Progress Report: Information, Intelligence for the Fire Service

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Since 9/11, questions have been raised about delivery of information and intelligence to the fire service. In May 2002, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) announced that U.S. Fire Administrator R. David Paulison and NIPC Director Ronald L. Dick signed an agreement in support of the newly established Emergency Fire Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC). This agreement solidified an effort to enhance the security and readiness of the nation’s first responders to deal with potential terrorist threats.

To learn more about the available services, I spoke with the USFA’s Emergency Management and Response-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC). Information about the EMR-ISAC follows:

  • The USFA established the Emergency Management and Response-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) at the National Emergency Training Center (NETC) to spearhead the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) program operations and initiatives.

  • Because the NETC is a secure facility, USFA EMR-ISAC operations can proceed uninterrupted at Level RED, and provide 24/7 information and technical support to emergency response leaders at all levels of government and the private response communities.

  • The EMR-ISAC serves both public and private emergency managers and responders at no cost by facilitating the two-way exchange of information in order to analyze and disseminate current intelligence on threats, attacks, vulnerabilities, anomalies, and security best practices.

  • Using both secure and non-secure portals of the DisasterHelp.gov website, the EMR-ISAC publishes emergent, actionable information regarding threat to and vulnerabilities of communities and their emergency responders.

  • To register on DisasterHelp.gov and obtain a subscription to the EMR-ISAC information, use this link: https://disasterhelp.gov/portal/jhtml/index.jhtml, and find the right bar that reads “EMR-ISAC INFOGRAMs.”

  • The EMR-ISAC continually receives and responds to many requests for CIP information and assistance regarding specific situations or to obtain general guidance in the CIP discipline.

  • The USFA, through its EMR-ISAC, prepared a CIP Job Aid and a Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) Guide to assist constituents in the practice of CIP regardless of the current threat (HSAS) level. These documents can be found at: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/fire-service/cipc/cipc-jobaid.shtm.

  • The USFA has begun participation in major exercises to rehearse CIP protocols and procedures for emergency operations (for example, USNORTHCOM Exercise Determine Promise 2004 was conducted during the first week of August 2004).

  • The USFA also successfully piloted the preparation of the Emergency Services Sector Annex to the National Infrastructure Protection Plan.

  • The USFA is completely committed to serving emergency managers and first responders nationwide as an outstanding steward of CIP.

Paulison, who is the EP&R/FEMA preparedness director, has expressed his enthusiasm and complete support at multiple venues for the services provided by the EMR-ISAC on behalf of the emergency services sector of the nation. He particularly emphasized the urgency for chief officers to receive the Sensitive CIP Notices, which are “For Official Use Only.”

Subscribing for CIP INFOGRAMs and Sensitive CIP Notices

To acquire sensitive CIP information, the chief and deputy chiefs must complete a brief application at https://disasterhelp.gov/usfacip.html in order to validate and complete the registration process. A 24/7 toll-free number, 800-451-2647, can be used by those desiring technical assistance with the process.

All emergency service personnel are eligible for receipt of non-sensitive CIP INFOGRAMs (containing four very short articles about the protection of the critical infrastructures of communities and their emergency responders issued at the end of each week) and CIP Bulletins (containing timely, consequential homeland security information affecting the CIP of emergency management and response agencies published periodically as needed). However, only the department chief and deputy chiefs (second in command) are authorized to receive the Sensitive CIP Notices (these contain emergent, actionable information “For Official Use Only” regarding threats to and vulnerabilities of emergency services critical infrastructures. These notices are published only as needed). While other Information Sharing Analysis Centers may charge fees, all EMR-ISAC services, including notifications, are provided at no cost.

The EMR-ISAC has been working diligently to improve the information-intelligence sharing machine for the fire service. At present, over 2,000 fire department chiefs receive the sensitive CIP information. While much progress has been accomplished over the last two years, more is planned to improve CIP services to emergency agencies.

If you are a fire service leader, make sure that you have followed the instructions on how to receive Critical Infrastructure Protection INFOGRAMs. Fire chiefs and deputy fire chiefs should also follow the instructions to ensure they receive Sensitive CIP Notices. The EMR-ISAC can be contacted at:

U.S. Fire Administration



emr-isac@dhs.gov

Charles Werner, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 28-year veteran of the fire service and is deputy fire chief of the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department. Werner serves on a number of local, state and federal interoperability working groups, and is technology chair for the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association and chair of the Commonwealth of Virginia First Responder Executive Committee. In addition, he serves on the SAFECOM Executive Committee and Advisory Group.

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