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FIRESCOPE and Communications Interoperability

FIRESCOPE and Communications Interoperability

An examination of the scope of the 2009 California wildfires and the agencies that responded to those fires provides a good example for the benefit of interoperability. A Cal EMA review of the response to the situation identified several areas of success, two of which resulted from an interoperability of communications. Cal EMA found that “Implementation of the unified command structure resulted in successful and efficient operations” and that “Unified command and strong coordination between fire and law enforcement were key to evacuating large numbers of residents and animals threatened by the rapidly burning fires, especially during the Station Fire” (Cal EMA, n.d., p. 4). The interoperability of communications is perhaps the most important aspect of crisis management to be considered for standardization. “Currently firefighters from neighboring states; have responded and are familiar with the California FIRESCOPE operations and terminology used” (Morgan, Mosser, & Paker, 2011, p. 23). Communications are also crucial in establishing a unified command, which Maditinos and Vassiliadis have identified as an important factor in successful management of wildfire response (2011, p. 47). This was borne out by the Cal EMA review of the 2009 response. The importance of interoperability in communications is conversely recognized by it's inclusion as a command responsibility; Perry specifies “initiates, maintains and controls communications” as command functions (2003, p. 409). Finally, the importance of communications interoperability is recognized by the State of California. The Governor's Office of Emergency Services states that “One of the most prominent issues facing the public safety community today is the lack of communications interoperability, which is commonly defined by many as 'the ability of public safety emergency responders to communicate with whom they need to, when they need to, as authorized.' Communications interoperability serves as a vital tool for public safety and public service professionals” (2011, para. 2).


Cal EMA. (n.d.). California Emergency Management Agency 2009 Los Angeles County Wildfires after action / corrective action report: Executive summary. Retrieved February 6, 2015 from

Maditinos, Z., & Vassiliadis, C. (2011). Mega fires: Can they be managed effectively? Disaster Prevention and Management, 20(1), 41-52. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09653561111111072

Morgan, S., Mosser, M, and Paker, P. (2011). Wildfires in California Analysis of the Incident Command System and FIRESCOPE. Paper presented at the 2011 Cambridge Business & Economics Conference. Cambridge, UK Retrieved February 6, 2015 from http://www.gcbe.us/2011_CBEC/data/Sheron%20Morgan,%20Marian%20Mosser,%20Phillip%20Paker.doc.

Perry, R. W. (2003). Incident management systems in disaster management. Disaster Prevention and Management, 12(5), 405-412. Retrieved February 8, 2015 from http://search.proquest.com/docview/214387744?accountid=87314
The Governor's Office of Emergency Services. (2011). Interoperable Communications Program. Retrieved February 8, 2015 from http://www.calema.ca.gov/TechnologyOperations/Pages/Communications-Interoperability-%28CICO%29.aspx

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