As the coronavirus continues to sweep the nation, public services are under scrutiny. Headlines showcased overextended social service systems and agencies – but have yet to highlight an area where the public sector is excelling – public safety communications. Since the virus took hold, agencies like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Department of Transportation, with the support of partners like Verizon, have implemented and improved communications technologies to help keep the public safe and informed.
In a recent Federal News Network discussion, Vincent DeLaurentis, Acting Assistant Director, Emergency Communications, CISA, Jody Smith, IPAWS Specialist, Engineering, FEMA, Laurie Flaherty, Coordinator, National 911 Program, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Department of Transportation, and Nicholas Nilan, Director, Public Sector Product Development, Verizon, came together to explore the technologies and systems that have been put to work to better protect citizens during this crisis.
“A key piece to that progress is the National Emergency Communications Plan,” said DeLaurentis. “That’s a five-year strategic roadmap of how to achieve and advance emergency communications interoperability.” This interoperability has been vital to FEMA and 911 programs that rely on broadband and mobile devices – it enables all incident responders to have the right information at the right time. “We’re helping the 6,000 911 centers across the country do a basic upgrade of their infrastructure so that it matches the infrastructure of those companies like Verizon,” said Flaherty. Progress is underway and enabled by this infrastructure and knowledge sharing, she said.
This information sharing is made possible by networks that are fast, secure, and reliable. “What we’ve seen during this pandemic is the investments we’ve made in a next-generation network have the coverage that first responders expect and need,” shared Nilan.
Jody Smith with FEMA explained how the Wireless Emergency Alert System is backed by networks that provide the coverage and security to share important messages with citizens. Using enhanced geotargeting, FEMA can share messages with citizens that apply to their area. “We saw a big uptick in wireless alerting with the stay-at-home order and public safety information about where folks can go get tested,” said Smith.
These alerting systems are an innovative step for the public sector for coronavirus response and in the future. From natural disasters to health information, these systems can be leveraged to deliver vital information to citizens and first responders. “Public safety communications have made considerable progress over the years,” shared DeLaurentis. “Those capabilities are obviously beneficial.”
As we look beyond the current crisis, public sector organizations must partner with a provider that delivers the essential connectivity, security, and scalability. We will “continue to provide an incredibly reliable network,” said Nilan. And 5G is next.
Interested in learning more from the panel? Click here.