Communications Interoperability Resources

Interoperability Streams - Communications interoperability weblog

Programs, Organizations and Committees

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
SAFECOM Program.  The umbrella program for Federal communications interoperability efforts is the SAFECOM Program in the DHS Office of Interoperability and Compatibility.  A multitude of publications, including those from the now-defunct Public Safety Wireless Network (PSWN) Program, can be found on their site.
Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program (ICTAP).  ICTAP is a technical assistance program of the DHS Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (SLGCP), which was previously the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) under the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.  ICTAP provides assistance to Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and State Homeland Security grantees.

U.S. Department of Justice - National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
NIJ CommTech Program.  Previously known as AGILE (Advanced Generation of Interoperability for Law Enforcement), NIJ program researches technology solutions for interoperability.
  • National Task Force on Interoperability (NTFI). The mission of NTFI was to help public safety achieve communications interoperability. To accomplish this, NTFI provided education/information to state and local elected and appointed officials and their representative associations regarding the benefits of interoperability, and provided a forum for public policy makers to partner their efforts with the efforts of the public safety community to address interoperability issues in a more comprehensive way.
  • Capital Wireless Integrated Network (CAPWIN). A mobile computing interoperability solution for the Washington Metropolitan Region.
  • National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC). Formed May 1, 1997, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) is a federation of associations representing public safety telecommunications. The purpose of NPSTC is to follow up on the recommendations of the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC).
NLECTC Public Safety Communications Program. The National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) maintains an office providing technical assistance for public safety agencies, support for NPSTC and other communications initiatives.

National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC). NPSTC is a federation of associations representing public safety telecommunications. The purpose of NPSTC is to follow up on the recommendations of the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC). In addition, NPSTC acts as a resource and advocate for public safety telecommunications issues.

Public Safety Wireless Network Program (PSWN). The PSWN Program has been absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) SAFECOM Program.  It was created to promote effective public safety communications and to foster interoperability among local, state, federal and tribal communications systems. The program was jointly sponsored by the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury.

PSWN's systems planning documents are its broadest contributions to communications interoperability efforts.  They can be found in the SAFECOM Library.

U.S. Department of Commerce - NTIA and NIST/OLES
NTIA Emergency Planning & Public Safety Division. The Emergency Planning & Public Safety Program was established to coordinate the various spectrum and telecommunications related activities and programs within the Federal Government as it relates to public safety.

Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) established the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee ... to evaluate the wireless communications needs of federal, state, and local Public Safety agencies through the year 2010 and to recommend possible solutions.

PSWAC no longer exists. It was followed by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).

Office of Law Enforcement Standards Public Safety Communications Standards Program. OLES' Public Safety Communications Standards program is dedicated to supporting AGILE (now CommTech). The program is developing standards for voice, data, image and video transfers, drawing on existing standards, discussions with end users regarding their requirements and participation in IT and wireless standards committees. To meet the needs of law enforcement and public safety agencies until standards are in place, the program is evaluating commercial devices and services that can provide interim interoperability.

Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, Intl. (APCO). APCO is a member driven association of communications professionals that provides leadership; influences public safety communications decisions of government and industry; promotes professional development; and fosters the development and use of technology for the benefit of the public.

APCO has over 16,000 members internationally. Its Automated Frequency Coordination subsidiary is by far the largest frequency coordinator — an official FCC designation — for public safety, processing nearly two thirds of all such license applications in the United States.

Project MESA
Project MESA. Project MESA is an international partnership producing globally applicable technical specifications for digital mobile broadband technology, aimed initially at the sectors of public safety and disaster response. The project is supported by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the United States' Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).

Project 25
Project 25 began as an APCO project in 1989 to create radio standards for digital public safety systems. As documents became formalized and accepted through the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and, finally, through ANSI, the standards suite came to be known more simply as 'Project 25'.

The Website is largely inactive. Formal standards documents are available for a fee through TIA. This document gives a brief rundown on the project and its products.

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NTFI Brochure on Communications Interoperability
When They Can't Talk, Lives Are Lost
Produced by AGILE for the NTFI, February 2003.
Recent brochure produced to accompany the NTFI Guide. Intended primarily for public officials, it contains simple explanations of issues.

NTFI Guide to Communications Interoperability
Why Can't We Talk? Working Together To Bridge the Communications Gap To Save Lives
Produced by AGILE for the NTFI, February 2003.

PSWN Systems Planning Guide (2.5 MB)
How-to Guide for Managing the Radio System Life Cycle
This guide is designed to assist public safety agencies in navigating the radio system life cycle. It covers issues essential to successful planning, design, procurement, implementation, operations and maintenance of a regional or statewide radio communications system.

PSWN Roadmap
Public Safety Land Mobile Radio — A Road Map for Systems Development
A large-format document intended for commercial paper production.

State and Local Law Enforcement Wireless Communications and Interoperability
State and Local Law Enforcement Wireless Communications and Interoperability: A Quantitative Analysis
Produced by the NIJ's NLECTC- Rocky Mountain Region, January 1998.
The definitive study on communications interoperability capabilities and needs.

PSWAC Final Report
PSWAC Final Report to the FCC and NTIA
Produced by the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee for the FCC and NTIA, September 11, 1996.
The seminal work on public safety wireless communications needs. See the Interoperability Subcommittee Summary on p. 44. The full report is included as Appendix A.

Understanding Wireless Communications in Public Safety
Understanding Wireless Communications in Public Safety: A Guidebook to Technology, Issues, Planning, and Management
Produced by NLECTC- Rocky Mtn Region, January 2003.
A mix of high-level and technical materials.

Interoperable Communications User's Handbook
Developing Multi-Agency Interoperability Communications Systems: User's Handbook
Produced by Community Research Associates, Inc., 2001, for AGILE.
Focuses on the ACU-1000 and its transportable counterpart, the TRP-1000, devices that allow different radio channels to be patched together either semi-permanently at a fixed location or dynamically at the scene of an incident. A good overview of interconnection technology. Discusses examples in Chicago (IL), Orlando (FL) and Arapahoe County (CO).

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After-Action Documents

9/11 After-Action Report: NYC
McKinsey Report – Increasing FDNY's Preparedness
Produced by McKinsey & Company, 2002, for New York City.
The definitive review of New York City public safety response on September 11, 2001. Includes special comments on communications.

9/11 After-Action Report: Pentagon
Arlington County After-Action Report
Produced by Titan Systems Corporation, 2002, for Arlington County (VA).  “Almost all aspects of communications continue to be problematic, from initial notification to tactical operations.”

Oklahoma City Bombing (1995)
Critical Information Flows in the Alfred P. Murrah Building Bombing: A Case Study (2002)

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