In the aftermath of man-made and natural disasters that devastated many areas of our country, public safety communications centers have faced tremendous challenges. One of the greatest challenges was maintaining adequate staffing levels of the communications centers. To address this problem and expand on some individual state initiatives in place, APCO International and NENA have joined hands to develop more widely the Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT). TERT involves a comprehensive program that includes assistance to individual states in developing programs that would lead to the establishment of predetermined and selected trained teams of individuals who can be mobilized quickly and deployed to assist communications centers during disasters.
As the public safety communications community prepares for future disasters, the APCO/NENA National TERT Joint Initiative (NJTI) recommends that communications centers be prepared for inoperable systems; as well as loss of power, security and personnel. In addition, communications centers should focus on training and planning for system restoration, multi-agency response and evacuation. APCO and NENA have signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding to establish the National Joint TERT Initiative and have copyrighted the TERT name, logo and related program components.
In addition, some of these states intend to extend their training efforts beyond PSAP to PSAP assistance, so as to be able to actually deploy into command post communications at the scene of disaster(s) in the field. This, however, is a state discretionary decision and not necessarily an integral part of the basic TERT program.
The NJTI is working with the following government agencies and allied associations to implement TERT and provide mission critical assistance to communications centers nationwide in the aftermath of natural and/or manmade disasters:
- The Office of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) for federal credentialing of telecommunicators deployed through TERT
- The National Emergency Managers Association (NEMA) to establish typing of TERT resources for inclusion in EMAC
- The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) to make those in emergency management aware of the resources available through a TERT deployment
- A Blue Ribbon panel of telecommunications experts to develop and establish a standardized TERT training curriculum, with assistance from the Emergency Management Institute of the Department of Homeland Security
- TERT coordinators from individual states to standardize the process and procedures related to TERT, including FEMA required paperwork for reimbursement