Payne Introduces Bill to Preserve Role of SWICs

Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. (D. N.J.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee’s emergency preparedness, response, and communications subcommittee, introduced legislation today to preserve state interoperability governance structures.  “In recent years, States could rely on the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program to support their Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWIC) and other communications governance structures,” said Rep. Payne said in opening remarks at a hearing today on interoperable communications. “But that program has been eliminated. And other sources for Federal support are scarce particularly since the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative are not funded at the levels they once were.”

Rep. Payne added, “When I joined this panel last year, I was surprised to learn that my home state of New Jersey did not have a SWIC. Now, I understand that a SWIC has been named, but it is one of many hats worn by this official. The challenge of funding SWIC is not unique to New Jersey.  Other States are facing the same funding challenge and, as a result, there is a very real risk that important governance structures that have taken over a decade to build will be abandoned. That is why, today, I am introducing the Statewide Interoperable Communications Enhancement Act, or the SWIC Enhancement Act.”

The measure would require any state applying for State Homeland Security Grant Program funds to certify that it has a SWIC appointed by the governor. Any state that applies for funds and does not have a SWIC appointed by the governor it must certify that SWIC functions are being performed.  The full committee’s ranking member, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D., Miss.), said in a statement that he supports Mr. Payne’s legislation.

During today’s hearing, Mark Grubb, director of the Delaware Division of Communications and chairman of the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, said that many states used Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program funds to support SWICs. “With IECGP funding now expired, many States are struggling to continue to fund the SWIC position and even keep the interoperability body operating,” he said.  He urged Congress to authorize funding for SWICs and states to continue to fund the positions and said they “must be placed high enough within the State structure.” Otherwise, he said, “they are pushed under the table for the most part.” Continue reading

Public Safety, Disability Rights Advocates Stress Need to Push Text-to 911 Adoption

Public safety officials and advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing agreed today that there needs to be more education to – and pressure placed on – public safety answering point (PSAP) representatives as well as other local and state officials to upgrade call centers so they can accept texts.   In August, the FCC adopted a second report and order requiring wireless carriers and interconnected, over-the-top (OTT) texting providers by year-end to be capable of deploying text-to-911 services (TRDaily, Aug. 8). Providers have to offer text-to-911 offerings within six months of a valid PSAP request.

As part of an agreement between public safety groups and the four national wireless carriers announced in 2012 (TRDaily, Dec. 12, 2012), those providers met a May 15 deadline for being capable of deploying text-to-911 services to PSAPs. The order codified that accord and extended it to other wireless carriers and interconnected OTT texting providers. Continue reading

FCC Opens Inquiry on Unauthorized EAS Alert

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau today opened an inquiry into the Oct. 24 transmission of an unauthorized Emergency Alert System (EAS) message in several states.

“The incident occurred when a syndicated radio broadcast inappropriately transmitted a recording of an EAS alert with an Emergency Action Notification (EAN) event code,” the bureau said in a public notice. “This incident did not involve the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), but affected only the commercial service provider side of the EAS. This Public Notice seeks comment on how unauthorized EAS alerts, including this EAN incident, affect EAS Participants, public safety and other government and local agencies, as well as the public. We also request comment on ways EAS Participants and EAS equipment can improve message authentication going forward.” Continue reading

Canada U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment Demos New Technologies

CAUSE III Live Web Sessions:  From November 18 to 25, Defence Research and Development Canada’s  Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) will be co-leading in the third Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE III). CAUSE III is the third in a series of Canada / U.S. experiments aimed at demonstrating how new technologies can enable Canadian and U.S. emergency responders to exchange situational awareness information as an incident unfolds. Continue reading

Mark Grubb, NPSTC Representative from NCSWIC, To Testify on Interoperability on Hill

THIRD WITNESS ADDED FOR INTEROPERABILITY HEARING:  A Nov. 18 hearing in front of the House Homeland Security Committee’s emergency preparedness, response, and communications subcommittee will also feature Mark Grubb, director of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s Division of Communications. As TRDaily has reported, the other witnesses will be Ron Hewitt, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications, and First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) acting General Manager TJ Kennedy.

Courtesy TRDaily

Fire Groups Back 911 Accuracy Mandates

In a joint letter to the FCC, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and the National Volunteer Fire Council and the National Volunteer Fire Council say they support the FCC’s proposed indoor 911 location accuracy rules. In the Oct. 31 letter submitted in PS docket 07-114, the group said, “On behalf of our nation’s frontline fire fighters and emergency medical personnel, we are writing to reaffirm our strong support for the Commission‘s proposed rules to improve wireless location accuracy and proceed quickly with their adoption. As noted in previous comments, the proposed rules vastly improve the ability of first responders to locate indoor calls. We are particularly supportive of incorporating vertical accuracy requirements. While particularly helpful in urban areas with a significant number of multistory buildings, such requirements will reduce response time in any community with multistory structures.

Courtesy TRDaily

 

APCO, NENA,Carriers Announce 911 Accord; Other Public Safety Groups Refuse to Sign On

TR Daily, Friday, November 14, 2014:  The four national wireless carriers, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO), and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) early this evening announced a consensus agreement that they said will help improve indoor 911 location accuracy. But four other major public safety groups representing the law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services communities refused to sign the accord, saying it did not go far enough.

The consensus parties said the agreement will provide dispatchable locations needed for first responders to most precisely locate wireless 911 callers. “The proposed solution harnesses the availability of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies that are already deployed and expected to expand significantly in the near term,” a news release noted.

The news release said the parties agreed upon a timeline to (1) “[v]erify technologies and vendor performance for indoor and outdoor technologies in a test bed;” (2) “[a]ccelerate the delivery of dispatchable location using indoor technologies with ambitious milestones for demonstration, standards development, and implementation of database and handset capabilities; and (3) “[i]mprove existing location technologies for better outdoor and indoor location fixes.”

“CTIA congratulates AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless and public safety partners on the announcement of this historic agreement,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, president and chief executive officer of CTIA. “This agreement represents meaningful, significant and achievable goals to provide first responders with the information they need to respond to wireless 9-1-1 calls. The FCC issued our industry a challenge, and we are proud of our ability to deliver a clear road map to critical 9-1-1 enhancements that meet the high standards and requirements of our nation’s leading public safety organizations.”

“This agreement represents a blueprint for the improvement of 9-1-1 location accuracy, both indoors and outdoors,” said NENA President Christy Williams. “NENA looks forward to working with APCO and the carriers over the established timeframes to develop the details of the blueprint that will ultimately better serve the needs of all who dial 9-1-1, indoors or out.”

APCO Executive Director Derek Poarch said, “APCO is very appreciative of the professionalism and dedication of its partners in achieving a consensus solution that we can all be proud of and that, most importantly, will provide meaningful location information to our nation’s dedicated and hardworking public safety communications professionals and first responders as they daily serve the emergency needs of their citizens.”

The parties negotiating the 911 location accuracy accord faced a deadline of today imposed by David Simpson, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, sources said.

The news release noted that the accord “defines dispatchable location as the civic address of the calling party plus additional information such as floor, suite, apartment or similar information that may be needed to adequately identify the location of the calling party.”

“As part of the agreement, the carrier signatories will obtain a location fix using heightened location accuracy technologies for the following percentage of wireless 9-1-1 calls from the date of the agreement based on live call data: i)      40% of all wireless 9-1-1 calls within two years; ii) 50% of all wireless 9-1-1 calls within three years; iii) 75% of all VoLTE wireless 9-1-1 calls within five years; and iv) 80% of all VoLTE wireless 9-1-1 calls within six years.”

But four major public safety groups today criticized the consensus proposal between APCO and NENA and Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Inc., Sprint Corp., and T-Mobile US, Inc. – the same parties that reached an accord on text-to-911 in 2012.

“We are aware that there have been ongoing negotiations among the wireless carriers, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the CTIA-The Wireless Association to develop an alternative to the proposed FCC regulations for 9-1-1 location information. We were not consulted on these negotiations and were not provided any details of the discussions until October 29, 2014,” the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials (NASEMSO) and National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) said in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler submitted before the announcement on the accord.

“Our organizations are disappointed that we were not consulted earlier, because we represent the leadership of the frontline first responders who are called upon to respond to 9-1-1 emergencies every day. Since October 29, we have been actively engaged in discussions with the carriers and other organizations to ensure that any voluntary consensus agreement will provide the most accurate location information during 9-1-1 calls.” Continue reading