Only half of public-safety communications officials were familiar with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP), according to a CDW Government (CDW-G) survey.

“We had a pretty good idea that was the case beforehand; this just quantified what we were feeling,” said Houston Thomas, CDW-G’s public-safety manager.

In the CDW-G report entitled “Awareness and Progress Toward the National Emergency Communications Plan,” the low levels of awareness about the NECP were offset by the fact that improving the resilience of communications networks and interoperability — the primary goals of NECP — is at the forefront of public-safety officials’ thoughts, Thomas said.

“Regardless whether they’re aware of [NECP], there’s still a collective conscience among government officials at different levels that this is a problem, that this needs to be address, and we need plans in place to do so,” he said. “The amount of people who have active plans and are seeking financing or identified the things they need is greater than the awareness gap. That’s the pleasant finding here — everybody’s on the same page, whether you’ve read the plan or not.”

Published last year, the NECP is designed to improve emergency-communications capabilities nationwide and includes three goals. By 2010, 90% of high-risk urban areas designated within the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) are to demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions. By 2011, 75% of non-UASI jurisdictions are to be able to demonstrate the same capabilities. By 2013, 75 of all jurisdictions are to be able to demonstrate response-level emergency communications with three hours of a significant event.

Finding funding sources to pay for the additional equipment, personnel and training necessary to meet these goals is a significant issue, as many public-safety agencies are struggling to simply maintain staffing levels in a tough economy. Thomas said 65% of the survey respondents have completed some kind of cost estimate for what is needed, but most of those indicated that it would be “difficult” to secure the money needed for these efforts.

CDW-G is hopeful that public safety and other government officials can use the survey results to make funding requests based on tangible data instead of anecdotal evidence. However, Thomas acknowledged that it sometimes takes a bad experience to put resilient emergency communications at the top of the funding list.

“Those who have experienced a major event that disrupted communications for a long period of time and hampered their response efforts are the ones more likely to find priority for this, because it’s going to be a ‘Shame on you if happens again’ situation,” he said.