Sunday, February 1, 2015

CERT Communications


CERT is about doing the most good for the most people.  During a worst case scenario deployment one of the symptoms of ineffective management and leadership is poor communication.  That is the purpose for the Incident Command System requiring regular organized briefings.  A common problem is finding an effective means of communicating over large distances.  

Communication methods:

  • In Person briefings and meetings.
  • Sneakernet / Runners
  • MURS
  • Internet (Email, chat, facebook ...etc)
  • Localized wireless mesh network (Broadband Hamnet)
  • Mobile (Cell) phones
  • POTS (Plain old telephone service)
  • Satellite telephone/internet
  • Public Safety Radio
  • Business Band radio
  • Commercial broadcast radio

Phases in a disaster deployment

  • Preparation - Training and Staging resources
  • Response - Resolve immediate threats
  • Recovery - Repair damage and restore community back as close as possible to a pre disaster state.
Each of these phases will utilize different communications mediums.  Preparation will use Broadcast radio, telephones and email where response will use radio and runners.

Types of Communication 

  • 2 way Broadcast channels (2 way radio, Ham, Public safety ...etc)
  • 1 way broadcast channels (Commercial broadcast radio)
  • 2 way direct channels (Mobile (Cell) phone, POTS, Satellite Phone)
  • Multi-user, multi-channel communication (Hamnet, Internet, text messages, conference telephone calls)
  • Message based communication (Sneaker-net, Runner, ICS-214 messages)

Communication Channels

  • Command - Secure, low latency, limited users, 2 way 
Command channels are used to coordinate command level leadership (Incident commander, Chiefs ...etc)  This is intended to be low traffic.
  • Dispatch
High traffic, general purpose communication.  Either a radio net and or a telephone call center.
  • Secure
If there is a need to communicate patient information or other sensitive information, The best option is by the use of a runner.  Otherwise Encrypted public safety radio or encrypted email are good options.
  • Tactical
Individual teams need a way to communicate with each other, so typically a number of tactical channels.  Typically these are radio frequencies.

  • Communications fall-back plan.
In the event of a technical failure, a fallback communications method must be identified.
Often this is designating a team of people to be runners.  If one radio frequency becomes un-usable then traffic needs to be redirected to another one, if that one fails then it needs to be redirected to another one and so forth.


FEMA ICS forms used when planning communications:

  • ICS FORM 201 Initial Action plan and Briefing
  • ICS FORM 205 Band Plan (ICS-205)
  • ICS FORM 205a ICS phone list (ICS-205a)
FEMA CERT Communications training information
  • CERT Emergency Communications module -

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