MCP Insights

How Public Safety Agencies are Navigating Change and Accelerating Progress

Posted on August 8, 2019 by Morgan Sava

MCP’s Model for Advancing Public Safety is Helping Agencies Build a Blueprint for Today and What They Can Become

Last year, the 911 Center that serves Harford County, Maryland, was having a hard time recruiting and retaining telecommunicators, a problem that is quite common in emergency communications centers (ECCs) across the country.

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How to Protect Your Siren System from Hackers

Posted on August 13, 2018 by Brian Malinich

Emergency siren systems respond in various ways based on the type of activation tone that is transmitted. The tones correspond to the type of event that has occurred. Sometimes they will sound in a continuous burst for a predetermined length of time, other times they will sound in a series of short bursts, and for the most severe events they might emit prerecorded audio that contains critical instructions, for instance evacuation orders in the event of a wildfire.

In April 2017, someone hacked into the emergency weather siren system operated by the city of Dallas. The sirens are intended to warn citizens of weather events so serious that they should take immediate cover. Most of the time the sirens are used to warn of tornadoes, which are quite common in the region in the spring. On this night, the hacker reportedly unleashed all 156 sirens in the system simultaneously. Some media reports indicated that they blared for about 90 minutes, while others indicated that they sounded more than a dozen times for 90-second intervals. Regardless, the hack spawned quite a bit of panic. It also generated a lot of questions from government officials, the media and citizens.

Last month, sirens went off in Genesee County, Michigan, without any emergency to justify turning them on. Reportedly, this was the third time the sirens were activated in a month without apparent cause, and county public safety officials believe that the system was hacked each time.

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If you’re operating an IP-based 911 network, plan to be attacked

Posted on April 24, 2018 by Mark Perkins

From coast to coast, public safety agencies are implementing Emergency Services Internet Protocol (IP) Networks (ESInets) to provide Next Generation 911 (NG911) services. Such broadband-enabled networks promise to greatly enhance emergency response, as they will enable bandwidth-intensive files, such as streaming video, to be received by NG911-capable public safety answering points (PSAPs) and then shared with first responders in the field, bringing situational awareness to new, lofty levels.

At the same time, ESInets will enable PSAPs to share data with each other seamlessly and in real time, and will enable them to serve as backups to each other in the event that one or more PSAPs in a region are rendered inoperable, inaccessible or uninhabitable due to a disaster.

More than 180 PSAP cyber attacks in the last two years

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that municipal communications systems, especially 911 systems, are viewed in the black-hat hacker community as a very large notch in the belt, so they increasingly are being targeted. More than 180 cyber attacks on PSAP infrastructure have been recorded in the last two years alone. A huge factor is that IP networks are far more vulnerable to cyber attack than the closed networks provided by telecommunications carriers that carried 911 calls to PSAPs for most of the last half century. (Learn more about this and how 911 network management is changing in our upcoming webinar on 4/26.)

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