6 key components of public safety communication

Sara Ana Cemazar
March 12, 2024
min read

Public safety agencies' core purpose is to protect people's lives during emergencies and unanticipated crises. Therefore, they must have a robust public safety communication system to deliver timely information, promote immediate actions, and exchange mission-critical material and data. 

The system should also facilitate communication between emergency responders and provide updates to the general public. Read the blog post to learn about the important attributes of public safety communication and the best practices for delivering messages effectively. 

What is public safety communication?

Public safety communication networks encompass all the tools, technologies, and systems used by government agencies and organizations to communicate alerts and services during emergencies and routine operations. 

Fire departments, emergency medical services, public utilities, and others rely on an effective system to communicate time-sensitive messages and tasks. 

public safety communication

Public safety communication networks promotes rapid coordination and support the dissemination of critical information among emergency responders and the public. 

They help coordinate efforts and make well-informed decisions regarding public safety during an emergency. Public organizations also use such systems to educate people and sensitize them about alert systems and emergency preparedness. 

What should public safety communication software look like?

A robust public safety communication software should have features that support coordination among emergency responders, promote public awareness, maintain public order and safety, and enable a quick renounce to normalcy. 

Here are the key features it should have:  

1. Communication across low-latency networks

Every second counts during emergencies. The public safety communication software should have the ability to communicate critical information quickly and efficiently. 

Promoting communication across low-latency networks helps emergency responders coordinate mission-critical procedures and resources more effectively and quickly. 

Quick communication offers enhanced situational awareness among the general public and the responders. When all the stakeholders have the required information, it helps facilitate effective decisions and optimal resource allocation. 

Communication in low-latency environment is also the main trait of effective military chat solutions.

2. Omnichannel support

The ultimate goal of public safety communication software is to get information to all stakeholders, including the public. A robust public communication software should be able to circulate critical information across all channels. 

This includes traditional ones like TV, radio, print media, etc., and digital platforms like social media channels, mobile applications, SMS, email, website, and so on. 

Whether it is a weather alert or health advisory, the software should ensure consistent communication across all channels and be able to send targeted messages. 

For instance, weather alerts or evacuation alerts are mostly specific to a location. In that case, messages must be customized to the language preferences of the public in that location. Similarly, health advisory may be relevant to a specific age group. 

3. Interoperability

Apart from supporting multiple channels, the public communication software should facilitate seamless communication between different agencies and organizations involved in public safety. This includes organizations functioning at the local, state, and federal levels. Doing so helps different responders to collaborate effectively and put forth concerted actions. 

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The public safety communication software should serve as the centralized hub for information and updates during emergency operations. Through the software, they must be able to share critical data, reports, and real-time requests to ensure a quick response. 

4. Secure data storage

Security is of utmost importance when it comes to public communication and military messaging. The public safety communication software must have encryption and other communication security systems to protect sensitive data. In this industry, we often see air-gapped collaboration systems in place.

All the reports, information, and critical data disseminated through the software should be encrypted at transit and rest to ensure secure transmission. Similar instructions have also been instructed by Federal Zero Trust Strategy.

The software should also have multi-factor authentication to ensure data safety. Regular audits must be undertaken to ensure that the system is updated to address potential vulnerabilities. Apart from data protection during transmission, the servers and physical data storage facilities must be firewalled. 

5. Granular role-based access

Implementing role-based access control helps protect sensitive data from unauthorized access to public communication software. The administrator must be able to restrict software access to certain roles and responsibilities. 

This helps ensure that only authorized personnel have access to the sensitive data and information disseminated through the software, improving their accountability. In addition to the software, the physical space should also be protected. Only authorized personnel must be allowed to enter the servers and data storage locations.  

Secure data storage and access are important in public safety communication software, as sensitive information relating to emergency response is stored and exchanged. 

6. Regulatory compliance

Public safety agencies must comply with data protection and security laws specific to the industry, state, and country. Some of the common ones include GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act),  FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), etc. They must also comply with interoperability laws and standards. 

Compliance updates must be continuously monitored, and the public safety communication systems must be updated regularly. This helps mitigate the risks of data breaches and compliance costs. 

Best practices to make public safety communication more effective

Here are some of the best practices that public organizations must follow to ensure safe and secure public communication :

1. Develop policies, plans, and procedures

The key to achieving a robust safety communication system is to build appropriate policies and plans. 

As a first step, the department must conduct an assessment of the important requirements of public safety communication. This helps identify the key features and functionalities that must be incorporated into the communication software. 

The next step is identifying the important stakeholders and developing policies around their roles and responsibilities. The key stakeholders may include:

  • Emergency responders like fire services, paramedics, police officers, military, and more
  • Communication system providers
  • Local and federal government departments
  • Industry partners
  • Healthcare providers
  • General public 
  • Educational institutions, and so on 

The stakeholders must be identified, and their roles must be clearly defined. The agency should also develop different policies to manage public safety communication software processes. 

Well-developed policies should be established for usage, data security, interoperability, compliance, training and awareness, etc. Procedures and protocols must also be established for accessing the safety communication system and transmitting and receiving information through it. 

2. Keep the communication system up to date

The nature of public safety and emergency threats is constantly evolving. They expose the communication system to new vulnerabilities which require regular updates. 

The software must also be updated to the latest technological and security developments. This helps enhance the quality and reliability of information disseminated during emergency response operations. 

The security system must be assessed periodically and updated to mitigate risks from security threats and compliance costs. Regular audits must be undertaken to gauge and improve speed, latency, and call quality. 

Moreover, such systems help improve the communication system's efficiency while minimizing response times

❓Do your residents use citizen engagement platforms? Find out how they can be beneficial for communication with the government.

3. Incorporate safeguards in the communication system

Safety and data protection are crucial determinants of the reliability of a public safety communication platform. This is because it involves the transmission of sensitive data and information regarding emergency handling. Public organizations must incorporate robust encryption algorithms to protect the data from unauthorized access. 

It must also implement multi-factor authentication and a role-based access system to ensure accountability for data stored in the systems. The organization must update its security policies and compliance mechanisms to align with evolving laws and industry regulations. 

The organizations must undertake security assessments and system scans to assess vulnerabilities. They must update access control policies to ensure that they are updated with the latest developments in roles and responsibilities. 

4. Exercise and test systems

public safety communication

Testing, training, and exercise are important to enhance usability and ensure that the software delivers the core commitments. 

Secure messaging software must be tested periodically to assess its performance and response mechanisms. Evaluate the latency and quality of different software features and ensure they are up to date. Test messages should be sent periodically, and the reach and response rate should be measured. 

The test messages must be clearly identified with appropriate phrases so the public does not confuse them with real-time emergency messages. Also, tests should be scheduled on a date that does not coincide with real-world incidents. 

5. Use clear, actionable messaging

Use simple language and tone when communicating with the public about an emergency. The whole purpose of public safety communication is to alert citizens about a crisis and ensure preparedness. 

In that case, using jargon or technical terms will make it difficult for laymen to consume and comprehend the information. Instead, the message should engage citizens towards specific actions.

The message should have specific details regarding these:

  • Nature of emergency
  • Location
  • Time
  • Action required

Keeping the message short and containing just the essential details helps achieve quick comprehension and immediate action. Always use the active voice to communicate instructions. 

6. Monitor and correct misinformation

The public safety communication system should monitor social media, news media, and other channels for rumors and misinformation during emergencies

The organization must provide consistent updates, correct misinformation, and provide accurate information. To enhance the reliability of the information, they should use official handles on social media and other digital platforms.   

Role-based access holds people accountable for the messages disseminated from the system, helping prevent misinformation and false messages.

Disseminate public safety communications with Rocket.Chat

As you know, it's important to have a reliable software to disperse crucial public safety information in times of emergency.

Rocket.Chat is built to help coordinate first responders. It has been used to bridge the gap for emergency response across state lines, allowing the states to provide quick aid for events such as Hurricane Laura, a Houston plastics plant explosion, pandemic response, and public events such as the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon and Super Bowl LI.

With powerful, flexible technology and the opportunity to own all your data, Rocket.Chat is an ideal communication platform for organizations in Government and Defense that deal with public safety.

Learn more about Rocket.Chat for Government.

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Sara is an SEO Strategist at Rocket.Chat. She is passionate about topics around digital transformation, workplace experience, open source, and data privacy and security.
Sara Ana Cemazar
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