Survey finds gaps in sharing emergency information

Topics: College of Sciences and Humanities, College of Communication Information and Media

March 31, 2009

A national information sharing framework created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, may not be fully embraced by some of the nation's police departments, says a study from Ball State University conducted with the assistance of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

Ball State's Advanced Crisis Communications Training (ACCT) program surveyed the membership of NENA, an association of 9-1-1 professionals, finding that the National Incident Management System (NIMS) was not being fully implemented by law enforcement officials. Some respondents said their jurisdictions are unfamiliar with NIMS procedures and use them ineffectively and rarely.

"A surprising number of respondents volunteered this information during the open-ended portion of the survey," said John Pichtel, a natural resources professor who co-authored the study with Nancy Carlson, a telecommunications associate professor. The survey drew 500 responses.

"It tells us that additional training is needed because NIMS is not institutionalized into everyday procedures of various operations," Pichtel said. "If organizations are not familiar with NIMS procedures on a daily basis, it will cause a problem during a crisis.

"We also must understand that NIMS attempts to establish collaborative efforts while political, organizational and interpersonal motives are, by nature, competitive."

NIMS, created under a presidential order in 2003, provides a standardized framework for communications, information management and information sharing at all levels of response during a public safety incident.

Survey results are reported in detail in the article, "NIMS Preparedness at Emergency Communications Centers: Perceptions from Public Safety Answering Points," which appears in the March-April edition of ENP Magazine.

"This survey helps us pinpoint where training is most needed," Pichtel said. "Additional training should encourage more agencies to cooperate under the NIMS framework. The result should be better service to the public."

The survey also found:

  • About 68 percent of respondents said they felt respected and valued by law enforcement officers.
  • About 69 percent felt respected by firefighters and emergency medical responders.
  • About 65 percent felt that the public appreciates what the 9-1-1 system provides to public safety. 

ACCT is working under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to bolster local-level preparedness for natural and manmade disasters across the nation by formulating several online and on-site training courses for 9-1-1 staff and their supervisors. Under its fiscal year 2007 Competitive Training Grant program, FEMA awarded Ball State $2.5 million for the project.

The training will focus on providing timely, accurate, understandable information to the public during an incident to dispel rumors and help responders save lives and minimize damage to property.

About ACCT

Ball State's ACCT program is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 2007-GT-T7-K007, administered by the DHS-FEMA's Training and Exercise Integration Division.

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