What are some of the “best practices” that first responders should employ in order to ensure efficient communication?
First responders should make sure that they are in communication, of course. However, they also should make sure to follow the proper procedures. Those procedures are in place so that people can make the right decisions in a quick and efficient manner during an emotional time.
This is an important question because, according to ICMA, first responders have severely limited inter-communication capabilities, a limitation that correspondingly limits communication with the populace. As a private citizen, I assume, like others, that first responders have communication capability with all other responders and responding agencies. Yet Michael Caralis with State & Local Public Safety Strategy at Verizon says that responders have trouble communicating within their own agencies and certainly can't contact responders in other towns, regions or states. This means first responders are in some degree isolated and--rather like the parable of the blind men with an elephant--see only their bit of the emergency. He says that while "interoperable" emergency communications have been approved in Congress, the scheduled timetable is unclear (as of 19 March 2012). As a result, he says best practice is to employ what he calls a "hybrid" approach to communications that includes traditional land phone lines and state-of-the-art satellite communications with mobile/wireless communications. So, until interoperability between agencies and across locales is in place, best practice is to mix all available public and private communication sources.