By APCO Past President Gigi Smith
Through my involvement with APCO’s Executive Committee, one of the most common questions I get asked is, “What is SAFECOM?”
SAFECOM is a public safety driven initiative with a mission to improve multi-jurisdictional communications and interoperability for public safety responders during an emergency or disaster. After the attacks on September 11, 2001 and lessons learned from natural disasters, we as an industry realized that there are many gaps in public safety communications. To correct these gaps, SAFECOM was established and tasked with championing and promoting the use of technology, educating policy makers and constituents on emergency communications, supporting the implementation of both the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) and the Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP), and providing input on communication challenges and best practices.
SAFECOM regularly provides feedback and support to the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), and the Office of Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC). In a field where everything has an acronym attached to it, you may be surprised to know that “SAFECOM” is not an acronym, but instead gets its name from the White House’s Office of E-Government & Information Technology, where it’s referred to as the Wireless Public Safety Interoperable Communications/Project SAFECOM, or just simply, SAFECOM.
SAFECOM was established in 2001as one of President George W. Bush’s 24 E-Government Initiatives. Since then, SAFECOM has created resources such as a grant guidance document that provides information on eligible emergency communications activities and equipment, and the SCIP, which is updated annually to assist states in strengthening their governance and identifying communication gaps.
Who is SAFECOM?
SAFECOM is one of the first organizations to bring together representatives from public safety associations and emergency responders to promote best practices, governance and lessons learned related to communication. The SAFECOM membership meets regularly to promote the exchange of knowledge and resources amongst its members, to develop resources and tools to be used by the SAFECOM community, leverage training and exercise opportunities and establish workgroups to address communication needs.
Current membership consists of more than 70 representatives from tribal, territorial, state, local, international borders and the federal government. Each association represented on SAFECOM may choose to have both a primary and alternate representative. It’s important to note that the alternate representative must have equal decision-making ability for the association they are representing. It is requested, but not required, that SAFECOM members serve at least three years. Members are eligible to be re-appointed after their three-year term, and there are no term limits. Along with association representation, public safety members at large are also included in the membership of SAFECOM. These members are selected by their experience, knowledge and skills, and do not have an alternate representative. Each year the SAFECOM membership working group reviews the current membership and invites associations and members at large to apply for open positions. Interested candidates are asked to submit a letter of interest and then phone interviews are typically scheduled.
Along with the primary tasks of being a SAFECOM member, there are many other opportunities to be involved. Those opportunities are available through committee work and include:
- The Education and Outreach Committee, whose duties include promoting SAFECOM and providing education on SAFECOM’s importance to the public safety community.
- The Funding and Sustainment Committee, whose duties include finding innovative ways to sustain projects, programs and activities.
- The Governance Committee, which focuses on guidance and the functions of SAFECOM
- And the Technology Policy Committee, which supports and promotes technology deployment.
Along with the projects mentioned in this article, it should also be noted that together, SAFECOM and the Department of Homeland Security’s OIC developed what some consider their most important work: the Interoperability Continuum. The Interoperability Continuum is a framework to help states, tribes, regions and communities assess their plan for interoperability.
Many people don’t understand and assume that emergency communications are where they need to be, when in all actuality there has been and still is a gap in our nation’s emergency communication and much work to be done. The Continuum is a guide to assist with these issues.
To learn more about SAFECOM, visit: http://www.dhs.gov/safecom