A Friend in Need: Challenges for Cross-border Emergency Response

Photo: “An intersection which separates the State of Vermont and the Province of Quebec. The international boundary transects buildings on Church Street in Derby Line, Vermont, and Rue Church in Stanstead, Quebec, highlighting the close relationship between local first responders who frequently cross the border to render aid.”

The Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG) and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) published their Cross Border Communications Report: Barriers, Opportunitites, and Solutions for Border Area Emergency Responders in March. This report is a comprehensive look at cross border public safety communications at the local first responder level between the US and Canada. According to the NPSTC website, “The report is designed to clarify legal and regulatory policies, identify best practices and examples of interoperability excellence, and advance specific recommendations to enhance public safety communications at the national border.” The need for this report comes from the inability to directly communicate with other emergency responders, which puts both property and the lives of the responders and the public they seek to protect at risk.

The “majority of all public safety cross border responses involve local agencies who provide automatic aid and mutual aid to nearby communities without regard to international jurisdiction.” As a result, almost a hundred public safety vehicles cross the border to provide urgent assistance at the scene of law enforcement, fire, and medical emergency events. The ability for responders to effectively communicate and operate together is hampered, and this report gives a number of factors that limit success.  

Report components include an overview of the current state of cross border interoperability (“including a discussion of issues and problems… identified by first responder organizations”), the opportunities to improve cross border communications and operations, an overview of the current regulatory environment, and ends with a series of recommendations designed to improve and enhance public safety communications.

The major core recommendations are as follows:

  1. Distribute Report to all Stakeholders
  2. Provide Briefing to the CANUS CIWIG
    “The findings and recommendations contained in this report should be presented to the joint Canada /U.S. (CANUS) Communications Interoperability Working Group (CIWG) for consideration and adoption, where appropriate, into their work plan.”
  3. Continue Outreach and Monitoring Efforts

The entire document can be viewed here in the HSDL (login may be required) or on the NPSTC webpage here

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/a-friend-in-need-challenges-for-cross-border-emergency-response

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