Commonwealth Interoperability Coordinator’s Office (CICO)

What is Interoperability?

Interoperability is the ability for key public safety personnel to talk with one another via communication systems – to exchange voice and/or data with one another on demand and in real time, whenever necessary.

The lack of interoperable wireless communications systems has affected public safety organizations for decades. In many cases, public safety personnel do not have adequate radio spectrum (channels or frequencies) or hardware/equipment to perform mission-critical duties. Emergency responders are then unable to communicate or share critical voice and data information with other jurisdictions or disciplines during natural disasters, emergency response scenarios, terrorist acts, or day-to-day operations.

Virginia has made great strides in improving communications interoperability for public safety.

In 2004, the Commonwealth of Virginia partnered with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) SAFECOM program to develop a stakeholder-driven approach to tackling communications interoperability issues. Working with DHS, Virginia was the first state in the country to create a Statewide Strategic Plan for Interoperable Communications, which was later renamed the Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP). The SCIP has been recognized nationally as a best practice for communications interoperability planning, and Virginia’s initial efforts resulted in recognition by both DHS and SAFECOM. That same year, the Commonwealth established the Commonwealth Interoperability Coordinator’s Office (CICO), an office dedicated to focusing on interoperable communications efforts for localities, regions, and state agencies. Because communications interoperability is a top priority in the state, Virginia placed the CICO within the Office of Commonwealth Preparedness, now part of the Office of Public Safety & Homeland Security, and hired the first full-time interoperability coordinator in the nation.