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A Fix for First Reponders

"The Sept. 11 commission found: "Command and control decisions were affected by the lack of knowledge of what was happening 30, 60, 90, and 100 floors above. According to one of the [fire] chiefs in the lobby, 'One of the most critical things in a major operation like this is to have information. We didn't have a lot of information coming in. We didn't receive any reports of what was seen from the . . . helicopters. It was impossible to know how much damage was done on the upper floors, whether the stairwells were intact or not.' . . . 'People watching on TV certainly had more knowledge of what was happening a hundred floors above us than we did in the lobby.' "

In the past few weeks, we have seen an even more devastating breakdown in emergency communications, as phone lines, cell towers and electrical systems were wracked by Hurricane Katrina, making it nearly impossible at times for many first responders and government officials on the Gulf Coast to talk to each other. Many emergency officials had to resort to runners to communicate with first responders in the field.

With all the technology innovations of recent years, how is it that first responders, those we depend on when disaster strikes, are still unable to adequately communicate with each other during an emergency, while we are able to watch the crisis unfold on our television sets? It's because public officials have yet to get serious about developing and funding a safety communications system for all local, state and federal first responders. This reality became all too clear during the bungled response to Katrina."

As a ex-911 Dispatcher for twelve years, who worked through Andrew and a few other storms, I cannot agree more with this article and what it's saying. Although our technology in communications has come a long way since 9/11, it's still not up to standard with the kind of Disaster we saw in Katrina. Yet we have to understand that under some conditions communication simply isn't possible - not with our current technology.

Even with all the technology that we currently have -wireless, VOIP, satellite, microwave, NONE of them will work well in a CAT 3 storm, if at all. When it comes down to it, like it or not, communications on this earth are extremely prone to conditions. Therefore what is needed is money to fund research into new communications technologies. We already have a ton of legislation already passed or pending which you can view here, as well as other FCC information here

As we saw in 9/11 the radio system for NYPD and the NYFD failed miserably. The reason was simply an antiquated system based on a antiquated idea of communications. While our technology has become more complex, our basic idea of communication has remained amazingly archaic. Even so again, conditions on the ground will often dictate how good the system is going to work.

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