Participate in the SAFECOM Nationwide Survey
By Marilyn Ward
Monday, October 30, 2017 | Comments

When public-safety organizations do not have the required communications or related equipment, it is a problem — one that has plagued organizations for decades. When emergency communications fail us in a response situation, the effects are often devastating for the people and property in the communities public safety serves. That is why communications operability, interoperability and continuity, as well as real-time information sharing among emergency responders, under a variety of response situations, continues to be the central focus of public safety’s collective mission. There is always more that can be done to improve the ability of first responders, emergency managers, government agencies and other public-safety organizations to communicate in all emergency situations.

SAFECOM understands this commitment and its importance to the public-safety mission. This advisory body, comprised of public-safety government and industry partners, is a key partnership program of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC). Together, SAFECOM and OEC share a common goal of finding new ways to improve emergency communications interoperability by engaging with responders across federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, and on both sides of international borders.

One of SAFECOM’s early initiatives, the 2006 national interoperability baseline survey (NIBS), represented the first comprehensive survey of public-safety agencies across law enforcement, fire and rescue, and EMS disciplines in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The NIBS results provided many invaluable insights into public-safety communications.

“The survey results reinforce the fact that interoperability is achievable,” said then-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff at a December 2006 press conference. “That technology works today and is available. The willingness of emergency response leaders and local officials to make this issue their priority is what will continue to drive progress on one of 9/11’s most important lessons.”

These findings, along with the release of the “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007,” helped define the resource and capability needs of the public-safety community for more than a decade afterward. In that spirit, SAFECOM and OEC built a partnership focused on working with key emergency response partners. The organizations continue to strive to address capability needs as they evolve to further improve public-safety communications.

SAFECOM is once again taking steps to support the nation’s public-safety organizations by launching the 2017 SAFECOM Nationwide Survey (SNS). The SNS builds on best practices and lessons learned from the 2006 NIBS to provide up-to-date information on the current state of the nation’s public-safety communications.

The 2017 survey will be sent to emergency response organizations across a variety of disciplines, including fire and rescue, EMS, public-safety answering points (PSAPs) and law enforcement. This target population spans U.S. federal departments and agencies, all 50 states, six territories, the District of Columbia and tribal nations.

Participation offers short- and long-term benefits to survey respondents. For example, the SNS initiative will enable SAFECOM to prioritize its initiatives and target resources in areas where the public-safety community needs it most. In addition, understanding what responders need and want will guide SAFECOM in its advocacy for better technical support and guidance, more favorable public policy, and greater support in programming and funding to help tackle critical communications capability gaps and challenges.

SAFECOM is also focused on delivering practical benefits to responders. For instance, relevant survey results and helpful insights pertaining to each level of government will be available to all public-safety partners. Support from the whole community will maximize the survey’s benefits. To achieve this goal, it is important that public-safety agencies across the United States, its territories and the District of Columbia participate by taking the survey.

Understandably, everyone receives several survey requests each year. And because time is limited, these surveys are often ignored; however, surveys can be powerful instruments of support, providing great benefits. The value of their corresponding results is tremendous when the benefits are explained and understood. For example, results of the 2017 SNS will be useful to public-safety organizations in several tangible ways. They will help improve emergency communications at the strategic, tactical and operational levels. “Widespread participation is needed for this effort,” said Gerald Reardon, SAFECOM chair and chief engineer, city of Cambridge (Massachusetts) Fire Department. “We (SAFECOM) hope that the entire first responder community will benefit from the results and that the findings will assist us to direct resources and efforts in the right direction at all levels of government. To that end, I encourage all public-safety organizations across the country, no matter how big or small of an organization, to participate. We need to hear from all agencies. This is your opportunity to make a difference.”

You can find the survey here.

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Marilyn Ward is the executive director of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) and a SAFECOM member. Email feedback to

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