Achieving secure and resilient communications across the Emergency Communications Ecosystem is essential for public safety agencies to execute their missions. However, it is nearly impossible to plan when or where a disaster will strike and having poor radio and cellular coverage during an emergency directly inhibits first responders from providing life-saving services. Response planning and assessing cellular coverage ahead of a disaster can help reduce communications disruptions and help public safety organizations execute their mission.
“We never know where or when disaster will strike,” Sam Burnette, Emergency Services Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Health Office of EMS, said. “Understanding coverage limitations and other potential communication barriers before a potential catastrophic event is crucial.”
Despite this importance, in 2018, the SAFECOM Nationwide Survey found that almost half of public safety organizations agree that their infrastructure, systems, equipment, and facilities do not allow them to achieve continuity of communications in out-of-the-ordinary emergencies or disasters.
Recently, Mr. Burnette leveraged available SNS data and insights to help justify his organization’s purchase of a communications coverage testing tool. Mr. Burnette plans to help public safety agencies and jurisdictions across the Commonwealth of Virginia identify areas where coverage may be limited or non-existent. Having this information in advance, before an incident occurs, allows agencies to identify ways to mitigate coverage deficiencies.
According to the National Emergency Communications Plan, by assessing communications during exercises and real-world events and incidents, public safety organizations can improve operational procedures, policies, and training program effectiveness.
“The SNS data helped our organization identify a capability gap and support our purchasing decision,” Mr. Burnette said. “We’ve helped agencies and jurisdictions across the state and are now working collaboratively with FirstNet on an exercise to pinpoint areas with poor cell coverage to determine in advance the additional resources necessary to address this potential lack of operability and interoperability.”
The SNS provides valuable insights on the emergency communications ecosystem that can help public safety organizations enhance their programs and processes and make more informed decisions to address capability gaps.
If you are curious how SNS data can help your public safety organization, visit cisa.gov/sns, or contact [email protected].
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