Research Proposal

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Effective Communication & Public Safety Challenges within the U.S. Army Corp's of Engineers.

For over two hundred and thirty years, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has guided America in the course of its development. A significant aspect of this agency is the collaboration between its military and civil operations. Further to the USACE Civil Works Program's direct contribution to national environment safety and economic growth, the agency also uses Civil Works knowledge for supporting defense missions, like operations that foster stability and peace throughout the world. The USACE, in turn, draws broader experiences and greater depth from international operations by positing as a fundamental component of the bigger Defense and Army agencies. Most recently, the USACE has proven this synergy in disaster response after catastrophes such as the Hurricanes Irene and Sandy and in Afghanistan's stabilization post-war (USACE, 2014).

USACE constitutes of roughly 650 military personnel and 36,000 civilian workers. The agency's responsibilities include engineering R&D (research and development); countrywide management of water resources; and construction management, design and other global real estate and engineering services for the Air Force and Army, the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the State and Defense departments, and numerous other stakeholders and national, global, local, and state partners. It is crucial for the agency's diverse staff of engineers, hydrologists, geologists, biologists, contract specialists, dam and lock operators, natural resource supervisors, and other specialists to satisfy the needs of evolving times as well as mission requirements, since they represent a key division of the U.S. Army (USACE, 2012).

Bearing in mind the aforementioned diverse staff of the USACE, this paper will look into the manner in which effective communication may prove beneficial for improving public safety in USACE.

Problem Statement

Of supreme importance to disaster outcomes are effective communication, emergency operation facilities, relationship among broadcasting systems, impacted communities, and frontline responders. Communication-focused relationships are vital for: gauging damages and needs; collection of information about key resources and supply sources; coordination of rescue and relief operations; accounting for missing, lost or displaced individuals; and motivating institutional, public, and political responses. Another aspect of utmost significance is ensuring communication-related infrastructures' resiliency in all areas vulnerable to disaster.

The USACE and other first responders are commonly faced with threatening scenarios and environments, right from natural calamities and fires to terror attacks. Effective performance of operations in such environments necessitates rigorous training, judiciously selected technology, properly managed information flow, and powerful incident command. One of the significant places wherein the aforementioned themes are cited is the 9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 9 (Kean & Hamilton, 2004). Emergency responders present at disaster sites need to have the following questions answered: where they are, what knowledge they have in regard to the disaster scenario, what are the hazards existing, in what locations their fellow responders are present, where the disaster victims are, etc. It is anticipated that by offering correct answers, in a timely manner, to the above queries, first responders can be better equipped to deal with and respond to emergencies. An answer's correctness will, almost surely differ by role of responder. Also, there is hardly any doubt regarding the fact that both too much and too little information are equally harmful (Betts, et al., 2005).

The Proposed Solution or Recommendation

Foundational Recommendation # 1 -- Institute an inclusive, new emergency management agency for preparing for and responding to all categories of catastrophes and disasters.

Foundational Recommendation # 2 -- Take an exhaustive all-hazards emergency management approach downwards from federal level.

Foundational Recommendation # 3 -- Set up strike teams in regions and improve regional operations for improved coordination of states with federal agencies.

Foundational Recommendation # 4 -- Set up a government-wide, true operations facility for providing improved situational awareness as well as managing coordination among agencies in case of a catastrophe.

Foundational Recommendation # 6 -- Reinforce systems and strategies for improving the country's response to catastrophes and disasters, especially in the area of inter-entity communication.

Foundational Recommendation # 7 -- Boost disaster response capacity of the nation (Recommendations, 2015).

Other Recommendation

1. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must come up with a nationwide plan, including timeframes, to implement a strong, sustainable, interoperable national communications network. It must institute a plan for migrating to the application of 1) equipment that allows resource sharing in the event of disaster; 2) interoperable communications network platforms; and 3) structures for promoting high-precedence interoperability and information communications at the time of emergencies so that information (e.g., victim registration, medical data, and GIS (Geographical Information System) data) may be shared electronically between responders, when required, at all governmental levels. This activity of building a countrywide strategy needs to recognize current state strategies, while offering states a means to team up regarding interoperability as well as the capacity to provide other states with emergency aid via sharing of communications resources. Homeland Security must make awarding of communications equipment grants for community safety conditional on their utilization in purchasing interoperable communications systems operating under SAFECOM standards of open architecture (SAFECOM is a division of DHS).

1. The National Preparedness and Response Authority (NPRA), via regional Strike Units, must join forces with the National Communications System (NCS), relevant private sector organizations, and state-level Emergency Support Function #2 (ESF-2) (Communications) organizations, for being prepared to set out during a disaster for facilitating reinstitution of private and public communications systems operating across jurisdictions. The need and accent in this aspect is to perform by understanding that maintenance and reinstitution of communications infrastructure and capabilities is vital to a successful emergency response. While the major and key components of telecommunications tools are under serious threat of physical destruction in a key location, it can cause negative impact on large parts of nearby territories. DHS must lead the effort to urge and facilitate teamwork among local authorities for handling redundant routing and mutual restoration, which will aid in creating a stronger network for assisting first responders in public safety.

1. DHS ought to improve its mobile disaster response units' (now integrated into regional Strike entities) capacity of providing communications assistance at the time of disasters. DHS must take a leaf out of the National Interagency Fire Center's book, and procure and position mobile communications programs or caches of interoperable and secure disaster communications systems and equipment, which may be used when land lines, radio, and cellphone systems are wrecked or disrupted, at its regional offices.

1. The NPRA, via NCS, must collaborate with every communications provider for encouraging the establishment of and compliance with best practices for ensuring reliability in case of crises, or speedy facilities and services restoration in case disruption of services occurs. Such best practices need to address (1) maintenance of service when there are prolonged commercial power cuts, via back-up equipment and generators; (2) construction of communications towers, repeaters, transmitters, sturdy enough to survive severe storms; and (3) implementation of interoperable regional communications networks, increasing communications' survivability by enabling the radios of first responders to operate from towers in nearby jurisdictions that withstood the catastrophe. DHS, along with local and state governmental authorities and agencies, needs to formulate plans to better direct disused communications lines between disaster operations centers, utilized by all governmental levels.

1. States must be urged to buy communications systems -- like satellite phones capable of continuing operations in the event there is damage or destruction to land-based communications infrastructures.

1. DHS must team up with local and state officials for encouraging the development of plans by 911 emergency call centers to direct calls to alternative centers if their center is rendered non-functional by a disaster. It must also encourage 911 communicators' inclusion in EMACs or Emergency Management Assistance Compacts (Recommendations, 2015).

The Costs of the Solution or Recommendation

Ever since the 9/11 tragedy, DHS has put plans into action for transforming and strengthening countrywide interoperable communications. It has facilitated enhanced coordination for ensuring that disaster response providers are able to communicate in the course of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other catastrophes via: the Emergency Communications Office's institution; setting aside over 4 billion dollars in dedicated grant financing for local and state interoperability efforts; and new, advanced technology development and utilization. In addition, in the year 2011, the federal government declared a plan for deploying a countrywide, wireless, interoperable public safety broadband network (DHS, 2011).

The Benefit(s) to the Organization of the Solution or Recommendation

The solution will aid USACE in achieving the following goals;

1. Planning, designing, constructing and managing water resources, as well as other public works projects (flood control, navigation, disaster response, environmental protection)

1. Counseling the Army leaders on engineering issues and playing the role of Army topographer, real estate proponent, and advocate for other relevant engineering projects

1. Designing and handling military construction, or developing Air Force and Army facilities

1. Offering design, research, and development aid, as well as construction management, for Defense, USACE, and other organizations (to include international and interagency services). (USACE, 2012)

Other benefits of the recommendation are;


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