States are making significant progress toward achieving interoperable communications, but more work is needed before information can be freely exchanged among jurisdictions during an emergency according to a new issue brief. The National Governors Association Center for Best Practice on June 18th published the brief “Advancing Public Safety Interoperable Communications: Recent State Actions” to highlight the states’ progress in advancing interoperability and to review the obstacles they face to efficiently share information across all levels of government.
The states continue to face challenges in five key areas and the brief recommends several strategies:
- States need statewide interoperability coordinators with leadership abilities to administer interoperability programs in their state. For example, Virginia established the Office of the Commonwealth Interoperability Coordinator and currently 24 states now have full time coordinators with an additional 24 states planning to create full or part time statewide interoperability communication coordinator positions
- Foster the development of Standard Operating Procedures through collaboration across disciplines. Minnesota’s response to the bridge collapse in 2007 demonstrates an example of a well maintained interoperability system
- Fund technology for the long term by planning and budgeting for ongoing updates to systems, procedures, and documentation. Aging infrastructure, technological advances, and turnover in personnel requires continued maintenance to protect public safety. For example, Indiana’s Project Hoosier SAFE-T is funded by a $1.25 surcharge on all Department of Motor Vehicle transactions
- States need to not only provide for basic training and exercises on interoperable communication equipment, but they also need to use routine events as an opportunity to test interoperable communications with other jurisdictions
- Encourage the use of interoperable communications on a routine basis. Without regular use, the equipment and potentially effective technology will be cumbersome and inhibit a coordinated response. For example, South Carolina’s Palmetto network supports 350 jurisdictions on an 800MHz network
For more information, go to www.nga.org or call David Henry at (202) 624-5366.