Despite a decade of significant investment and concerted efforts, a pervasive, national interoperable communications solution for emergency response has remained a bridge too far with, at best, small pockets among a few select agencies. Emergency events such as the World Trade Center attacks, the Sandy Hook School shootings, Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Aurora CO movie theater shootings and host of other natural, accidental and man-made incidents exposed and will continue to expose the persistent and prevailing problem of a lack of effective, coordinated communications between first responders and other emergency support and critical infrastructure organizations that are critical to responding to, mitigating and recovering from disasters. Perhaps we have been trying to solve the wrong problem, or at least we have been trying to solve it the wrong way.
For years, the nation has wrestled with the interoperability issue. The desired end state has been codified through the 2015 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Interoperable Communications Act1 (and others) setting the requirement of interoperable communications within and among the various DHS components and with the states and locals.
In this paper, we argue that a broad-based national interoperable communications and multimedia collaboration platform can be achieved quickly and affordably through an everything-over-IP (EOIP) sovereign-controlled, peer based virtual network. This approach leverages existing communications and media infrastructure, as well as next generation broadband efforts including FirstNet, to create an adaptive, resilient, and scalable collaboration framework that achieves ubiquitous capabilities among first responders as well as critical infrastructure entities.