Frequently Asked Questions

MEMBERSHIP ELIGIBILITY AND REQUESTING AN ACCOUNT                            

Who is eligible to join First Responder Communities of Practice?
Active and retired first responders, emergency response professionals, and federal, tribal, state, and local homeland security officials and others working in homeland security and preparedness may request a Communities of Practice account.  Prospective members must be vetted through a process that involves contacting a sponsor to verify his or her professional affiliation. When registering for an account, prospective members must choose their affiliation from the following list:
-    First Responder
-    Government Employee
-    Government-Sponsored Academia
-    Government-Sponsored Citizen
-    Government-Sponsored Contractor


How do I request an account on First Responder Communities of Practice?
Prospective members can request an account from the main landing page by clicking on the "Request Account" icon located below the Sign In box and filling in the request form.  All prospective members must provide an eligible sponsor.  If you are a first responder, you may use a fellow first responder or government employee.  All other potential members must provide the name of a government employee as their sponsor.

 
CONTACT/HELP                                            

Who can I contact for more information?

E-mail FR.Communities@hq.dhs.gov .

SITE SECURITY          

                                 
How secure is the site?
First Responder Communities of Practice provides members access to an online collaborative platform to share information, network with other vetted members, and collect and share resources.  Because the site may contain For Official Use Only (FOUO) or Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information, access to the site is limited to members who have been authorized and vetted by First Responder Communities of Practice personnel.

Members shall not post CLASSIFIED or LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE information or documents to the First Responder Communities of Practice under any circumstance.  In addition, it is the members' responsibility to exercise reasonable judgment when posting data to the system to avoid the creation of information that, if aggregated, could be considered SENSITIVE or CLASSIFIED.

While the site's landing page – https://communities.firstresponder.gov  - is available to the general public on the Internet (via a compatible Web browser), access to the interior is restricted to those who have been vetted and authorized by First Responder Communities of Practice personnel.  Additionally, members must identify and authenticate themselves to the site via a member logon and password.   If you have any questions about the security of the system, please contact fr.communities@hq.dhs.gov
.

What type of backup/disaster recovery features does the site provide?
The First Responder Communities of Practice team employs full image-level backups for all site data.  The full image-level backups are performed nightly from Monday through Friday every week.  This procedure ensures that the site always has a base lined image from the previous day, plus any changes made during the last 24 hours.  Also, each night the database backs up the backups of the last 6 days saved.

Who can I contact for more information on site security?
Please e-mail FR.Communities@hq.dhs.gov.


SITE POLICIES                                            

What are the Rules of Behavior?
The Rules of Behavior can be accessed here


Who can access my contact information?
First Responder Communities of Practice collects and stores member-provided personal identifiable information (PII), such as name, title, organization affiliation, work address, work e-mail address, and work phone number.

First Responder Communities of Practice must comply with any/all public information requests in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.  First Responder Communities of Practice does not rent, sell, or otherwise share PII with any nonaffiliated company or organization inside or outside the Federal government.

Only registered members have access to the site member directory, which displays certain professional contact information for all registered members within First Responder Communities of Practice.  This contact information is provided to facilitate collaboration, networking, and communication within the system.

First Responder Communities of Practice limits non-members' access to PII to approved individuals (DHS employees or contractors) who have an explicit and approved "need to know" access to the information in order to provide specialized system services, such as system and security administration or approved reporting.

All PII provided to First Responder Communities of Practice is access controlled and encrypted via FIPS 140.2-compliant technologies and methods.

Collection and storage of PII will be handled in accordance with policies prescribed by the DHS Privacy Office and the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, Public Law No. 93-579, (Dec. 31, 1974).



SITE FEATURES                                            

MAIN HOMEPAGE                                            

After my account is created, what can I do on the site?
The main homepage aggregates site activity and serves as a portal to the site's features, including communities, e-mail, profile, search, the member directory, and chat.

To access these features, use the Quick Links box on the upper left of the page, or explore the drop-down navigation bar at the top (the drop-down tabs are "Home," "Profile," "Communities," "Members," and "Inbox").

The Highlights Section at the top of the page broadcasts tips and news.  In addition, you can read about the site's newest features, read the external news feed, and check out the activity feed for the latest site activities on the homepage.

You'll want to create your create your profile, including discipline tags.  Next you can look under the "Communities" tab for "Available Communities" that interest you and join them.  Once you join, you can write and read blog posts, upload files, post discussion board questions share bookmarks and more.


PROFILES AND CONNECTIONS                                    

What is a profile?
The profile is a member's public "face" to other members on the site.  Profiles contain personal, professional, and contact information for site members.  Profile information includes information provided by the member when registering, as well as additional information the member may provide once an active member of the site.

Required fields are:

•    First Name
•    Last Name
•    E-mail
•    Discipline and Expertise Tags
•    Organization Name
•    Job Title
•    Primary Work Zip
•    Primary Work City
•    Primary Work State

•    Employer Information
 
Optional fields are:

•    Photo
•    Retired Status
•    Professional Bio
•    Associations
•    Certifications
•    Interests
•    Education Information
•    Activities


Once I create my account, can I change my e-mail address or password?
Your initial member name is the e-mail address you used to register.  Once an active member, you may change your e-mail and/or password within the Edit Profile page.  Passwords must be at least eight characters long and have a combination of letters (both upper- and lower-case), numbers, and special characters.  Null passwords are not allowed.  In accordance with DHS policy, passwords must be changed every 90 days and the new password cannot be the same as any of your last eight passwords.
 
Can I share my login information with other people in my organization?
No, your login is yours alone.  Sharing your login information would constitute a violation of the site Rules of Behavior, which state "Users shall not impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent themselves or any data they put on the system."

MEMBER DIRECTORY                                        

How do I search for other members?
The Member Directory is used to find members by name, location, e-mail address, or discipline/expertise.

There are two ways to access the Member Directory:
(1)    From the main homepage, click on the "Search Colleagues" button in the Quick Links box.
OR
(2)  From anywhere on the site, click "Member Directory" under the "MEMBERS" navigation tab.



COMMUNITIES                                            

What is a Community?
A Community is a dedicated space for members to communicate and collaborate on a particular topic or project.  Each Community is equipped with a discussion board, a wiki, a documents folder, a calendar, a blog, and bookmarks.  Communities aggregate activity around a particular topic or mission.  No technical expertise is required to add and update content in a Community, and anyone who joins a Community can contribute content.    

Where can I find a listing of the available communities?
A list of all available communities is available on the homepage

COMMUNITY DOCUMENTS                                    

Community members can quickly upload, add, edit, modify, and delete documents if they are a member of the Community to which they wish to add content.  Community Administrators may add, edit, or delete categories within the document repository and the discussion tools.  Community members may add sub-categories to the Document Library and discussion tools as well.

What types of documents are allowed?
Members shall not post CLASSIFIED or LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE information or documents to the First Responder Communities of Practice under any circumstance.  In addition, it is the members' responsibility to exercise reasonable judgment when posting data to the system to avoid the creation of information that, if aggregated, could be considered SENSITIVE or CLASSIFIED.
What is the size limit on uploaded documents?

The platform supports documents up to 25MB.


What types of files can I upload?
You can upload files in the following file extensions: .bmp, .doc (Microsoft Office Word), .docx (Microsoft Office Word 2007), .dot (Microsoft Office Word Template), .dotx (Microsoft Office Word Template 2007),  .gif (Graphic Interchange Format), .jpg (JPEG/JIF), .odb (OpenOffice Base), .odf (OpenDocument Format), .odg (OpenDocument Drawing), .odp (OpenDocument Presentation), .ods (OpenDocument Spreadsheet), .odt (OpenDocument Text), .pdf (Portable Document Format), .png (Portable Network Graphic), .pot (Microsoft Office PowerPoint Template), .potx (Microsoft Office PowerPoint Template 2007), .ppt (Microsoft Office PowerPoint), .pptx (Microsoft Office Powerpoint2007), .rtf (Rich Text Format), .sxc (StarOffice Spreadsheet), .sxi (StarOffice Presentation), .sxw (StarOffice Writer), .tif (Tagged Image File), .tiff (Tagged Image File Format), .vsd (Microsoft Office Visio Drawing), .xls (Microsoft Office Excel), .xlsx (Microsoft Office Excel 2007), .xlt (Microsoft Office Excel Template), .xltx (Microsoft Office Excel Template 2007), .xml (Extensible Markup Language)


COMMUNITY WIKI                                            

What is a wiki?
A wiki is a Web page that allows any member of a Community to contribute content, edit, and make changes using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, similar to the Microsoft Word interface.  Wikis can be used to collaborate on documents, agendas, outlines and more.  The most famous example of a wiki is Wikipedia, an online "living" encyclopedia that allows Internet users to modify and add to entries in real time.  

How could I use the wiki?
The wiki is designed to integrate the thoughts and comments of all Community members.  To get started, you can add the purpose of your Community, some basic information, definitions, goals, and even questions you would like answered.  You can also add to the Wiki by creating child pages and adding hyperlinks to assist members in navigating between pages.

You can use the wiki to collaborate on a draft document with your members by posting the text and asking members to edit and add comments.  Members may either edit the wiki page directly or provide comments below the wiki page.


COMMUNITY DISCUSSION BOARD                                

What is a Discussion on Communities of Practice?
Discussions allow for online conversations around ideas, questions, topics, etc. to capture and share knowledge of the group.  Members are able to subscribe to specific discussion threads or categories to receive notices via e-mail of discussion replies and new topics (See SUBSCRIPTIONS, below, for how to subscribe).  

All members can view the content of an open Community's discussions, but only Community members can add, edit, and comment on threads.  Forum content can be deleted only by the individual who created it, the Application Administrator, or DHS S&T Program Management.  Members can rate discussion threads by providing feedback through a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" of the thread.  



COMMUNITY BLOG                                            

What is a blog?
Short for "weblog," a blog is an online journal used to make announcements, write commentary, and otherwise push information to interested people.  Blogs can be used by Community members and administrators for announcements and opinion pieces, as well as to call attention to new content added to other Community tools, etc.  Members can comment on blogs to further engage in discussion.

How do create a blog entry?
1)    Blogs can be accessed by clicking on the "Blog" link found on the navigation bar at the top of Community homepages.
2)    Click "Add Blog Entry" on the upper right side of the wiki.  
3)    The add blog entry page uses a similar interface to Microsoft Word.  Add tags if desired.
4)    If desired, subscribe to the Community's blog to receive an e-mail notice when new blog entries are posted (see SUBSCRIPTIONS).  



COMMUNITY CALENDAR                                        

What is the calendar?
The platform includes a shared calendar within each Community.  This allows Community members to create, manage, and share events.  All events are visible to the entire Community.  Events added by Community administrators are signified by a dot below the date on the calendar.  When creating a calendar event, you may choose to receive a notification of the event and set the frequency at which the reminder is sent.


COMMUNITY BOOKMARKS


What are bookmarks?
Bookmarks are external links to Web resources of interest to a Community. They are a good way of aggregating several sources into a central location for easy access and storage.  Although stored within Communities of Practice, bookmark links redirect the viewer to the external Webpage.

COMMUNITY ADMINISTRATOR FAQs

    
What does being a Community Administrator involve?
Community Administrators serve as site champions and points of contact for members within a Community on topics such as policy, outreach, and support.  However, acting as a Community Administrator shouldn't take up too much of your time.  The Community Administrator helps keep the Community conversation going, but all members should contribute in order for the Community to be successful.  Community Administrator responsibilities include the following:
•    Inviting members to join the Community
•    Encouraging member activity and participation within the Community
•    Alerting Application Administrators and/or DHS S&T Program Management when Rules of Behavior violations are suspected or reported and recommending inappropriate content for removal
•    Providing guidance and support to Community members should they require assistance with Community process and procedures
•    Being aware that the Community could be suspended or terminated due to inactivity or lack of participation
•    Editing Community information
•    Communicating with Community members through broadcast email messages
•    Reviewing and moderating flagged items and taking appropriate action as needed
•    Ensuring the purpose and focus for a particular Community is up-to-date
•    Setting up the Community (e.g., file structure, repository, forums, initial wiki configuration, etc.)
•    Assisting in the identification and upload of applicable content


Who can I contact for help?
Write to FR.Communities@hq.dhs.gov for assistance.