Emergency Communications

All-Hazards Communications Unit Leader (COML) and All-Hazards Communications Technician (COMT) Training
SEARCH offers training to public safety emergency responders nationwide who need to learn how to serve as radio communications unit leaders and technicians during all-hazards emergency operations. We use a curriculum that is approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications (DHS OEC) and we have a strong team of instructors who are DHS OEC-approved and who have provided this training to practitioners across the country.

Emergency Communications has always been an integral part of the public safety response to day-to-day events as well as large-scale, multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional incidents. At the heart of some our nation's largest disasters is the element of how well, or not so well, the communications systems were able to support our emergency first responders. Emergency Communications covers a broad scope of areas and does not any longer just mean "radio system." As part of the emergency response system, emergency communications takes on many different roles:

  1. Field Communications - This is often related to the ability for field personnel to communicate with each other, dispatch and other first responders as they arrive on scene to provide assistance. Field Communications comes in many different flavors and disciplines:
    1. Radio Communication Systems - This is the traditional method for communications involving portable (hand-held) and mobile (vehicle-mounted) radios.
    2. Mobile Data Systems - This is the ability for field personnel to communicate via mobile data terminals (laptops, fixed mobile devices, etc.) to receive messages, dispatch information, and other relevant emergency information.
    3. Interoperability Systems - This is the availability of devices or systems to allow for communications across disparate platforms to support coordinated response-level communications among different response agencies (federal, state, regional, and local).

  2. Communication Center Communications - Communication center communications has an element of interaction with the citizens, via 9-1-1, and with the first responders via dispatch. They are a key element in the emergency response systems and often are the "first" first responders as a result of receiving the emergency 9-1-1 call.
    1. 9-1-1 - The system involves interaction with citizens who make the call, external service providers who deliver the call, and 9-1-1 telecommunicators who receive and process the call. The ever-increasing complexity of processing calls via a computer now evolves to the next level, Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1). NG9 1 1 processing now involves nontraditional communications (i.e., text messages, video, chat, etc.).
    2. Dispatch - The ability to process the incoming 9-1-1 call, classify the call, and determine the appropriate dispatch response involves a very sophisticated set of systems to work. Integrating the phone system with a computer-aided dispatch system is critical and now other technologies are proving to be a "must haves," such as on-line mapping, automated vehicle location (AVL) and automated emergency medical dispatch (EMD).

SEARCH staff possess experience as practitioners across all of the emergency communications disciplines and can help you make sense of it all. We have managed communications centers, implemented radio-CAD-Mobile Data systems, directed large interoperability projects and worked in the 9-1-1 field. Recently Interoperability, like many initiatives and improvements, was driven to necessity by national events - and in this case, the terrorist attacks of September 11 have driven much change.

For much of the past decade and still today, SEARCH is a lead participant in supporting efforts at the local, State, and Federal levels to plan for and successfully implement interoperable communications projects and initiatives. SEARCH has:
  • Played a key role in organizing the National Forum on Public Safety Broadband Needs
  • Hosted one of the first nationally focused interoperability summits held in 2006.
  • Organized and served as faculty to numerous interoperable communications conferences and workshops nationwide
  • Published nationally recognized communications interoperability guides and issue briefs and prepared mission-critical resources
  • Served in key policy advisory and operational roles for U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security communications interoperability programs, including managing and providing technical assistance under the national Interoperable Communications Technology Program of the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and SAFECOM.
  • Assisted with multijurisdicitonal terrorism response exercises and have substantial expertise in evaluating and writing regional Tactical Interoperable Communications Plans (TICP), as well as active participating in the Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP).

Need advice on emergency communications, communications interoperability or COM Unit Training? Want resource materials? SEARCH is here to help through a variety of tools, resources and publications: