What if? That is the question often asked as a starting point to preparedness. Ask yourself, what if we lost all electricity, a tower site, Telco, microwave or network infrastructure, our ability to recharge radio batteries? What if we have a lack of fuel for our back up generators and emergency response vehicles or a lack of basic life supporting essentials? While this is an extremely short list, answering such questions before an emergency is a proven way to ensure our success during an emergency.
Working together is the key to communications interoperability. Develop your partnerships, mutual aid agreements, standard operating procedures and the availability of resources (equipment reserves) in your locality, region and state.
Know your contacts.
Know your mutual aid points of contacts and all methods to contact them, cellular, telephone, email, text messaging, fax, etc.
Train and practice.
Training and Practice are two key essentials to ensure all personnel are familiar with communications interoperability procedures and equipment.
Conduct regular testing of all communications infrastructure to include the availability of service and support, proper radio programming and the sharing of mutual aid and common frequencies throughout your region.
Know the proper procedures.
Embrace and incorporate the procedures of the Incident Command System and the National Incident Management System into your emergency operations plans.
Have available resources.
Develop resource list and adopt private – public partnerships in advance to be able to seamlessly obtain assistance. Many agencies have recently reached out to Amateur Radio Groups for communications assistance; their resources and expertise can be extremely helpful.
Designate a communications leader.
During a response, designate a communications officer to oversee and coordinate communication and interoperability resources as they arrive and deploy.
Follow basic procedures.
To avoid confusion and multiple interoperability patches some basic gateway activation procedures should be followed. They include: requesting authorization for an interoperability patch with participating agency before establishing a patch; utilize plain English transmissions during an interoperability patch and all radio transmissions should identify the agency along with the unit identifier when patching multiple agencies or public safety disciplines.
When preparing for mutual aid assistance be sure to inventory your available interconnect cables to ensure you have the proper cables for the area or region where you are going to deploy. Likewise, ensure all mutual aid simplex frequencies are preprogrammed into your radios and have available radio programming software and personnel trained to conduct programming if required.