Grant News & Commentary by Kurt Bradley, CHIEF Grants Consultant

"When the Next Katrina or 9/11 Hits, Will You Be Able to Communicate?"

From: The Fund Finder News - Public Safety Grants Consulting

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff opened up the Tactical Interoperable Communications Conference on May 8, 2006. In his opening remarks, he made several points that are worth further examination...

NIMS & Interoperability Will Help Determine Future Federal/ DHS Grant Winners
Those of you who have attended any of the CHIEF Grants training seminars or who have heard me at other public speaking engagements, may recall that I have been stressing the point that NIMS, Interoperability and the shedding of "turf wars" will be a major factor in determining grant award winners. I believe Secretary Chertoff made that quite clear, in his opening remarks before the convention body yesterday.

This only stands to reinforce what I have been advocating for some time. We are all "public safety professionals". We have different tasks to perform but, we all exist for the sole purpose of ensuring the safety of John Q. Public.

We Must Be Able to Communicate with Each Other
In order for us to effectively do that job, we must be able to communicate with each other.

These were lessons learned as far back as the Three-Mile Island Meltdown, WTC/911 and repeatedly now through natural disasters such as Katrina and the "3-strikes hurricanes" of 2004, which devastated the state of Florida in 90 days. The lessons learned through history have shown, time and time again, that those who act as a single unit, with purpose, fare far better than those who choose a path of individuality.

Even our forefathers understood this concept, as evidenced by their choice of a motto incorporated into the Great Seal of the United States in 1776.

"Out of Many, One"
The motto was selected by the first Great Seal committee in 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution. Pierre Eugene DuSimitiére originally suggested "E pluribus unum" as the motto. Translated from Latin, it means "From many, one", or "Out of many, one." It referred to the integration of the 13 independent colonies into one united country.

The ability to communicate with each other during critical incidents, and even during routine daily operations, drastically affects both the effectiveness and the very safety of ourselves and those we are sworn to protect. In order to truly be "interoperable" we must be able to communicate those needs amongst ourselves.

This is not a matter of drawing lines in the sand regarding what your job title is. It is a matter of being able to coordinate a planned, efficient response where all public safety disciplines function as a unit of one.

Technology is Not the Issue
The technological issues have been worked out, for the most part. Modern interoperable communications equipment exists and is in use today, which obliterates the technological issues.

What remains missing from the solution is the "human element" part.

Governance issues, involving who should be talking and to whom, has remained elusive from this solution. This means from the basic first responder on the street, all the way up to the incident commander. SOPs, proper training, joint exercises and better understanding of everyone's correct role in a major critical incident are paramount to the success of the response.

We Are at a Crossroads
Like it or not, we are at a crossroads now. These issues have forced their way onto the front burner and must be dealt with. Those of you still waging "local turf battles" with yourselves, and other public safety agencies, need to "wake up and smell the coffee" here. A tempest is brewing. Those of you who choose not to jump on this train, will be left standing at the station.

In the fall of last year, the 9-11 Commission report also stressed that the issue of "communications interoperability" was still not being resolved. Although money was being thrown at the problem in a "band-aid" effort, the wound has continued to fester. Without the administration of proper "antibiotics" – real interoperability and increased communications between agencies and responders – it will eventually lead to a slow agonizing death.

No Communication? No Interoperability? Then No Grants.
Take heed in the warning signs coming from Washington and those that control the funding streams. If you do not solve your communications problems in a manner conducive to furthering the interoperability solution, you will be denied funding.

Regional, comprehensive projects for communications interoperability will continue to be the ticket you must be presenting, if you expect to gain funding awards for these type problems. These "regionally based" approaches will continue to be shown favoritism by the bureaucracy in Washington D.C.

If you want your piece of that pie, you had better be presenting the idea as a regionally based project. Part of the overall grant strategy for your agency should involve listening closely to the drumbeats coming from Washington, as they will surely be translated into RFP and guidelines documents for future funding programs. Preparation for these type applications takes time, cooperation and the laying aside of differences. This process must start at the grassroots local level.

I highly suggest you read Secretary Chertoff's remarks for yourself and draw your own conclusions from what he is saying here. Read between the lines here folks: your funding futures are being discussed! Read: Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the Tactical Interoperable Communications Conference


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