The Success of SAFECOM

This column provides a comprehensive look at the makeup and reviews the successes of the Department of Homeland Security SAFECOM Program.


This column provides a comprehensive look at the makeup and reviews the successes of the Department of Homeland Security SAFECOM Program. The SAFECOM Program was established in 2001 as a Presidential E-Government Initiative for the purpose of providing key federal coordination to promote and...


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Collaborative Outcomes

A small sampling of the SAFECOM EC/ERC collective successes to lead teams and forge partnerships, set visions, develop guiding principles, measure progress, avoid duplication and mobilize support for federal partners to use in their emergency communications initiatives include:

Interoperability Continuum. The Interoperability Continuum is a tool designed to aid the emergency response community and federal, state, local and tribal policy makers to help address critical elements for success as they plan and implement interoperability solutions. These elements include governance, standard operating procedures, technology, training and exercises, and usage of interoperable communications. This tool was established to depict the core facets of interoperability according to the needs and challenges of the emergency response community. The Interoperability Continuum assists emergency response practitioners and policy makers in their short- and long-term interoperability efforts.

Statement of Requirements. SAFECOM released the first-ever Statement of Requirements (SoR) for public safety communications interoperability in April 2004. This statement defines future requirements for crucial voice and data communications in day-to-day, task force, and mutual aid operations. In April 2006, SAFECOM released an updated version of the SoR with refinements based on input from the emergency response community.

With the SoR, the nation's 60,000 emergency response agencies — for the first time — have a document that serves as a first step toward establishing base-level communications and interoperability standards for all emergency response agencies. The SoR helps the emergency response community convey a shared vision that ultimately will help private industry better align research and development efforts with critical interoperable communication needs.

Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP). SAFECOM, with input from state and local practitioners, developed a comprehensive set of criteria that states were encouraged to follow as they develop comprehensive statewide communications plans. In 2006, eight states had SCIPs. In 2008, OEC approved SCIPs for all 56 states and territories. These SCIPs then provided valuable information into the development of the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP).

National Emergency Communications Plan.

  • ERC Practitioner Action Teams developed guiding principles and draft initiatives for nationwide planning efforts in the winter of 2007.
  • An EC/ERC NECP Working Group was created in the spring of 2008 to provide practitioner input into the development of the NECP. (The NECP was developed in cooperation with more than 150 emergency communications leaders at all levels of government and within the private sector; the NECP reflects the needs and requirements of the federal, state, local and tribal emergency response communities. This was accomplished through approximately 50 stakeholder engagements such as conference calls, working group meetings and practitioner interviews).
  • With extensive practitioner input, OEC released the first NECP in July 2008.

Plain Language Endorsements. In the winter of 2007-2008, EC/ERC created a working group to provide practitioner input on the use of technology, governance, and standard operating procedures, to develop coded language systems called 10-codes to communicate over the radio. These 10-codes; however, are not standardized across disciplines and jurisdictions, leading to confusion and miscommunication during emergency responses.

  • With significant input from the EC and ERC, SAFECOM created a brochure to help states and localities transition from 10-codes to plain language during radio transmissions.
  • In October 2008, SAFECOM plain-language endorsements included the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International Inc. (APCO), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) and National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).