Communications may not seem like an infrastructure challenge, but it’s absolutely an element of critical infrastructure that the government works to keep up and running, regardless of whatever attack, disaster, or issue comes to bear. Many people remember the feeling on September 11 when phone lines became overwhelmed (in the static days before many had cell phones). Not being able to reach a loved one is difficult enough, but when it comes to emergency communications, a busy or static line just isn’t an option.
When it comes to careers in emergency communications, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is at the helm of ensuring public communication networks remain operable. CISA provides the plans, tools, and resources for states and localities to keep their communications online.
It’s a need Robert “Dusty” Rhoades, Associate Director, Nationwide Governance Subdivision, Emergency Communications Division, CISA, understands intimately. He spent 33 years in the fire service and experienced first hand the need for the communication networks he now helps enable and support.
“The ability to communicate is something I recognize is life saving,” said Rhoades. “Generally the public assumes that if they dial 911, it’s just going to work. But there is an enormous amount of work behind the scenes to make sure that happens.”
Localities and municipalities may seem dependent upon their local area or network. But CISA works to ensure that regardless of where a disaster might happen, first responders have the proper tools to communicate.
“From a CISA perspective, we provide that level of assurance on how they can best build that resilience within their system,” said Rhoades.
CISA is focused on understanding the challenges and providing best practices that might not be accessible or known at a local level.
“We are focused on listening to the people that are doing this job every day, have learned the lessons, and then sharing those lessons with agencies across the nation lessons,” said Rhoades.
CISA isn’t just employing cybersecurity professionals to conduct that work, either, but actively seeks to onboard those with experience on the ground, working with the networks they support. A career with CISA can be a continuation of the type of service that attracted first responders initially. A career with CISA is a new mission, with the same ultimate goal.
“People in public safety recognize that they have a mission to keep people save,” said Rhoades. “Within CISA you have the opportunity to continue that mission to protect people, to protect the nation.”
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