Incident Command System Communications

incident-commandCommunications is an inseparable component of modern command and control systems. In the United States, the Incident Command System (ICS) has evolved during the past 35 years from its military roots to serve domestic emergency response needs, including communications. 

Today, ICS provides a rich set of tools for managing human and technological resources to ensure effective and efficient management of emergencies of all scales. 

Unfortunately, as we have often seen, communications and command failures are intertwined. Structured, consistent means of managing communications resources are necessary, particularly during incidents involving multiple agencies. 

ICS establishes basic principles, practical tools, and a definitive structure for supporting communications needs during emergency response. 

SEARCH is experienced in providing support to public safety agencies in ICS best practices, particularly as they related to the Communications Unit (COMU).

  • We have developed a suite of ICS COMU program development guides and resources.
  • We have led the development of curriculum and facilitated workshops for public safety agencies on interoperable communications and ICS topics, including Communications Unit Leader (COML), Communications Technician (COMT), Communications Unit Strategy Planning and Policy development, COMU integration into National Incident Management System (NIMS)/ICS, and more.
  • In addition, our staff has experience as practitioners across all of the emergency communications disciplines. We have managed communications centers, implemented Radio-CAD-Mobile Data systems, directed large interoperability projects, and worked in the 9-1-1 field. We sit on a supporting committee for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, and other policymaking groups.

Call on SEARCH when you need assistance, training or information on ICS communications.

Additional Resources

Download and use these SEARCH documents:

Listen to this SEARCH podcast:

Visit our Public Safety & Emergency Communications training page for information on the instructor-led and self-paced training available to you, including “The COMU Overview”

Karen Lissy

Ms. Karen Lissy is a Justice Information Services Specialist for the Law and Policy Program of SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. In this position, she provides assistance to state and local justice and public safety agencies to collect, curate, and use National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data and computerized criminal history record (CCH/CHRI) information for policy analysis and development.

She also guides justice and related organizations in how to craft and implement laws, policies, practices, and technology applications to effectively collect and use CCH and related justice/public safety data; address legal, policy, and regulatory issues associated with CCH data; better manage and operate criminal justice information and identification systems; and develop security and privacy policies that protect justice information sharing systems.

Ms. Lissy has nearly two decades of research and data analysis experience, having led projects and tasks in support of two agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Institute of Justice), as well as the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and multiple foundations, including Ford, Annie E. Casey, and Hewlett. Prior to joining SEARCH in October 2020, Ms. Lissy served as a Social Science Researcher at RTI International, as a regional Crime Analyst for the Redmond (WA) Police Department, and as Director of a research program with the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Beginning in 2012, Ms. Lissy’s work has focused on improving data in law enforcement to answer policy questions and improve community/police relations.

Ms. Lissy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Michael Mackay

Mr. Michael Mackay is an Information Sharing Developer for SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. As part of the Software and Data Engineering Program (SDEP) team, he plans, develops, implements, and deploys information sharing systems on behalf of SEARCH clients in local, state, tribal, and Federal government settings. He also provides programming, configuration, and testing assistance, and consults on implementation architecture and design with clients. 

Mr. Mackay supports justice, public safety, and homeland security information sharing nationwide through SDEP services that include software architecture and systems design, application development, deployment and support, data management services, and direct technical assistance and training. These services offer capabilities that include federated query, authentication access/control, subscription/notification, process/workflow automation, data analysis, and more. 

Prior to joining SEARCH in 2021, Mr. Mackay worked as a Software Engineering Intern for TDM Business Toole Suite, where he provided software development support using Java frameworks, implemented relational database models using MySQL, and designed GUI components using NetBeans. 

Mr. Mackay will work in an Agile development environment, a methodology that SEARCH embraces that focuses on incremental development and delivery, collaboration in a team approach, and rapid and flexible response to change throughout the development cycle. 

Mr. Mackay earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Stony Brook University, New York. 

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