Make an impact on national emergency communications planning!

N1GAW

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The US Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is seeking feedback on proposed updates to the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP)—the Nation’s strategic plan to improve emergency communications. Informed by last year’s SAFECOM Nationwide Survey, the NECP provides guidance to those that plan for, coordinate, invest in, and use communications to support response and recovery operations. This includes traditional emergency responder disciplines (e.g., law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, dispatch) and other entities that share information during emergencies, such as medical facilities, utilities, nongovernmental organizations, as well as the media and private citizens. National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP)—the Nation’s strategic plan to improve emergency communications. Informed by last year’s SAFECOM Nationwide Survey, the NECP provides guidance to those that plan for, coordinate, invest in, and use communications to support response and recovery operations. This includes traditional emergency responder disciplines (e.g., law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, dispatch) and other entities that share information during emergencies, such as medical facilities, utilities, nongovernmental organizations, as well as the media and private citizens. The comment form is available at:

National Emergency Communications Plan
 

avdrummerboy

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Not sure if I'm allowed to comment on this particular post; but it would seem that this would be an opportune time for those of us in the "private sector" so mentioned in this document to voice our concerns about relevant radio communications topics in the realm of public listening and information dissemination. This, in particular, would cover the topic of encryption and its specific uses and abuses as it relates to public communications. It could also be used, I can envision, as an avenue of sorts to bring up and diplomatically tear down the idea that the listening public is a bad thing, that it somehow hinders day to day or even emergent operations and could be used to show that in dire situations the public to be much more of a help than a hinderance. This, of course, would need to be done diplomatically and with due respect to those involved who truly believe that they are doing the right thing.

As a private citizen who has been involved in radio listening of all sorts- including public safety scanning- for the last 17 years of my life as well as a full time member of the "emergency medical services" that the document so mentions, I do sincerely plan on writing up a public comment on all of this and hope that you in the Radio Reference community as well as others would be so inclined to follow me into this. This might well be a foot in the door to the hopeful ideal of curtailing the needless overuse of encryption in the true interest of the listening public.
 
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DaveNF2G

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I would advise anyone who wishes to comment to avoid making any "legal" or "Constitutional" arguments unless you have the education and/or training to do so accurately. The FCC might even disregard such comments from anyone who cannot sign Esq. to their comments.
 

JasonTracy

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Not sure if I'm allowed to comment on this particular post; but it would seem that this would be an opportune time for those of us in the "private sector" so mentioned in this document to voice our concerns about relevant radio communications topics in the realm of public listening and information dissemination. This, in particular, would cover the topic of encryption and its specific uses and abuses as it relates to public communications.
If you're going to post a comment to the FCC about it, I would highly suggest quoting the document by objective and line number. It shows that you've read the document, and that you're suggesting a change to it.

For example, you'd likely want to reference Objective 6.2. Mitigate cybersecurity vulnerabilities and suggest that line 991 be changed from "Public safety organizations implement interoperable encryption, as needed" to "Public safety organizations implement interoperable encryption for tactical communications, while keeping general communications unencrypted for public review and highest levels of interoperability.", or something like that.
 

William2910

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I will say some places like new Mexico have a coming uniform aes keys for interops, other uses in the primary channels of those they mou with with a inteorp key to access mains in participating agencies which most are on board. So interoperability issues won't be question in future so keep that in mind if encryption is hated.
 

MTS2000des

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I would advise anyone who wishes to comment to avoid making any "legal" or "Constitutional" arguments unless you have the education and/or training to do so accurately. The FCC might even disregard such comments from anyone who cannot sign Esq. to their comments.
Very well stated. Persons should think VERY CAREFULLY before submitting ANYTHING to the FCC. VERY CAREFULLY.
 

JasonTracy

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interoperability issues won't be question
Any time you have encryption keys involved, interoperability issues are always a question and have to be balanced with actually keeping the keys secure. The more interoperability you have, the harder it will be to keep it both secure and usable. This pretty much applies to all encryption, radio or not.
 

Rred

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After the 9/11 goat**** the FCC decided that as part of the transition to digital TV, the newly cleared 700-MHz frequencies would be used for national emergency ops intercommunication. So in theory, by now, every "emergency" agency should have the ability to use 700MHz equipment that can interoperate with every other emergency response agency.
"How's that workin' for you?" (Dr. Phil)

In Fort Lauderdale, their radio systems failed during the FLL airport shooting two years ago, and again last year during the Parkland school shootings. Police couldn't reach other police agencies, let alone fire rescue, and that's all in the same county.

The FCC made a lot of recommendations post-Katrina, and AFAIK nothing got implemented. So, really, they need more input? They can't even mandate reasonable costs for WPS cell priority.
 

N1GAW

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It's worth mentioning, that though majority of comments ring true on here, you are not commenting to the FCC. Comments are being requested by Department of Homeland Security, a law enforcement agency that loves encryption.
 

hitechRadio

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After the 9/11 goat**** the FCC decided that as part of the transition to digital TV, the newly cleared 700-MHz frequencies would be used for national emergency ops intercommunication. So in theory, by now, every "emergency" agency should have the ability to use 700MHz equipment that can interoperate with every other emergency response agency.
"How's that workin' for you?" (Dr. Phil)..
Actually it works very well, it comes down to planning and training.

In Fort Lauderdale, their radio systems failed during the FLL airport shooting two years ago, and again last year during the Parkland school shootings. Police couldn't reach other police agencies, let alone fire rescue, and that's all in the same county..
To clarify the system did not fail (as in go down). The system was overloaded (lot of busies).. This is what happens with Poor system planning, it was system admins fault (IMO). And could have been avoided.
 

avdrummerboy

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For what it's worth, I'll throw in my two cents here. I can say that as one who works in the public safety field (EMS side of it) encryption is way overused and pointless 90+% of the time. I have the same exceptions about encryption as most on here, SWAT, narcotics, vice, etc. But when the local FD's have encrypted "admin" channels that are used for ordering pizzas and coffee during training days, it seems a bit of a waste of taxpayer dollars and technology. I work for the largest county in the lower 48 states and the company I work with subscribes through the county system and has an encrypted channel and I can tell you that there is absolutely no need for it, there is NOTHING that we say or do that needs to be nor should be hidden from the public. It's hard to hide anyway what with all of these facebook local news groups that post anytime a police car, fire truck or ambulance goes anywhere.

Now to the topic of so called interoperability. As we all know, 9/11 was a turning point for emergency communications in many ways, not the least of which was the idea of interoperability between agencies and in some cases within the same agencies themselves. And bear in mind that this was before the cell phone revolution that we have today! One of the biggest complaints during the 9/11 events was that no one could talk to each other; where are we today?

In every major event that has happened since 9/11, one of the biggest complaints from first responders still is that people can't talk to each other, not to mention systems getting overloaded by the garbage man and dog catcher and street sweeper all chatting away like a group of hams on 40 meters. Now I know that this isn't happening 100% of the time in all incidents, but enough to still say that the idea of 'interoperability' has not worked out well at all. What the actual numbers are I don't know, I only know what first responders who have been involved in incidents have told me. What I do know is that more encryption and more channels are not going to solve the problem.

On a more personal level, where I work we are on a new digital phase I system and all law enforcement and EMS and a select few fire channels have gone encrypted. Now I will reiterate that certain channels do warrant encryption but that for the most part it is overused and pointless. We are at a point now where on medium scale incidents like an MCI the preferred method of on scene comms is having people run (or walk) to different people to get information around. It is either that or play the literal game of telephone between different dispatch centers. That is not interoperability, that's a middle age courier system. Our rigs have scanners in them to listen in to the agencies that are not programmed in our radio, and with the encryption going on, we have lost the ability to judge dynamic situations for any danger by not being able to hear other agencies, namely sheriffs office. Things can change quickly in the field and it is nice to know what is going on in real time.

Interoperability would be great if it was actually implemented right. The problem is, everyone wants their slice of the pie and they don't want anyone else knowing anything about it, even people that they work with. The situation today is political and dangerous and is going to get people hurt.
 

N4GIX

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FWIW, I've personally found that NIFOG is an incredibly dense and complicated set of protocols to follow. Apparently the nice folks at HS don't believe in the KISS principle. :whistle:
 

flythunderbird

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Interoperability would be great if it was actually implemented right. The problem is, everyone wants their slice of the pie and they don't want anyone else knowing anything about it, even people that they work with. The situation today is political and dangerous and is going to get people hurt.
Like so many things in government, it's an inter-agency turf war - any side effects of the turf war are secondary until someone does get hurt, and then it's still a turf war.
 
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DaveNF2G

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Overloaded systems will keep happening as long as politicians will only pay for the least they can get away with and the sales reps keep kissing their butts. Practically nobody with decision making power as to what system will be purchased and how it will be spec'ed understands trunking well enough to make correct choices, and the sales people are motivated not to explain it to them.

The "dirty little secret" of trunking is that it is just like conventional in terms of how many people can use it simultaneously. One user per frequency or repeater pair, or two users per for TDMA/CDMA systems. Assigning 30 groups of people to five repeaters means overload.
 

ten13

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One of the biggest complaints during the 9/11 events was that no one could talk to each other; where are we today?
Where are we today?: in NYC, exactly where we were that day. And there is no reason to change it.

For some reasons, the POLITICIANS seemed to make a big deal that the FD, PD, PAPD, etc., operated on different radios. Of course, those same politicians who made those "demands" had absolutely NO street experience, either in emergency services or even real life. Their naiveté on the subject would have one believe that never in the history of NYC have emergency agencies EVER had to communicate important, timely, and serious, information to each other during a major incident (failing to remember the War Years of the 1970s).

Anyone who has listened to the recordings of 9/11 know first-hand of the pandemonium that occurred on the radios. To try and convince anyone with any emergency radio experience that it would have been better if everyone was on the same radio, without injecting the term, "Tower of Babble," would be, well, foolish, to say the least.

While the term, interoperability, was primarily aimed at NYC, wiser heads prevailed, leaving well enough alone as far as radio inter-communications goes. The FDNY is still on their own system, as is the NYPD (a relatively old system at this point, too), and the PAPD has changed systems twice, with no emphasis on "interoperability."

There have been separate frequencies established, some for inter-agency communications within NYC, as well as others for inter-state communications between, basically, NYC and NJ. But if you were to ask the average chief or other uniformed officer in a position to be an Incident Commander what those frequencies are and how do you access them, they would give you a blank stare.
 

cajunjerry

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I would advise anyone who wishes to comment to avoid making any "legal" or "Constitutional" arguments unless you have the education and/or training to do so accurately. The FCC might even disregard such comments from anyone who cannot sign Esq. to their comments.
I can argue the first amendment better than anyone
 

avdrummerboy

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Where are we today?: in NYC, exactly where we were that day. And there is no reason to change it.

For some reasons, the POLITICIANS seemed to make a big deal that the FD, PD, PAPD, etc., operated on different radios. Of course, those same politicians who made those "demands" had absolutely NO street experience, either in emergency services or even real life. Their naiveté on the subject would have one believe that never in the history of NYC have emergency agencies EVER had to communicate important, timely, and serious, information to each other during a major incident (failing to remember the War Years of the 1970s).

Anyone who has listened to the recordings of 9/11 know first-hand of the pandemonium that occurred on the radios. To try and convince anyone with any emergency radio experience that it would have been better if everyone was on the same radio, without injecting the term, "Tower of Babble," would be, well, foolish, to say the least.

While the term, interoperability, was primarily aimed at NYC, wiser heads prevailed, leaving well enough alone as far as radio inter-communications goes. The FDNY is still on their own system, as is the NYPD (a relatively old system at this point, too), and the PAPD has changed systems twice, with no emphasis on "interoperability."

There have been separate frequencies established, some for inter-agency communications within NYC, as well as others for inter-state communications between, basically, NYC and NJ. But if you were to ask the average chief or other uniformed officer in a position to be an Incident Commander what those frequencies are and how do you access them, they would give you a blank stare.


While I do understand where you are coming from, all you have pointed out is that nothing has changed, and that there is the exact problem. Everything stays the same, new departments were created with people making a lot of money throwing out buzzwords like 'interoperability' and 'ICS' and convincing localities that they needed to spend large sums of cash for expensive and barely adequate systems, but ultimately we are where we were almost 20 years ago. The real problem now is that the only significant changes that have occurred, namely digital systems and encryption hasn't helped one bit, in fact as one who works in these systems I say it has only made our lives and jobs harder.
 

K845rp

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Need DATA and CITATIONS to PRIMARY AUTHORITY (along with perhaps some real-world examples, a couple would suffice) on why NOT to encrypt and by that I mean lock out the public from monitoring (a dying but not dead hobby for Us Ham Ops) TAXPAYER PAID FOR PUBLIC Safety airwaves. I did print out AVDRUMMERBOYS post, and things like this might help. Going to go to local county commission meeting on FACTS why NOT TO ENCRYPT basic day to day dispatching (not talking about tactical situations, but the need is relatively rare IMHO and should be only used when necessary). Anything anyone could post will be appreciated. Need facts that persuade.
 

allend

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I have said over and over again and have beaten the dead horse to death constantly. Trying to accomplish and have solid interops that will work is becoming almost impossible now. Encryption is going to bottle neck our country and with everybody wanting their slice of the pie with encryption is a very deadly combo at this point in our lives.

The more and more encryption used in LE and now its spilling over to the fire service is causing interops to be a mute story. I have been in the tech world for years now and managing encryption is a nightmare. Plus you have all of these cities and counties operating on their own TRS or sharing between systems and the bottle neck is going to cripple our country on a whole.

I can guarantee its going to happen in our lifetime. We are watching it un-fold on a daily basis seeing more and more cities and counties as a whole in large market places going dark. Do these public safety agencies think they are going to use social media and facebook for interops. HAHA. I bet you can poll LE officers and Fire service members on how hard it is to communicate on their radios anymore. It's a roll of the dice on a daily basis figuring out if its heads or tails if the radios are going to work properly.
 

Rred

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Case in point, the Boston Marathon bombers. Do you think it would have been a more effective, faster search for them if, if they could have turned on a cheap radio, or a portable TV, and listened in to the entire pursuit including what units were going where?

There's a legitimate security concern demanding encryption and as the technology has made that simpler, the case for it is overpowering.

Mutual aid and intercommunication gets a bit harder. NYC has some 40,000 cops and 20,000 firemen plus other responders. Do you think any radio network can clue in 60,000 users all at the same time, except plain broadcast? Now make it a national incident, the next New Madrid earthquake, anything on a similar scale that is historically, geologically, predictable to happen. Can you clue in 100,000 responders with anything except open broadcast? Not really.

That doesn't mean I outright favor encryption. One night I had just parked (garaged) my car, and noticed maybe two dozen cops pacing down the block on both sides. I asked the detective walking past me "What's going on?" and he said nothing. So I addressed his back and said "That's OK, you're on my turf. I know every entrance, exit, alleyway, and basement that you've never heard of here, if you ever need my assistance, don't ask for it." Oh, well, yeah, that stopped him long enough to at least say "Something happened and we're looking for someone." Dumb detective: The garage I'd just left was locked, to them, and had three mid-block exits they'd never be able to access.

So yes, I think citizens often can and should be looped in. But I don't see a practical compromise.

On intercommunications...sometimes that's what having dispatchers and operators with special patch boxes is for. Anything more extensive than that, could be an economical and technical nightmare. Putting all the "emcomm/auxcomm" radios in one band, i.e. 700MHz, is a nice thought. But UHF is lousy for cities, and no one band is going to allow enough systems to stay out of each other's hair, as best I can tell.

Yes, we can and should do better. But physics is a *****. Budget is a *****. There are loads of complains, but I've yet to hear one real "Ring to rule them all" solution.
 
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