Nick Brown, Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC), Homeland Security Division, Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA)/Homeland Security, discusses how the National Interoperability Information Exchange (NIIX) helps him manage interoperability and public safety communications more effectively in Georgia.
The National Interoperability Information eXchange (NIIX) is a secure, collaborative, and free website tool created for the public safety communications community. NIIX members create their own communities where their members can collaborate in the creation and development of their documents, interoperability plans, events, and training opportunities.
“NIIX allows us to share important information with stakeholders,” says Nick Brown. “Members can access the calendar to find out about upcoming events or find shared documents in the document section. Having this as a ‘one stop shop’ for all interoperability efforts has allowed us to deliver better products and services to stakeholders.”
NIIX was created by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), a federation of public safety organizations whose mission is to improve public safety communications and interoperability through collaborative leadership, with the support of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS’s) Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) and Office of Emergency Communications (OEC).
Mr. Brown is a NIIX Georgia Community Coordinator who exemplifies how to effectively manage a NIIX Community and who has been awarded a NPSTC Participant’s Award in 2015 for his efforts with NPSTC and as a NIIX Georgia Community Coordinator.
The State of Georgia originally heard about NIIX through information provided by NPSTC and DHS-OEC. Georgia began using NIIX in early 2010 as its central portal for information sharing on Georgia’s interoperability efforts. Jim Mollohan, Georgia Region 10 RPC Chairman, had an existing NIIX Georgia Community, and Mr. Brown was added as a second Community Coordinator and began using it for all communications-related activities.
Utilizing a NIIX Community can assist public safety communications organizations to better support and manage interoperability and public safety communications efforts. NIIX Community Coordinators are the drivers of keeping communities active. To be a successful NIIX Community requires the community members to participate actively in the communities they have joined. For more stakeholders to become involved in NIIX, it is important for public safety organizations to “spread the word” about the benefits of NIIX. “GEMA stresses the importance of NIIX in all of its outreach efforts, including training, exercises, meetings, and workshops,” Mr. Brown says.
NIIX provides functions that enhance community collaboration and allow for easy sharing of information. “Personnel know they can rely on timely and important information coming from the community without being overwhelming or occurring so often that the information is too much to handle on a daily or weekly basis,” says Mr. Brown. “We typically only send out a message or two each month.”
The Georgia NIIX Community stays active and relevant to its membership. Mr. Brown says he relies on the NIIX calendar and the community notification functions. “I like the community notification and events calendars the best. The notification eliminates the need to maintain a separate email distribution list. We didn’t have another easily accessible calendar for agencies to access, so the calendar on NIIX is very helpful.”
The NIIX Community calendar is also effective in organizing or publicizing state training classes, workshops, webinars, and other public safety events. There is also a link to the NPSTC website public safety calendar on the NIIX main page. Mr. Brown says he lists Georgia’s Communications Unit Leader (COML) and Communications Unit Technician (COMT) classes on the community calendar and sends community notifications to members about registration information.
Mr. Brown says he has received positive feedback from NIIX users who have accessed the documents section to retrieve exercise information from previous events, so they can review and practice their processes/procedures for future exercises. Each community has the capability to add documents to its document section that only members of the community can access. Community members can securely and easily review document examples and collaborate on document development. NIIX members can also access the NIIX National Repository, which contains different types of public safety and interoperability related documents.
With Mr. Brown’s extensive experience as a NIIX Community Coordinator, he has some suggestions for effectively managing and engaging a NIIX Community. “Understanding the type of information that is viewed as important for stakeholders will ensure the appropriate level of information and engagement.” Mr. Brown actively solicits input from users to find out the type of information they’d like to receive. “Keep in mind that frequency, length, and type of information may affect how much users pay attention to the information provided by the site,” he adds.
Other states can benefit from using NIIX like Georgia has done. “Georgia has benefited by allowing members and stakeholders to ‘opt in’ to be part of the community to ensure they are included on all interoperable communication activity notifications from the State of Georgia. If at any time their position changes and they’re no longer involved in communications, their account can be cancelled to basically ‘opt out’ and they’ll no longer receive the notifications. Using separate email distribution lists may make the ‘opt out’ option more difficult if their position ever changes.”
NIIX is an excellent and beneficial collaborative resource for the public safety communications community. “NIIX is a resource that allows public safety in Georgia to leverage our efforts,” Mr. Brown says.
About NPSTC: NPSTC is a federation of public safety organizations whose mission is to improve public safety communications and interoperability through collaborative leadership. NPSTC pursues the role of resource and advocate for public safety organizations in the United States on matters relating to public safety telecommunications. NPSTC explores technologies and public policy involving public safety telecommunications, analyzes the ramifications of particular issues and submits comments to governmental bodies with the objective of furthering public safety telecommunications worldwide.
NPSTC’s ongoing dialogue on national public safety telecommunication issues affects policies and technologies that affect local organizations every day. NPSTC actively seeks your participation as a person interested in public safety telecommunications. Whether you are a first responder, a technician, a dispatcher, or a manager, everyone has a unique perspective we welcome. As a NPSTC participant you can impact national policies of tomorrow and be a part of planning the future course of public safety communications today by being part of the debate and discussion.
For more information, please visit www.npstc.org.