Training and Exercises

Implementing effective training and exercise programs to practice communications interoperability is essential for ensuring that the technology works and responders are able to effectively communi­cate during emergencies. General orientation on equipment and applications—agencies provide initial orientation to their users with regard to their particular equipment and applications. Multi-agency/multi-juris­dictional operations are often an afterthought to this training, if provided at all.

Single Agency Tabletop Exercises for Key Field and Support Staff—Structured tabletop exercises promote planning and identify response gaps. However, single agency activities do not promote interoperability across disciplines and jurisdictions. Additionally, management and supervisory training is critical to promoting routine use of interoperability mechanisms.

Multi-Agency Tabletop Exercises for Key Field and Support Staff—As agencies and disciplines begin working together to develop exercises and provide field training, workable interoperability solu­tions emerge. Tabletops should address data and/or voice commu­nications interoperability and focus on effective information flow.

Multi-Agency Full Functional Exercises Involving All Staff—Once multi-agency/multi-discipline plans are developed and practiced at the management and supervisory level, it is critical that all staff who would be involved in actual implementation receive training and participate in exercises.

Regular Comprehensive Regionwide Training and Exercises—Optimal interoperability involves equipment familiarization and an introduction to regional/state interoperability at time of hire (or in an academy setting). Success will be assured by regular, com­prehensive, and realistic exercises that address potential problems in the region and involve the participation of all personnel.

Despite the best planning and technology preparations, there is al­ways the risk of the unexpected—those critical and unprecedented incidents that require an expert at the helm who can immediately adapt to the situation. Within the Incident Command System, these specialists are called Communications Unit Leaders.

The role of the Communications Unit Leader is a critical function that requires adequate training and cannot be delegated to an indi­vidual simply because that person “knows about communications systems.”  Rather, the proper training of these individuals is of sig­nificant importance to a region's ability to respond to unexpected events, and it should prepare them to manage the communications component of larger interoperability incidents by applying the available technical solutions to the specific operational environ­ment of the event.