Legislation that would improve interoperable communications for first responders was passed this week by the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications with unanimous bipartisan support.
The State Wide Interoperable Communications Enhancement Act, or SWIC Enhancement Act (HR 2206), will now advance to the full committee for consideration, where it already has the backing of House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).
Introduced by Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), the legislation would require states to have a Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) or to delegate activities related to achieving interoperability to other individuals.
“The derailment of Amtrak train 188 serves as an important reminder that equipping our first responders with the tools they need to do their jobs is not a Democratic or a Republican priority; it’s an American priority,” Payne said. “Responding quickly and effectively to emergencies requires robust and ongoing communication between emergency personnel across all levels of government.”
Payne said “This coordination is possible because of SWICs, who have the experience and strategic vision needed to educate, train and connect first responders with one another.”
But, “Without a coordinating body responsible for guiding interoperability efforts, states undermine any gains they have made in emergency communications,” he stated.
SWICs work with emergency personnel across all levels of government, guiding the education and training of first respondersand communications staff. They are also responsible for leading all coordination efforts, including statewide planning, and developing a strategic vision for interoperability.
The legislation would require certifications by governors that a statewide interoperability coordinator has been designated, including identification in such certification of the individual so designated, who shall be responsible for:
- Overseeing the daily operations of the state’s interoperability efforts;
- Coordinating state interoperability and communications projects and grant applications for such projects;
- Establishing and maintaining working groups to develop and implement key interoperability initiatives; and
- Implementing and updating, as necessary, a statewide Communications Interoperability Plan that specifies the current status of state efforts to enhance communications interoperability within the state, including progress or setbacks, and future goals for communications interoperability among emergency response agencies in the state.
Payne’s SWIC Enhancement Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security; Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications; and full committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas).