Poll: Low Awareness Of DHS National Emergency Communications Plan

CDW Government Inc. recently released its 2009 Emergency Communications Report: Awareness and Progress Toward the National Emergency Communications Plan. The report benchmarks progress toward meeting the goals outlined in the Department of Homeland Security National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), identifies key challenges and highlights lessons learned.

While only half of public-safety communications professionals were familiar with the NECP prior to CDW-G’s survey, once briefed on its goals, an overwhelming majority -- 93 percent -- said the NECP has the potential to address their communications issues. Emergency communications improvement is imperative: 28 percent said they experienced a communications challenge in the last year that hampered a response effort, and 61 percent said the ability to achieve and sustain seamless communications across jurisdictions and agencies is their No. 1 challenge to providing timely and effective emergency services.

The NECP, which was published in 2008, recommends a multi-faceted approach to strengthening emergency communications capabilities nationwide, focusing on technology, coordination, governance, planning and training at all levels of government. It sets the following goals:

  • By 2010, 90 percent of all high-risk urban areas designated within the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) are able to demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
  • By 2011, 75 percent of non-UASI jurisdictions are able to demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
  • By 2013, 75 percent of all jurisdictions are able to demonstrate response-level emergency communications within three hours, in the event of a significant incident as outlined in national planning scenarios.

Despite low initial awareness of the NECP, public-safety communications professionals indicate the goals are achievable. Seventy-four percent said they will meet the 2013 target timeline for demonstrating response level emergency communications for significant incidents. Still, many agencies and jurisdictions do not have formal plans to meet the NECP goals. Just 46 percent of respondents familiar with the NECP said they have a written plan in place to meet the NECP goals.

“The NECP has the potential to address public-safety communications problems, but to be successful, all jurisdictions and agencies must embrace the NECP goals and work to achieve them,” said CDW-G vice president Bob Kirby. “Every day, communities across the United States are affected by communications challenges -- inability to communicate across agencies, across jurisdictions, during routine events and during significant incidents. Formal plans to meet the NECP goals, backed by training, cross-agency and cross-jurisdiction collaboration, and technology infrastructure, can speed emergency response and save lives.”

CDW-G’s national online survey, conducted during August, collected responses from 210 state and local emergency communications professionals in 41 states. The margin of error for the total sample is ±6.76 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

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