AIR NATIONAL GUARD (ANG) USE OF ENTERPRISE AND ENCLAVE LEVEL MASS NOTIFICATION AND WARNING SYSTEMS
U.S. AIR FORCE DEFINITION: Installation Notification and Warning System (INWS) is a combination of methods using audible and visual signals, verbal messages, and electronic communication. Communication modes include sirens, horns, radio tone alerting, MNS, unaided voice systems, public and broadcast address systems, local area network messaging, telephone alert conferencing, pagers, television, radio, flags, signs, and other electronic or mechanical methods.
GUIDANCE/CODE: Must comply with Department of Defense Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) 4- 010-01, DoD Minimum Antiterrorism Standards for Buildings and UFC 4-021-01, Design and O&M: Mass Notification Systems. DoD Instruction 6055.17 The Installation Emergency Management Program, AFI 10-2501, Air Force Emergency Management Program Planning and Operations. Presidential Policy Directive 8 and Executive Order EO 13407.
CHALLENGE: Comply with Federal, DoD and Service unique requirements outlined above, to notify all personnel of all hazards across the Air Guard enterprise, stand up a common network- centric emergency notification system to notify 100 percent of all installation facilities and personnel within minutes of “all-hazards” threats, warn of peril and shield the vital missions they perform. This system will be deployed in 54 ANG organizations (48 CONUS states, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and District of Columbia), at 88 distinct installations. These range from single building centers, to large training bases spanning thousands of acres with many buildings and housing. Each installation has unique facility,tenants, topographic, environmental and mission related challenges to overcome.
System must integrate function across multiple platforms, both in-building and wide area – operated by a number of ANG personnel in Emergency Operations Centers, Base Defense Operations Centers, Command Posts, Unit Control Centers as well as remotely. This cross functional use of the enterprise INWS demands ease of use and access, portability and total open architecture interoperability. Systems integration with the USG Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), use of Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standard (OASIS) Common Alert Protocol formats are necessary functions for the selected system. Per Department of Defense and FEMA standards, the system of record needs to both send and receive alerts which will be consumed, processed and issued 24/7 from multiple sources such as other DoD activities, National Weather Service, Local Emergency Management, and State entities such as Joint Operations Centers.
OBSERVATIONS: When the ANG Working Group coordinated with Howard Ryan and his team, one thing above all became apparent. Flexibility and a proactive approach to the task ahead. In fact, in many events, DTA was ahead of the game, with anticipated and tested solutions needed for local system architecture. Unlike other systems, DTA offered FULL INTEGRATION, not just some “third party outsourced API or weakly engineered patches”.
Initial ANG concerns regarding network security issues were quickly mitigated by the fact that DTA has all certifications / certificates to allow for smooth installation and operation. Several other systems ANG experienced required constant support, just to “limp along”. This is not acceptable when the reliability of a mission critical system is questioned. DTA is a user level system that uses standard plug-ins, middleware and components that already have been rigorously tested and approved, meeting the DoD information assurance mandates.
DTA staff checked in regularly at all of the initial ANG installation sites to ensure smooth operation. They encouraged ANG Wings to bring any challenges direct to the team! In most every case, a simple webinar and conference call was all that was needed to configure and install the system in times that impressed ANG network support personnel. It was this personal approach that won over often skeptical IT staff. DTA does not use on site engineers for this simple reason….it is easy! This all gets back to a cost effective risk mitigation that performs “as advertised”. Cost effectiveness is a real player in a budget environment where a program may go from a feast to famine in half of a budget cycle. For this reason again, ANG’s owning perpetual licenses at each base is a major deal!
We found that DTA being both virtual and physical in IT terms, was most preferable to other “cloud based” solutions. Though DTA DOES offer a tertiary cloud dependent system as backup, ANG found that a blended approach was superior in terms of reliability and survivability. Again, none of these approaches required any on-site DTA engineer to construct.
Another reason ANG embraced the DTA product was the fact of its one click capability. On the initial training session webinars, DTA claimed “one click, one minute or less notification” capability. This proved to be fact when systems across our bases stood up. The very makeup of ANG personnel weighed heavily in the fact that our folks go from active duty, fulltime technicians to traditional drilling reservists – high speed jet pilots to 17 year old high school recruits. Each needs some small degree of system knowledge. Most systems are not “user friendly”, but DTA broke that image immediately. All it took to get user level buy-in was a simple e-mail, and one point of contact within each organization to serve as a point of contact. When the system was rolled out during exercises, drills and training, we saw immediate command advocacy. They welcomed another way in which safe, timely operations would take place. One commander stated “DTA puts everyone on the same page right now!”
System selected must have existing network security certifications from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) DoD Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process (DIACAP) certified., be listed on the USAF Enterprise Approved Product List (AFEAPL) and possess appropriate Certificates of Networthiness (CoN), and Authority to Connect (ATC).
MEETING THE CHALLENGE: Fortunately for the Air National Guard, the National Guard Bureau’s Joint Communications Directorate (J-6) had been visionary and tenacious in their efforts to select and field a system. After much research, testing, development and vetting, selected the DESKTOP ALERT solution, purchasing a perpetual license agreement in FY2009. Fielding of the system began initially at Army National Guard Joint HQ units, followed by a robust ANG roll out in early 2010. This was accomplished by convening an Air National Guard Working Group, whose charge was developing a roadmap to fielding. The group was comprised of key representatives of communications, engineering, command post and emergency management career fields. The mission was to facilitate the way forward to fielding and address strategic and tactical considerations. The response to this additional tool in the force protection kit was well received, rapidly implemented at most ANG bases, and became the “silver bullet” of command, control and communications during times when moments are critical.
RESULTS: The impact of fielding the Desktop Alert solution was immediate and with impact. Commands all across the Air National Guard realized and leveraged the open yet secure functionality offered by this agile and capable system. Command level Emergency Management personnel worked closely with DTA technical staff to develop standard messages and templates.
UNEXPECTED RESULTS: When the ANG DTA solution was fielded, the level of utilization at installations varied greatly, with some base goals being complete single point annunciation of GIANT VOICE, computer messaging, telephony recall capability, mobile device integration, message board inclusion and peripheral device activation. Other ANG Bases chose to leverage only basic features to augment existing stand-alone capabilities.
A Fighter Wing adapts DTA to recall its members in minutes for a natural disaster response. Another Wing develops a unique “opt-in” feature to warn even off duty personnel to severe weather events. DTA’s interoperability with other situational awareness devices allows several ANG organizations to develop a wireless alerting method. One Wing even adapted DTA to provide instant pop-up information on the Base Commander’s video display network monitors.
DTA proved its flexibility time and time again. A modular, scalable system for all hazards and occasions- a “train how you fight” tool, as several ANG Wings made it the system of choice for alerts during exercises. This drove reduced response times and increased realism and thus sense of urgency. Bases demonstrated enhanced continuity of operations while connecting their DTA systems across the USA.
Instead of more complexity as system build-out was undertaken, DTA made certain simplicity and ease of operation were primary considerations. One example of this “complex simplicity” is the use of DTA at an installation as a security system to monitor its gate and door actuations. Digitally controlled Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems can be tied in. DTA is even looked to as a peripheral fire notification system, providing redundant alert of blazes. In many documented cases, DTA was installed; local innovation came to the forefront!
This widespread success was noted during Department of Defense Joint Service Integrated Vulnerability Assessments in 2013 recognized an ANG Wing with a benchmark for its DTA anchored integrated INWS. A 2014 inspection by the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command noted that the DTA system had “exceeded the AF time standard for notification by some 90 percent” when an IG team member witnessed DTA activation on site, during an actual emergency. The alert message was passed and displayed within ONE MINUTE of the emergency. In this case, it was a hazardous materials involved situation, so time really mattered!
THE FUTURE…and beyond: The world of communications has changed greatly in the few short years since DTA became part of the Air National Guard. This has driven DTA to integrate two- way mobile applications for most all accepted devices. iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile and even Kindle. It’s produced interface software and relays to connect to a number of virtual, physical and mechanical systems, this advancing flexibility to ANG bases looking for unique, custom tailored solutions. There seems to be absolutely no limitation to the versatility of ANG DTA system.
DTA’s fortified build makes it resilient to increased cyber threats, thus insuring to the highest degree possible, sustainable, survivable operability on defense and civil networks. Updates to the system are made regularly and as needed to allow the system to remain viable and high functioning. Future ANG features may include personalized AI directed alert pathways, social media aggregation, augmented reality alert depictions, remote sensor integration and EM software integration.
During FY14/15, Air National Guard realized the value of DTA capability. NGB A6 provided units funding for on-going support and system enhancement.
CONCLUSIONS: The Air National Guard faced a huge challenge implementing a massive critical enterprise-wide solution in meeting Federal mandated, mission predicated INWS. The overall goal was achieved, and surpassed, with the system garnering “best seen to date” and benchmark level recognition from top defense infrastructure inspectors. The DTA system met and exceeded all requirements, grew to meet demands of the dynamic environment and adapted to meet emerging threats and requirements.
Whether it was fully integrated into a multi-faceted system or used within an enclave to bolster existing mass warning assets, the ANG Desktop Alert system has increased force protection, decreased costs, reduced vital warning times and proven to be a flexible and reliable investment to shield a valuable personnel and resources.
- Air National Guard enterprise was not in compliance with Federal directives for emergency notification. Many bases relying solely on e-mail, chat and public address systems for warnings and notification.
- National Guard Bureau selects DESKTOP ALERT for both Army National Guard and Air National Guard solution, purchases cost effective perpetual licenses for all units.
- ANG Cross-Functional Working Group formed to provide leadership and subject matter expert input- fielding beginning in 2010 – Many units reach initial operational capability between 2011 and 2013.
- Base DTA utilization varied from basic to full integration. Common theme is ease of use. Works inside and outside base enclaves, interoperates at joint bases and uses common alert protocols.
- Computer pop-ups, e-mail, GIANT VOICE, text, telephone, smartphone, video and message board integration. Additional interoperability built in system upgrades.
- DoD and USAF MAJCOM Assessments and Inspections highlight benchmarks and best practices through DTA use. Multiple cases of real world success!
- ANG A6 realizes value and supports funding for DTA support and enhancement to units.
- Reliable, sustainable, supported, certified, flexible, interoperable and compliant Installation Notification and Warning System.