First Responders Sound Alarm on Cybersecurity, Disaster Preparedness

By Greg Tavarez January 18, 2024

Depending on who's asked, people's perceptions of first responders may vary. But from what I can tell, many associate calmness and support with these professionals. The nature of their work requires them to stay composed and focused in emergency situations. The ability to remain calm under pressure lets first responders make quick and effective decisions, provide assistance and maintain control of challenging situations.

However, a wave of anxiety is rippling through the ranks of America's first responders, fueled by vulnerabilities in their own technological infrastructure. A nationwide survey released by Mark43, a cloud-based public safety software company, reveals widespread concern about cybersecurity, disaster recovery and the overall resilience of IT systems critical to their work.

“We heard a resounding response from first responders across the country. They are concerned about their public safety agency’s ability to withstand cyberattacks and natural disasters, given the ever-increasing number and severity of bad actors attacking public infrastructure as well as the uptick in extreme weather incidents,” stated Matthew Polega, co-founder and president, Mark43.

In fact, in the 2024 U.S. Public Safety Trends Report, 82% of respondents expressed worry about their agency's data being compromised or locked down by ransomware, a 6% increase compared to the 2023 survey. This fear isn't unfounded – many reported experiencing cyberattacks firsthand, leaving them scrambling to contain breaches and restore essential services.

The report also reveals a deep-seated frustration with outdated and inadequate technology. Sixty-eight percent of respondents remain anchored to physical locations for essential paperwork. This reliance on antiquated systems leaves them vulnerable to power outages and natural disasters, potentially crippling operations during emergencies.

“Public safety professionals made it clear that they need access to modernized systems — like cloud-native CAD and RMS — to improve the security and resilience of their agencies, so they can respond faster to community members in need,” said Polega.

The survey's findings extend beyond internal concerns, with first responders urging broader action on a national level. A strong majority advocate for the adoption of federal standards for first responder IT security, reporting and efficiency.

This approach not only ensures consistency in IT security measures but also streamlines reporting protocols to create a more synchronized and efficient response mechanism. By fostering collaboration and adherence to common standards, the aim is to fortify the overall resilience of first responders in the face of diverse and evolving challenges.

Mark43, for example, delivers a modern, intuitive and mobile-first records management system, computer-aided dispatch and analytics platform. Working with more than 200 local, state and federal public safety agencies, Mark43 is helping first responders use technology to respond, engage and serve the community.

“Our 2024 U.S. Public Safety Trends Report shows that technology plays a central role in everything a public safety agency does, and by using Mark43 technology, police departments can improve the safety and quality of life for all,” Polega added.

The future of community safety hinges on ensuring first responders have the tools and resources they need to navigate an unpredictable world.

Edited by Alex Passett
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