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’Once-in-a-Career’ Chance for Federal Funding Exists for Public Safety

The cost of standing up an emergency services Internet Protocol network (ESInet)—which provides the transport architecture that enables emergency calls to be delivered to Next Generation 911 (NG911) emergency communications centers (ECCs), traditionally known as public safety answering points (PSAPs)—is significant. Consequently, the news out of the nation’s capital of late has been encouraging concerning federal funding that might become available to the public safety community for such implementations and much more.

Exploring the Basics of Crisis Communications for Public Safety

A constant in the public safety community is that agencies, no matter where they are located, inevitably will encounter a crisis that will affect, or even disrupt, their operations. Hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, cyberattacks, network outages and system failures—even a pandemic every century or so—can wreak havoc on an agency’s mission-critical operations. Consequently, it is imperative that every public safety agency has a crisis preparedness plan. This is particularly true of emergency communications centers that field 911 calls from the public and then dispatch the appropriate emergency response.

Planning for the Unthinkable Is Good Thinking

More and more public-safety agencies are beginning to understand the importance of continuity-of-operations (COOP) planning, which includes disaster recovery—this element focuses specifically on the agency’s information technology (IT) assets—and crisis communications, both to internal and external stakeholders.

When developing COOP plans, agencies tend to think solely about events that are likely to occur that could have a profound effect on their operations. These typically include weather events such as hurricanes, floods and tornados. Also on the list are natural disasters, such as wildfires and earthquakes, and human-induced catastrophes like hazardous-material spills and, increasingly, cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity Threat Advisory: SolarWinds Orion Backdoor

As part of our effort to inform our clients about potential and serious cybersecurity issues, MCP provides advisories about vulnerabilities and exploits that could threaten the operations of their critical communications networks. Sign up to receive these advisories in your inbox as soon as they are released.

Crisis Communications Planning for Mission Critical Agencies: The Basics

Public safety and other critical-infrastructure agencies responsible for providing mission-critical and lifesaving services to their communities must be able to do so under any circumstances. To ensure that they are able to maintain operations, agencies develop continuity-of-operations (COOP) and disaster-recovery (DR) plans to help mitigate the impact of a crisis. What these plans often forget, however, is how an agency will communicate with its stakeholders, both internal and external, during a crisis.

Is a Storm Brewing in Your Cloud?

The COVID-19 global pandemic has thrust cloud computing into the spotlight, with everything from primary education, to business meetings, to government operations moving “into the cloud.” We’ve highlighted how the benefits of cloud-based applications are clear: lower total cost of ownership, enhanced scalability and flexibility, and the ability to shift the maintenance responsibility to the service provider. Cloud-based applications are easy to update, are available anywhere network connectivity exists, and often are more secure and reliable than a premises-based solution.

Developing Your Mission-Critical Agency’s Continuity-of-Operations Plan

Continuity-of-operations plans (COOP) represent a significant investment of time and resources. However, COOPs are also critical to maintaining a mission-critical agency’s operations during and after a natural or manmade event— including, but not limited to, tornadoes, hurricanes, pandemics, and terrorist attacks. While it is impossible to prevent or predict these events, having a COOP in place can help mitigate the effects of such disasters—ultimately enabling an agency to maintain critical operations when communities need them most.

What the Public Safety Community Can Learn From the COVID-19 Pandemic

In a recent post, I touched upon some of the novel ways that the public safety community has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post I’ll explore some of the most important lessons that have been learned.

First and foremost, all public safety agencies need continuity-of-operations (COOP) and disaster-recovery (DR) plans. We have roughly 150 subject-matter experts, and as they travel the country supporting clients, they often discover the complete lack of such plans and/or they come to realize that they haven’t been updated for quite some time. This always amazes me. Every agency should have such plans. As Benjamin Franklin said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” While the pandemic has brought this need into sharp focus, there are many events—tornados, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, hazmat incidents—that could render an emergency communications center inoperable, inaccessible or uninhabitable.

COVID-19 Has Brought Out Public Safety's Resolve, Ingenuity

Sometimes you don’t have a choice—an event occurs that is so cataclysmic that you are forced to do things you had no idea you were capable of doing, and certainly no desire to do them. Here’s a for instance. On December 6, 1941, the United States continued on its slow but steady recovery from the Great Depression, content in the cocoon of its isolationism. Things were getting better, fueled in part by the New Deal. And then Japan bombed Pearl Harbor the next day. In an instant, the U.S., its citizens, and their way of life were turned upside down—and a lot of things changed very quickly as a result.

What’s Next? Conducting an Incident Response Review

As states begin to reopen and communities slowly return to normalcy, organizations, including mission-critical agencies, must evaluate their responses to the COVID-19 public-health crisis and leverage their experiences to prepare for future crises. Conducting an incident-response review, also called a hot wash, enables agencies to identify areas in which they performed well, as well as where their responses could use improvement. When conducted as part of an agency’s after-action reporting activities, this review can help build a better incident-response plan moving forward.

Why COOP/DR Plans Need to Consider GIS Data Maintenance

A couple of weeks ago, MCP’s Richard Gaston posted about why it is critically important for every public-safety agency, regardless of size and resources, to have continuity-of-operations plans (COOP) and disaster-recovery (DR) plans in place. This post addresses an element that is lacking in many such plans, a gap that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus—geographic information system (GIS) data maintenance.

For decades, location of 911 callers was determined solely by querying the master street address guide (MSAG) and automatic location identification (ALI) tabular databases. About a quarter century ago, GIS-generated data entered the picture—quite literally—as computer-aided dispatch (GIS) system mapping applications began to leverage it to depict 911-caller locations on the map display on telecommunicators’ screens. In the Next Generation 911 (NG911) environment, GIS data will play an even bigger role, because geospatial data will replace MSAG and ALI data as the primary means of locating 911 callers.

Pandemic Underscores Importance of Public Safety Continuity-Of-Operations and Disaster-Recovery Plans

COVID-19, aka the coronavirus, pandemic is grabbing a lot of attention right now, partly because we don’t see global pandemics in the United States very often, certainly not one of this gravity. But we do see other significant events on a fairly regular basis— e.g., wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, hazardous materials spills, network outages—that can disrupt or halt public safety operations.