At the IWCE 2011 tradeshow in Las Vegas, DHS Director of the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) Chris Essid estimated that 3 million people in the U.S. could be considered first responders. But what good is such an elaborate emergency system if all involved parties cannot share information?
Essid argued that communication is the key. This article outlines the DHS Director’s proposal.
Essid gave a presentation focusing on the national emergency communications plan and the cooperative efforts of the OEC to encourage cross-jurisdictional communications. The Director’s data dated back 10 years to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. One of the critical weaknesses amongst first responders was found to be a lack of communication.
Essid argued that improved communications could have saved the lives of both first responders and even victims in the towers. Creating a communication network for the 70,000 police departments, 15,000 fire departments and 17,000 EMS/EMT organizations is critical to the role of the OEC.
In response, the OEC has begun developing the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), which is a step-by-step process to ensure that critical information can be shared among first responders. But the process is slow and will not go into full use until it is thoroughly tested.
Emergency protocol and communication has come a long way since the attacks of 9/11, but there is no “magical finish line,” said Essid. Development is continually ongoing.
The OEC is doing their part, but the NECP is just one step in the process. In order to ensure better communication between first responders, every state, city, county, and department will need to make fundamental changes in the way they operate. And that may take a while.
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