Multiagency interoperability communication may be defined as the capacity by two or more public safety agencies to exchange data at the right time and place, whether or not different communication/information systems are involved. Multiagency interoperability communication systems facilitate the capacity to exchange data among mobile platforms, fixed facilities, as well as personal devices. Multi-agency communication is important for various reasons. Most importantly, by facilitating communication, coordination and sharing of information among different public safety agencies, this process facilitates coordinated response to the events that happen each day. In turn, it is possible for the different agencies to respond to such high profile incidences like bombings, natural disasters, among others that require urgent attention. The purposes of this document is to explain the components of emergency management multi-agency interoperability, communication, and infrastructure needs for multi-agency preparedness. The relationship of communication and interoperability in facilitating the success of the overall emergency management and government will be discussed.
Emergency response agencies, including paramedic teams, fire rescue personnel, and security personnel, all need to share vital information across jurisdictions (Kapucu, 2006; Tonseth, Boal & Delaney, 2017). Without these, it would be difficult to respond to anticipate or respond to incidences that occur on a daily basis, as well as large-scale emergencies. Interoperability has five interdependent elements. These include: governance, standard operating procedures, technology, training and exercises, and usage. A common governance structure is pertinent for solving interoperability issues. With a solid governance structure, it becomes easy to enhance communication, coordination and cooperation, which in turn results in the enhancement of policies, processes, and procedures of any major project (Tonseth, Boal & Delaney, 2017). A proper governance structure is further effective in the sense that it provides a platform for different stakeholders to work collaboratively towards similar outcomes. A good governance structure is inclusive and is keen to incorporate local, tribal, state, and federal agents. It should also include representatives from the relevant emergency response units from the concerned regions. There are challenges to lacking a cohesive governance structure. A lack of coordination across the various units could result from individual agencies working independent of each other. Informal coordination across the agencies, on the other hand, could compromise the level of interoperability.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are formally written documents with both technical and operational components which are purposed at serving instructional and incident response. Clear and well-defined standard operating procedures facilitate emergency response and in the deployment of any necessary interoperability procedures (Johnson, 2014). As with governance procedures, individual SOP agencies should avoid working independently as this could results in uncoordinated procedures and incompatibility of data, the result of which would be ineffective multidisciplinary response.
Thirdly, technology is critical in enhancing interoperability, but it should be supported by strong governance and effective collaboration, as well as exhaustive training across the different agencies. Technologies should not only meet the needs of participants but also regional needs. They should also be considerate of existing infrastructure, cost vs. benefit, and sustainability requirements (Tonseth, Boal & Delaney, 2017). Considering that all technologies are bound to have authentication and security challenges, it is essential that a combination of technologies are used together to support communication among emergency response teams.
Training and exercises are necessary to ensure that optimal interoperability is achieved. Training is particularly useful in ensuring that responders are able to communicate effectively, while exercises work in ensuring that technology works with the desired effectiveness. In order to ensure that training is done as rigorously as needed, it ought to be done in a multi-step process. This should begin with general orientation on equipment and applications. Secondly the agencies should conduct tabletop exercises for key staff members, a vital step towards promoting planning and for identifying response gaps. This should be followed by multiagency tabletop exercises for field and support staff. It is here that interoperability solutions begin to emerge. The next vital step is multi-agency exercises involving all staff. Finally, regular comprehensive multiagency training and exercises involving all personnel should be conducted to iron out emergent problems while acquainting all individuals with new needs/requirements and ways in which to address them.
The final stage in the interoperability continuum is usage. This refers to ways in which interoperable communication technologies are put in practice (Kapucu, 2006). In order for this stage to be a success, it is necessary that there is interplay across the other stages in the continuum. The stage is employed in planned events whereby location and time is known and planning can be done quite effectively; in localized emergency response; regional incident management; and in daily use across the region.
Multiple emergency response agencies need to share vital information in order to be able to respond and anticipate to day-to-day incidences. As observed in this discussion, interoperability has five interdependent elements. These include: governance, standard operating procedures, technology, training and exercises, and usage. It is pertinent that these stages are well coordinated in order for the multiple agencies to be able to carry out their jurisdictions in a synchronized fashion. Needless to say, one thing that ought to be sustained in order to meet the needs of the interoperability continuum is effective communication.
Johnson, R. G. (2014). U.S. Patent No. 8,711,732. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Kapucu, N. (2006). Interagency communication networks during emergencies: Boundary spanners in multiagency coordination. The American Review of Public Administration, 36(2), 207-225. Greene, M. F.,
Tonseth, W. E., Boal, M. D., & Delaney, W. J. (2017). U.S. Patent No. 9,640,068. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.