SAFECOM has worked with, what is now the Office of Emergency Communication’s Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program on the Tactical Interoperable Communications Plans which measured the interoperable communications capability in 75 major urban/metropolitan areas. SAFECOM has also worked with the Department of Justice’s 25 Cities Project, which helped to ensure interoperable capabilities in the top 25 high threat metropolitan areas
- SAFECOM Website: Updated the SAFECOM website, www.safecomprogram.gov, to include tools and best practices for the emergency response community. The SAFECOM website includes a new Statewide Planning page, dedicated to providing tools and resources to assist States in developing and implementing a SCIP
- National Communications Baseline Assessment: SAFECOM is supporting the development of the National Communications Baseline Assessment to evaluate interoperable emergency communications needs and existing capabilities of Federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies, as well as non-governmental and private sector organizations with emergency response missions
- Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans: In coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Commerce, SAFECOM will facilitate a peer review process to review, evaluate, and provide feedback on SCIPs submitted by all States and Territories on the December, 3 2007 deadline
- Interoperability Standards: SAFECOM will continue to support and accelerate development of standards enabling multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary interoperability
- Test and Evaluation: SAFECOM will test and evaluate existing communications equipment and bridging technologies to ensure that the emergency response community’s investments match vendor statements and user needs. These efforts will result in short-term and long-term cost saving among all levels of government and industry by coordinating existing test and evaluation efforts and promoting standard methodologies that yield consistent and comparable results
Not available - became statutorily required program
Emergency incidents, whether caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes, traffic accidents, fires,
civil disturbances or terrorism require a seamless, coordinated response from government. Recent
emergencies have demonstrated the importance of coordination among Federal, state, local, and
tribal emergency response officials at the incident scene. Today, the emergency response wireless
communications infrastructure is poorly equipped to meet many of the challenges that arise in
emergency situations. In particular, emergency responders lack interoperability, which can impede
Key issues that hamper public safety wireless communications include:
- Incompatible and aging communications equipment;
- Competing funding priorities;
- Limited and fragmented communications planning;
- Lack of coordination and cooperation among emergency response agencies;
- Limited and fragmented radio spectrum; and
- Limited equipment standards.
SAFECOM responsibilities are shared between two offices. The Office of Emergency Communications (OEC)
supports SAFECOM’s development of guidance, tools and templates. The Office for
Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) supports SAFECOM-related research, development, testing,
evaluation and standards.
OEC manages the guidance, assistance, and outreach portions of the SAFECOM Program, while OIC manages
related research, development, test, evaluation, and standards activities.
By accelerating the integration of wireless emergency response communication networks, SAFECOM will
provide improved interoperable communications services between Federal, state, local, and tribal
government emergency response practitioners. More efficient communications among practitioners
potentially reduces loss of life and property in emergency situations. SAFECOM’s role is to
provide emergency response agencies with the knowledge, leadership and guidance needed to help
them achieve short-term interoperability and long-term compatibility.
There are more than 50,000 separate emergency response agencies and organizations in the United
States. Federal customers include over 100 agencies engaged in emergency response disciplines
such as law enforcement, firefighting, public health, and disaster recovery.