What is Interoperability?

md first logoInteroperability refers to the ability of emergency responders to work seamlessly with other systems or products without any special effort. Wireless communications interoperability specifically refers to the ability of emergency response officials to share information via voice and data signals on demand, in real time, when needed, and as authorized.

Interoperability is often thought of only in terms of technology, but it actually embraces three critical elements:

  1. People (human factors such as attitudes, training, capabilities, and experience)
  2. Processes (patterns, plans, procedures and problem-solving)
  3. Technology (the actual systems and equipment)
Interoperability relies on convergence of People, Processes, and Technology

Stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and volunteer organizations recognize the need for interoperability and acknowledge its criticality. Although they agree on the need for interoperability, the scope and implementation requirements remain challenging.

Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan

Even if the State of Maryland had immediate access to the most robust, most advanced pieces of radio and data communications, interoperability cannot be solved with technology alone. It is through building good working relationships, common language and standard operating procedures that we will achieve a greater ability to interoperate. Technology that is put into place without people and processes and shared understanding of concept of operations often creates more barriers to effective communication.

The goal is to develop and implement a reasonable and feasible solution that provides statewide, secure, coordinated, real-time voice and data communications that can span jurisdictional and organizational boundaries. This interoperable system will facilitate the sharing of emergency response and recovery information among system users and will significantly enhance not only operations during major events, but also will improve public safety during day-to-day routine operations.

Interoperability Continuum 

Interoperability Continuum

One of the Governor's objectives is to achieve full statewide radio interoperability for first responders in Maryland. Like many other states, Maryland's public safety communications networks developed independently, making it difficult for agencies to talk to each other across the state. Using the paradigm of the Interoperability Continuum created by the Dept. of Homeland Security, improvements are tracked based on the 5 factors shown in the graphic, Governance, Standard Operating Procedures, Technology, Training and Exercises, and Usage. These factors are described more in this article explaining the continuum.