Thursday, December 22, 2005

Congress earmarks funds for interoperable communications: "Interoperable communications for first responders gets a boost in two pieces of legislation moving through Congress. A budget reconciliation bill, approved by the House Monday, includes a new $1 billion federal grant program for police and fire agency interoperable communications to be funded by the public auction of radio spectrum. The Senate is expected to vote on the Deficit Reduction Act (S1932) this week. "

Monday, December 19, 2005

SAFECOM Baseline Survey - Public comments solicited: "The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is soliciting public comment on the Office of Systems Engineering and Development SAFECOM Interoperability Baseline Survey."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

In NYC, communication issues fixed: "Police and firefighters can communicate during emergencies in New York City, officials said Monday as a federal report decried the lack of such communications on a national level."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Communications gap persists: "Disaster planners in Pierce County [WA] have long known their version of Hurricane Katrina would not be a hurricane. It might well be a major earthquake. Or it might be a huge mudflow that breaks loose without warning from Mount Rainier’s west flank – a lahar that swallows everything in its path and buries the Puyallup Valley floor, where some 60,000 people live. Officials are also aware that communication won’t be as smooth as they’d like during a lahar. They’d have to follow strict protocol and be careful not to tie up radio frequencies"
Hurricanes a boost for Integrated Wireless Network: "Prospects might be brightening slightly for procurement activity on the multibillion-dollar federal Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) as a result of lessons learned from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The new national network, which may take 15 years to build and has a price tag estimated at up to $10 billion, would bring together federal law enforcement agents from the Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury departments into a single wireless infrastructure. "

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mesh Network Market May See Tenfold Growth in Five Years: "Wireless mesh networking looks set to achieve a stellar growth rate by the end of the decade, but most of the growth will be in market segments not served by existing infrastructure. According to a new study from ABI Research, the increase will mostly come from deployments by alternative service providers and municipalities, rather than incumbent service providers. There will also be some 'campus' style deployments in academic, corporate and resort environments, as well as temporary rollouts at conferences or fairs."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NASCIO: Governance Models to Advance Communications Interoperability: "National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) announced the release of its new research brief, We Need to Talk: Governance Models to Advance Communications Interoperability. A product of NASCIO's Interoperability and Integration Committee, this brief is intended to provide an overview of the challenges states face in developing communications interoperability initiatives."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dutch trial SMS disaster alert system: "The Dutch government is testing a mobile phone danger alert system that sends text messages to people who could be affected by natural disasters or terrorist attacks. The system, called Cell Broadcast, uses GSM technology to identify cell phone users in a particular area. If a disaster occurs, a message is sent to all phones in the area, warning of the danger."
Progress being made in radio communications: "SAN DIEGO – Significant progress has been made in the past year in creating standards for interoperable radio communications for first responders, a top federal communications official said today. For the first time, we’re able to say things are changing, things are moving,” said Dereck Orr, program manager of the Office of Law Enforcement Standards at the National Institute of Standards and Technology."
Senate approves 700 MHz bill: "By a vote of 52-47, the U.S. Senate yesterday approved a bill that would make 700 MHz spectrum available to public-safety and commercial wireless operators on April 7, 2009. After being passed by the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 20, nothing was changed in the bill on the Senate floor. However, the committee version did not address funding allocations if the 700 MHz auction generates more than $10 billion, which is the current congressional estimate. Amendments on the Senate floor earmarked funding if the auction exceeds this threshold."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lessons from Katrina (GovTech): "Was Katrina such a catastrophic event that its effects couldn't be mitigated by better preparation or communication? No one was prepared to go that far. Questions about interoperability were quickly rebuffed -- how can there be interoperability when first responders in the same agency couldn't even talk to one another? "
Sprint Says It Remains Committed to iDEN: "While not speaking specifically to reports that the U.S. Department of Defense plans to purchase the network infrastructure of Sprint Nextel's iDEN network, a company spokesman says the carrier is 'committed' to iDEN. Sprint spokesman John Polivka tells Wireless Week that the report is a rumor. 'We do not comment on rumor and speculation,' he says. Polivka did offer, however, that Sprint Nextel is committed to the iDEN network and building it out."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Communications interoperability issues dominate hearing: "Obstacles to achieving seamless communications between police, fire, ambulance and other first-responder agencies prompted sharp comments from lawmakers during a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing today. "

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Katrina's wake leaves response agencies with a mission: close coordination gaps: "Hurricane Katrina has left in its wake a heightened awareness of the many IT-related gaps in emergency response systems in the Gulf Coast regions, and most likely in other communities throughout the nation.

Shortcomings were rampant among the systems handling emergency communications, disaster resource management, situational awareness, patient tracking, disease surveillance and post-disaster family reunification, experts said. "

Saturday, October 08, 2005

NLETS Goes Cisco: "On [Sept 28th], Cisco Systems Inc. announced that [NLETS], the International Justice and Public Safety Information Sharing Network, has been upgraded to a standards-based Cisco Internet Protocol (IP) network. The network delivers transmissions over the network in a matter of seconds, with greater security and enhanced capabilities."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Comments on Gartner's blog - Hurricanes: The Impact

I'm glad to see Rich's response to some of the media hype about public safety communications during and following Hurricane Katrina, particularly in response to the Reed/Malamud article. His points are very accurate in my experience. Curiously, some of that is technical mountain rescue, too. I guess remote emergencies test technology much like disaster operations!

The most unfortunate part of rhetoric following Hurricane Katrina is that it obscures the true complexity of public safety communications problems that have been documented in depth by very thoughtful and well-intentioned researchers for years. Rich is right about simple=good. That's about the only sure bet.

On Thursday, New York State announced initiation of the project to build its Statewide Wireless Network (NYS SWN). It has approved a 20-year, $2 billion contract following release of an extensive RFP over three years ago. It will serve public safety and other governmental radio needs across the state, but not all of them. The complexity and cost of a system that all state and local public safety agencies in New York used would be considerably greater - assuming that everyone's very real operation needs could be met without the project collapsing under its own weight.

A national network of similar coverage and local capacity would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. As Rich notes, consider the cost and effort of building the equivalent of another national cellular system - but one that also covers areas that no cellular company could justify through ROI and in depth guaranteeing that no fireman in, say, New York City would get a busy signal the next time thousands of responders end up working in the area of a few square blocks. Now build that system so that it not only penetrates the dense urban jungle, shopping malls, casinos oozing radio frequency interference (RFI), and subways, but also the dense natural forests that absorb RF energy like electromagnetic sponges.

Multiply that cost and complexity by 60,000 police, fire, and EMS agencies serving the local jurisdictions that we as Americans jealously guard for "home rule" - each with natural public safety missions that we depend on.

Public safety communications is a broad and complex subject. It's a disservice to all those who depend on radios to serve and protect to suggest it's anything less.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Senate bill seeks survivable communications: "The Assure Emergency and Interoperable Communications for First Responders Act of 2005 would create a grant program to help develop and implement interoperable communications systems at the state and local levels. The bill would earmark $400 million in 2006 and increase funding annually to about $1 billion by 2010 for a total of $3.3 billion. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the committee’s ranking minority member, sponsored the bill. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) also signed the bill.

The bill would create an Office for Emergency Communications, Interoperability and Compatibility within the Homeland Security Department. It would be responsible for promoting interoperability and establishing communications when terrorist attacks or natural disasters damage an area’s communications and power infrastructures."
In Katrina's Wake, Ham Radio Triumphs: "Wireless technology, while relatively new to many consumers, is of course not new at all. A few (very) old-timers remember the original 'wireless' of radio. The revolution wrought by the pioneers of wireless changed the world then, and the technology behind that revolution has been re-invented and re-applied time and again. Its pre-eminent incarnation today is our near-ubiquitous wireless communications infrastructure, which has freed us from the shackles of landlines and made our mobile lifestyles possible. Technology truly is great stuff.

Until, of course, a monster hurricane comes along to render it nearly useless. Here we see a scenario in which a flood literally swept away the new. As Hurricane Katrina's fury hammered the Gulf states on August 29, the communications infrastructure took a devastating hit. Telephone service, including wireless, became at first intermittent and then unusable in many localities. Where there was phone service, 911 switchboards were often unreachable due to the massive volume of calls. The response of local authorities, now termed 'confused' by deposed FEMA chief Michael Brown, wasn't helping much. The Gulf Coast was about to descend into darkness, chaos, and, worst of all for many, silence."
Radio upkeep is no small task in New Orleans: "To make sure nothing goes wrong during their Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, some public safety officials and M/A-COM technicians have gone so far as to sleep near the systems they’re trying to repair. Since Katrina hit Aug. 29, the company, which installed the city’s 800 MHz first responder radio system, has been supplying fuel for generators and repairing and maintaining tower sites."
Getting on-air in New Orleans: "Jan Edwards' heart sank when he saw the roadblock. It was Aug. 31, two days after the New Orleans police radio network was knocked down to 10 percent of its capacity by Hurricane Katrina. Edwards, a repair technician for M/A-Com of Lowell, desperately wanted to help. But at a causeway into New Orleans, state police and sheriff's deputies were turning away all vehicles. He didn't even have a chance to show them the letter he had from city officials granting him access.

It wasn't until two days later or so that M/A-Com was able to get a technician to the roof of a 39-story office tower near the Superdome and put a key antenna back online. The struggles of M/A-Com, which is owned by Tyco International Ltd., are just one component of the massive challenge workers face to restore infrastructure and make New Orleans safe. In the early 1990s, M/A-Com built a $26 million radio system for the city's police and fire departments and has maintained it since."
Grant to Help City Broaden NYC Radio Network: "A $6 million federal grant has been awarded to expand an emergency response radio network used by police officers, firefighters and other city workers to their counterparts in several suburban counties, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday. The Department of Justice grant is intended to broaden the existing UHF analog radio network, developed largely after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center revealed serious gaps in the ability of the police and firefighters to communicate during an emergency."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: first responders and large-scale crises: "As a result of the deadly and catastrophic events occurring in Louisiana and Mississippi, this appears to be a good time to look at what steps were taken by the Homeland Security Department prior to Hurricane Katrina.

The events of September 11, 2001, resulted in a greater focus on the role of first responders in carrying out the nation's emergency management efforts. The Department of Homeland Security is the primary federal entity responsible for ensuring that first responders, such as police, fire, emergency medical and public health personnel, have the capabilities needed to provide a coordinated, comprehensive response to any large-scale crisis."

Monday, September 19, 2005

A PDA in hand ...: "Four years ago, New York City's police and firefighters were unable to communicate with one another during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because of incompatible radios. As a result, many of them died and interoperability became a national priority. But more than two weeks ago, Hurricane Katrina's devastating effects on the Gulf Coast forced first responders and government officials to think about something else: How do you communicate in an area with no infrastructure or power?"
Congress Members Call for National System: "It was four years ago this month that our brave police officers, firefighters and other emergency response personnel raced into the smoldering buildings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to try to save the lives of thousands. Unfortunately, their efforts were hindered by a communications system that failed to allow these first responders to communicate with each other, something known as 'interoperability.'"

Sunday, September 18, 2005

PluggedIn: Technology that took on a hurricane: "While big media covered the mass destruction brought by Hurricane Katrina with helicopter images and satellite weather maps, blogs have been telling stories with similar force, but on a much more personal level. Linking to the Internet's global computer network with a combination of old-school and newfangled technologies -- namely backyard diesel generators, mobile phones and stubborn will -- several web sites related often graphic first-hand accounts and snapshots."
COPS OFFICE AWARDS $92.7 MILLION TO HELP FIRST RESPONDERS COMMUNICATE: "The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) today awarded $92.7 million to 26 law enforcement agencies to develop interoperable communications networks that enable emergency service personnel to communicate directly during crises. The grants will offset the cost of purchasing voice and data communications equipment, enhancing communications infrastructures, and project management."
FCC’s Martin calls for new public-safety bureau: "FCC Chairman Kevin Martin yesterday proposed establishing a new bureau within the FCC focused on public safety and homeland security after commissioners listened to three hours of testimony about communications struggles related to Hurricane Katrina."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Harris Corporation's Metadata Approach Breaks New Ground in Intelligent Content Delivery: "In creating a new approach to content delivery, Harris Corporation (NYSE: HRS) is applying an intelligent 'instructional' layer to content metadata in its H-Class(TM) Content Delivery Platform, raising the bar for how metadata can be used to support workflow efficiency and new service provisioning. This novel approach dictates how metadata is utilized throughout the entire media life cycle -- through creation and ingest to consumption -- by applying behavioral attributes that record and measure how content is being used. This includes instructions on where that content is to playout -- to whom and what specific format or device. As a result, media and entertainment customers are able to unify every element of the digital supply chain from production through to management, distribution and delivery in order to realize additional revenue through more efficient content delivery.

[Ed. Note: Can public safety content be far behind?]"

Friday, September 09, 2005

After Katrina: Congressman Slams Comms Funding: "Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) late yesterday called on the White House to fund and implement an interoperable, inter-agency communication network for first responders in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast region of the United States. In a letter to President George W. Bush, Stupak cited widely reported communications-system breakdowns and inadequacies among military personnel and other emergency service workers as one of many reasons for his demand."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Charlottesville Fire Department to Assist with Katrina Communications Needs: "Charlottesville,Virginia Fire Department is sending equipment and personnel to hurricane Ravaged Gulf Coast by way of an Interoperability Unit to assist with communications,effective immediately. Extensive destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina has created severe challenges with communications and the Charlottesville Fire Department is deploying its communications interoperability unit to either Louisiana or Mississippi to aid rescue and law enforcement in the relief efforts."
New Orleans radio system flooded: "Operation of the New Orleans police radio system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has been plagued not only by floodwaters but by a lack of natural gas to power generators. Not only that, Louisiana State Police turned away repair technicians when they attempted to reach the city, according to an on-scene report the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International relayed to Federal Computer Week."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Emergency communications wiped out in many areas: "Urban and search rescue teams from neighboring states are finding that some areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina lack any communications infrastructure and coordinated command and control efforts."
New Orleans Cops Use Single Radio Channel: "When the phones don't work, improvise. That's what emergency responders and civilians were forced to do in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which trashed the telephone system on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. Police in New Orleans, their main communications system knocked out, have been taking turns talking on a single radio channel with their walkie talkies. The Mississippi National Guard even resorted to ancient battlefield tactics, sending runners back and forth among commanders with information."
"Local emergency teams resist plain-language radio rules": "A month before the United States begins tying antiterrorism grants to recipients' observance of a new national emergency system, U.S. officials are cautioning state and local agencies against 'continued resistance' to the system. As of Oct. 1, prospective recipients of federal terrorism grants must show 'good-faith efforts' to implement the National Incident Management System, Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Don Jacks said Thursday. Full compliance with the system is required after a year."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Google IM Not Talking to Other Jabbers: "Google's much anticipated open standards-based IM client has launched, but apparently without support for interconnecting with other users on non-Google, open-source Jabber servers. The beta version of the IM service, called Google Talk, uses the Jabber XMPP (define) protocol, which is supposed to allow for easy interoperability between other Jabber XMPP servers and users."
Funding levels to help emergency systems 'talk' differ (8/17/05): "The House and Senate must negotiate a significant gap in funding for a new security initiative to help emergency responders across state and federal jurisdictions talk to each other. The House in May endorsed a $30.8 billion spending measure for the Homeland Security Department for fiscal 2006 that includes $41.5 million for the new interoperability and compatibility office. The Senate, which passed a similar version of the appropriations bill in July, backed only $15 million for the office. President Bush requested $20.5 million. The two chambers plan to negotiate the final number this fall.

Despite cutting $5.5 million from Bush's request, Senate appropriators conceded in their committee report on the spending bill that the 'lack of true interoperability within public-safety communications remains a critical stumbling block to effective response in multi-discipline, multi-jurisdictional emergencies.' The Senate cut funding for several Homeland Security programs to direct more resources toward countering weapons of mass destruction and bolstering border security."
Next-gen telecom brings bounty to vendors and local governments: "State and local governments are beginning a major retooling of their telecom infrastructures, replacing legacy systems, boosting connect speeds and, with an array of state-of-the-art wireless devices, untethering deskbound civil servants. When complete, the upgrades are meant to let local governments rapidly respond to terrorist threats and improve e-government services to citizens. Vendors and system integrators that win contracts to design and install these systems will be key players in local governments' planned transformation. According to Jim Krouse, manager of market analysis for IT research firm Input Inc. of Reston, Va., governments' adoption of wireless and voice over IP technologies 'will change the dynamics of the market in the next three years. Telecom markets [will move] into one of the most dynamic periods in their history ... Systems integrators are in an excellent position for significant work.'"
9/11 Tapes Reveal Communications Chaos: "A court ordered release of the New York City Fire Department radio communications from the events of September 11, 2001 revealed 15 hours of horrific chaos, confusion and frustration. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI), who introduced the Public Safety Interoperability Implementation Act, expressed sympathy for those who lost their lives as a result, but also stressed the need for essential funding to ensure critical communications investments occur to prevent such outcomes."
New Jersey's Interoperability Communications System Helps Secure Transportation During Orange Alert: "The New Jersey Interoperability Communications System (NJICS) provided inter-agency communications for over 15 agencies activated as a result of the Orange alert response for New York and New Jersey transportation systems said Chief Raymond Hayling of the New Jersey Attorney General's Office today.

Hudson County's Rapid Deployment Team, which is comprised of law enforcement officers from over 15 agencies, was deployed to over 10 crossings between New York and New Jersey. These deployments included working with the U.S. Coast Guard to protect and patrol the waterways between New York City and several Hudson County locations. Managing communications between 15 different agencies can be challenging, however, the NJICS supported the entire operation and made communications seamless."
Center for Digital Government: "New Strategy Paper From the Center for Digital Government Examines the Need for Federal, State and Local Governments to Create Safer Communities Through Mutual Aid and Critical Communications Interoperability

Community emergencies -- from wild fires and floods to accidents and acts of terrorism -- underscore the importance of mutual aid among law enforcement and other responding agencies. The decades-old practice of mutual aid is rooted in the historic American ethic of 'neighbors helping neighbors.' The prospects for modern mutual aid are often frustrated by the inability of neighbors to talk to each other. At issue is the lack of interoperability among dissimilar communications systems used by various agencies. The need for multi-agency coordination and interoperability, where public safety officials can share information in a secure, real-time digital environment, is the subject of a new strategy paper from the Center for Digital Government, 'Getting the Green Light: Safer Communities Through Mutual Aid and Critical Communications Interoperability.'"
Interoperability pays, in more ways than one: "DENVER--It may not be happening as quickly as many had hoped, but there is growing evidence that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding is reaching communities to pay for better and interoperable communications.

Denver--host to this year's Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) annual conference--is a prime example, as area communities have received $30 million in DHS funding. The Denver area's success in securing this money has been largely attributable to the communities' willingness to work together, as federal directives have made it clear that homeland-security projects that include cooperative efforts should be moved to the front of the funding line.

With this in mind, Denver-area public-safety entities have formed a regional group that identifies and prioritizes projects to be submitted for grants, most of which do not require entities to provide local matching funds, said Dana Hansen, superintendent of communications for the Denver police department."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Illinois firefighters go high-tech: "Orland Fire Protection District's emergency responders are testing state-of-the-art technology aimed at improving communication among first reponders. The district is the first service agency in the nation to implement the Motorola Fireground Communications System. Firefighters recently tried out the system at the district's 163rd Street training center. The equipment includes 35 portable radios that can be configured to relay information to display on laptop computers each firefighter's name, sector assignment and riding position."
North Smart radios to the Rescue!: "A group of developers at Stevens Institute's Wireless Network Security Center recently came up with a potential solution they hope to market through a start-up called Attila Technologies, LLC.

It's essentially a super-powered cellphone. Known as an intelligent radio, or software-defined radio, the units are able to scour the airwaves and find unused frequencies, switching to another frequency if the airwaves become crowded.

The Attila radio 'allows you to find what [portion of the airwaves] is available to transmit over,' said Helena Wisniewski, Attila's chairman and vice president of Stevens' technology initiatives office."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Maine prepares for the worst: "Maine has identified a number of ways in which it can substantially improve its emergency communication system, a process that has been underway since the ice storm of 1998, with added momentum since 9/11. However, much more remains to be done before a new 21st century network emerges. In this series, I will examine how much progress has been made, and what lies ahead."
Raytheon Awarded Contract Valued Up to $6.6 Million to Support the Fire Department of New York in Modernizing Incident Command Systems: "Raytheon Company has been awarded a contract by iXP Corporation to design and develop the Portable Electronic Command Board System (PECB) program that will overhaul the Fire Department of New York's (FDNY) manual command boards by using wireless technology. The PECB will enable FDNY commanders to quickly and efficiently manage firefighters, equipment, emergency medical teams, and other emergency personnel during emergency situations. Raytheon's portion of the contract is valued at up to $6.6 million over the three-year life of the contract."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Digital radio links may guard Bay Area: "Oakland and San Francisco are proposing digital radio links across and around the Bay, with computers and radio repeaters for making incompatible radios talk to one another, as a linchpin of a new emergency communications network from Monterey to Sacramento. While the two sides of the Bay have worked together on less ambitious radio plans, such as crisis communications on the Golden Gate Bridge, the latest proposal marks the first crossBay effort since the Sept. 11 attacks to create emergency communications for the entire region."
Oregon Senate Committee Passes Bill To Improve Homeland Security: "Critical legislation to protect Oregonians in the event of terrorism or natural disasters cleared a key Senate Budget panel Wednesday and is headed to the Senate floor on Monday. The legislation addresses Oregon's inadequate and antiquated communications infrastructure."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Miami-Dade Police go high-tech with laptops: "With the click of a button, Miami-Dade police Officer Zeida Cabado can find out whether a person is wanted for a crime. With another, she can see a list of emergency calls waiting to be answered. One more click and she can get directions to the location of her next emergency call. All of this is done from inside her police car while she is out on patrol.

Thanks to advances in wireless technology and improved data systems, police officers in the field are no longer as reliant on their radios to get information. Instead, they can access a mobile network that uses the latest technology to improve response times and efficiency."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Chicago blazes affordable path to radio interoperability: "Radio network interoperability: It's not just a convenience; it's a matter of life and death. If police, fire and EMS crews cannot talk to each other, the margin for error — and loss of life — can be profound. Chicago's municipal government knows this well. In the two-mile-square downtown area known as the “Loop,” “Thirty to 35 public safety agencies operate on a daily basis,” said Rich Nowakowski, but adding, “None of them can talk to each other.”"

Sunday, July 17, 2005 / Home UK - Learning the lessons of 9/11: "One of the many lessons learned from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 was that poor communications severely hampered the effectiveness of rescue workers and compounded the tragedy. Public safety bodies are thus taking a close look at how new wireless technologies can improve communications in times of trouble.

Thanks to the mobile phone, communications are a lot easier than they used to be and cellphones often provide a lifeline for rescue workers and loved ones. One of the most poignant memories of 9/11 was the final calls made by passengers onboard the hijacked aircraft. But 9/11 also revealed the big weakness of cellular networks – that they were never designed with disasters in mind. In Manhattan, the cellular infrastructure collapsed after the attacks because the huge increase in calls overloaded networks already weakened by the loss of more than 14 cellular base stations. For those all-important first few hours after the attacks, New York was plunged into a communications blackout. A notable exception was the Mobitex wireless data service and New Yorkers frantically pecked out messages on their BlackBerry handheld devices."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Spectrum Shift Threatens Radio Communication: "Emergency responders cross county lines every day in the greater Washington region, and their radios go along, too. But some emergency communications officials fear that a reshuffling of the radio spectrum will threaten their ability to communicate across borders."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Senate pitches first-responder communications bill: "Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are co-sponsoring legislation to authorize $3.9 billion to create a national architecture enabling first-responder agencies to communicate wirelessly."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Group of Senators Say Improved Communication Among First Responders is Key to Better Homeland Security: "Last week a bipartisan group of Senators from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee introduced legislation aimed at improving the ability of first responders to communicate with one another at disaster sites.

Committee Chairman Susan Collins, R-Me., Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Senators Daniel Akaka, D-Hi., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the Improve Interoperable Communications for First Responders Act of 2005 would provide dedicated funding, strengthen federal leadership, fortify outreach and technical assistance to state and local first responders, promote greater regional cooperation, and ensure research and development on interoperability issues so that police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical workers can talk to one another across jurisdictional, departmental, and geographic boundaries."

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Senate Bill Funds Interoperability Grants: "6-22-05 - Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) today joined Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) in introducing legislation to improve communication technology for first responders. The Improve Interoperable Communications for First Responders Act will also help to ensure that police, firefighters, emergency medical crews, and other first responders can communicate amongst each other and with emergency response agencies in various levels of government. Senator Collins is the Chairman and Senator Lieberman is the Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mesh networking in Northern California: "[Ripon] will deploy a municipal wireless network in the next several weeks to enable secure, high speed voice and data communications among first responders and other city employees. The same network will support live streaming of surveillance video and monitoring of industrial computer systems."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Grants to improve rural Colorado communications: "Rural law enforcement and firefighting departments in Colorado will receive about $3.8 million in state grants to build a digital trunk network from the Department of Local Affairs. The funding, which will allow rural communities to build digital trunk radio infrastructure, microwave towers and site equipment, will increase emergency workers' ability to communicate with each other."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

North Carolina Has $188 Million Communication Plan To Help Responders, Law Enforcement Agencies: "In a disaster, effective communication can mean the difference between life and death. For example, when Hurricane Floyd slammed into North Carolina in 1999, law enforcement agencies and first responders had separate radio systems. So, talking to each other was as challenging as surviving the storm.
Now, as hurricane season starts next week, the lines of communication have become an especially big concern at the state level. And the state has a plan: The state wants to replace outdated radio systems statewide with the Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders, an 800 MegaHertz digital communication system better known as VIPER.

'What the VIPER will do is put all these systems into one network, an 800 MegaHertz system so we can all talk when lives are at risk,' said Brian Beatty of the N.C. Crime Control and Public Safety.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol is already building and identifying towers around the state for the VIPER system. The plan is to phase the system into communities across the state over the next four to five years. No one publicly disputes the value of a statewide radio system, but there is a debate of who should pay for the system and how. The estimated cost of the transmitters and equipment is $188 million, and that doesn't include the radios."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Maryland Interoperability Project Coming Online: "The week's widely publicized prediction of a severe 2005 hurricane season coincided with the quiet unveiling of a state-managed emergency radio network on the Eastern Shore, the first communications system of its kind to go online in Maryland. An anticipated busy hurricane season also fuels speculation that a state emergency management field office could soon open on the Eastern Shore, an expected topic of discussion at the annual meeting of county emergency services agencies that begins Tuesday in Ocean City. This week state and local emergency management officials touted 'MESIN,' the Maryland Eastern Shore Interoperability Network, a nine-county radio system that protects lines of communications between agencies in the eastern part of the state during a crisis."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

California Assembly Bill Analysis: "[AB 1559] Requires the California Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (CALSIEC) and the Public Safety Radio Strategic Planning Committee (PSRSPC) to form a joint committee to prepare a specified report to the Legislature on or before February 1, 2006, with findings and recommendations for implementing a statewide communications interoperability system."

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Radio History - California Performance Review: "Summary - California state government's radio networks were created by various state agencies, which manage and maintain them separately. The state could achieve significant savings by consolidating the management of existing independent radio communications resources into a single entity offering a centralized and technologically versatile radio network capable of assimilating newer technologies."
Horizontal Leadership: Bridging the Information Gap - Fellow Blogspotter Donald Clark discusses lessons-learned in Iraq about vertical and horizontal information flows, including interesting details about the efficacy of rolling commo relays amongst frontline troops and TMI at the rear. How much can public safety agencies learn about communications interoperability from military experience?

Check out Don's Performance, Learning, Leadership & Knowledge Blog.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Disaster software standards may get muscle from DHS: "The Homeland Security Department could supercharge emergency management software standards by requiring the department’s grantees to purchase compliant equipment. The Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate—also known as FEMA, its acronym from when it was the Federal Emergency Management Agency—is sponsoring the development of emergency management software standards via its Disaster Management e-government initiative. Chip Hines, program manager for the initiative, said FEMA is considering mandating these data interoperability standards for first responders and other disaster management organizations that receive department grants.

“We probably would like to see grant language that would say that if you are going to buy software that does incident management, it should be compatible with the following standards,” Hines said during the recent FOSE trade show. "
Houston Cops Take On Fire Calls: Top News Stories at "Houston cops are now dashing to fires to alongside firefighters as part of a post 9/11 effort to improve communication between the two agencies.

'Ever since 9/11, we read in a lot of reports that was a major problem with the emergency response -- that no one could communicate with each other,' said Senior Houston Police Officer Pat Siddons.

Siddons, a former volunteer firefighter and a 21-year Houston police veteran, initiated a joint response program in which several designated police officers carry fire department pagers and respond 24 hours a day to multiple alarm incidents."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

GAO Reports Referencing Communications Interoperability: Over the past year and a half, the United States Government Accountability Office has examined and referred to interoperability issues in several reports. Here is a list and links:

GAO-05-380 - April 2005 - Protecting Structures and Improving Communications during Wildland Fires
GAO-05-121 - February 2005 - Management of First Responder Grant Programs Has Improved, but Challenges Remain
GAO-04-740 - July 2004 - Federal Leadership and Intergovernmental Cooperation Required to Achieve First Responder Interoperable Communications
GAO-04-494 - April 2004 - Key Cross-Agency Emergency Communications Effort Requires Stronger Collaboration
GAO-04-231T - November 2003 - Challenges in Achieving Interoperable Communications for First Responders

Monday, May 09, 2005

Talk Is Cheap, but for Safety, It's Priceless: "NEW YORK CITY - Why is the place always in such a hurry? There are those who actually argue that nearly four years after their city was brutally attacked by terrorists, the Police and Fire Departments should agree on how well they communicate with each other, when they should communicate, and when they should want to communicate with each other. The City Council is in such a rush, it is holding a hearing today on the cooperation, or lack of same, between the two great city agencies. Maybe it will get some clarification about communications as it examines the Bloomberg administration's plan for putting the Police Department in charge of any chemical or biological attack.

Because not only four years after Sept. 11, but 12 years after the first attack on the World Trade Center, there are still questions."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Push for first-responder interoperability begins: "As the nation pays close attention to its ability to deal with potential disasters; interoperability -- the ability for various emergency responders to communicate efficiently during a crisis -- has been on the forefront of discussions. To address interoperability capabilities, millions of dollars in Homeland Security Department grants are expected to become available in Missouri in July. Hoping to secure some of these funds to help address that issue locally, about 25 representatives of counties in the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop A region met in Concordia last Wednesday."

Monday, April 25, 2005

WOWT | Communication Fix: "ore than $23 million in federal Homeland Security grants will be used to bolster emergency communications across Nebraska. That word came Friday from Governor Dave Heineman. More than $18 million will go to 75 counties outside of greater Omaha, which this year was designated as a separate metro security area."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Buffalo (MN) Mesh Network: "Buffalo is an early adopter of a technology known as a 'mesh network,' a wireless system that Schaumburg-based Motorola Inc. found so promising that it recently bought a leader in the field, MeshNetworks Inc. Buffalo's network, switched on two months ago, was the first under the Motorola name. ... Maitland, Fla.-based MeshNetworks, on the other hand, was just a step beyond a start-up when Motorola bought it earlier this year for $169 million. The firm was created in 2000 after buying mesh network rights from ITT Industries Inc. (which had originally designed the technology for the U.S. military). Its system is operating in five other cities: Medford, Ore., Cocoa Beach, Fla., Garland, Texas, Portsmouth, United Kingdom, and, on a test basis, Las Vegas.

The mesh starts with a network of radio transmitters that blanket a city, usually attached to light poles. The more hills and buildings--and the bigger the city--the more radios needed. In Buffalo, a flat town of 13,000 people, there are 83 radios spread out over 11.5 square miles. In addition, seven Buffalo police cars have mesh radios and 20 public works employees have mesh-enabled laptops in their vehicles."
IBM upgrades Fresno police communications systems - Computerworld: "By the end of June, police officers in Fresno, Calif., will begin using an improved emergency communications system that will give them the ability to view real-time video and receive photographs of suspects and other information as they respond to reports of crimes and other incidents. The new system, which is being built by IBM, is part of a project to augment a 7-year-old data communications system using the latest technologies. In an announcement today [4/4/2005], IBM said the system will also provide improved radio communications and allow officers to hold instant messaging conversations with colleagues in the field and at their stations."

Friday, April 08, 2005

Congressman Thompson Meets With Firefighters: "WASHINGTON, April 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, (D-MS), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security met with representatives of various fire service associations to discuss funding for FIRE grants, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response programs (SAFER), communications interoperability and the first responder bill.

Congressman Thompson stated, 'The Administration's budget cuts for firefighters are highly insulting and a slap in the face to the men and women who have devoted their time and effort to protect Americans from danger. It's imperative that we have full funding for the FIRE grants and SAFER programs, as they are programs that are critical to addressing the needs of fire services.' The fiscal year 2006 budget, reduces funding for the FIRE grant program by 25 percent, and suggests eliminating funding for the SAFER program.

Congressman Thompson also noted that congress is still working on achieving a First Responder's Bill that would reform grant funding for those called first to respond to terrorists attacks. In addition to the First Responders Bill, Representative Thompson mentioned his co-sponsorship of H.R. 1251, the Communications Interoperability Bill, introduced by Congresswoman Lowey which would require additional funding for first responders so they could effectively communicate with one another at disaster sites."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Six Field Communications Vehicles to Improve Coordination at Major Emergencies: "Public Safety Secretary Edward A. Flynn recently announced the deployment of six regional fire safety field communication vehicles as part of the Massachusetts Regional Homeland Security Strategy.

'The 9/11 Commission identified interoperability -- the ability for commanders to communicate with each other at the scene of a major emergency -- as one of the top issues for public safety managers,' said Flynn. 'These six field communications units will be used to address interoperability issues among all public safety personnel at major incidents.'"

Friday, April 01, 2005

Massive federal wireless project [IWN] delayed: "The federal government has advised prospective vendors that it has delayed its schedule and changed its requirements for a multibillion-dollar makeover of federal wireless voice and data communications. In a 25-page amendment to the request for proposals for the Integrated Wireless Network, Justice Department procurement officials extended the due date for proposals and asked vendors to submit two types of cost proposals based on different deployment plans.

Today’s changes follow a proposal amendment issued March 2 that extended the potential duration of the project, which has an estimated cost of $10 billion, from five years to up to 15 years. Today’s amendment calls for bidders to present one “funding limited” deployment plan for the nationwide wireless voice and data system, along with an “unrestricted funding” approach to building the system. "

Thursday, March 31, 2005

RAND | How Prepared Are State and Local Law Enforcement for Terrorism?: "After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created. It is aimed at unifying federal capabilities and protecting the country from future terrorist attacks.

Within DHS, the Office of State and Local Governments Cooperation and Preparedness (SLGCP) is charged with coordinating first-responder terrorism preparedness efforts and working with state and local first responders to improve terrorism preparedness in such areas as training, exercises, and equipment support. SLGCP is also responsible for directing terrorism-preparedness grant programs at the federal level for all emergency response providers and for measuring programmatic performance and improvements in domestic preparedness.

To meet this charge, DHS (and SLGCP) need to collect information on how first responders and other emergency responders are meeting the challenges of their new terrorism-related responsibilities. To help in this effort, the RAND Corporation, with support from the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, surveyed 209 local and all 50 state law enforcement agencies, achieving response rates of 81 and 78 percent, respectively."
Finding the Interoperability SWEET - by Charles Werner: "For decades, interoperable communications have been a documented public safety problem. Following 9/11, this communications nightmare was brought to the forefront. Fortunately, the combination of federal funding and new technology availed many affordable solutions for first responders. This article provides an overview that can be deployed by any discipline (Fire, Law Enforcement and EMS)."
Radio woes stymie Arizona security: "More than three years after the 9/11 attack, Arizona's terrorism response system remains stymied by a communications clog that also hampered rescue efforts in the World Trade Center.
Put simply, firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers sometimes cannot talk to each other because their radio systems aren't synchronized. That problem emerged Tuesday as the dominant complaint at a statewide Homeland Security Summit that drew more than 200 Arizona civil defense leaders to downtown Phoenix. "
IETF eyes 'Net emergency communications: "The IETF has kicked off an effort to develop communications protocols needed to support emergency communications over the Internet. The new IETF working group is called Emergency Context Resolutions with Internet Technologies (ECRIT). ECRIT is looking for a way to route emergency calls over the Internet similar to the way in which 911 calls are routed over the public switched telephone network (PSTN). If successful, ECRIT would have a significant effect on service providers, including traditional wireline and wireless carriers, ISPs and start-up VoIP providers, because they would need to upgrade network hardware and software to support any new system."

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

An important new report on interoperability: "Toward Interoperable First Response - Wireless services that accommodate disparate federal, state, and local systems are key to a coordinated first response to US public-safety threats."

Monday, March 28, 2005

State of Georgia Interoperability Initiatives: "Today Governor Sonny Perdue announced two projects designed to improve communication between Georgia law enforcement and first responders towards during emergency situations. Public safety agencies communicate over different frequencies including VHF, UHF and 800 MHz. The variety of communication methods cause difficulty for neighboring jurisdictions to request assistance during major incidents. According to members of Georgia's first responder community, reliable communications that cross jurisdictional lines is a key initiative on the local, state and national level. "

Sunday, March 27, 2005

SAFECOM Announces Tool for Creating Statewide Interoperable Communications"The Department of Homeland Security’s SAFECOM Program and the Office for Interoperability and Compatibility recently announced a tool with a step-by-step process for developing a locally-driven statewide strategic plan for enhancing communications interoperability. The Statewide Communications Interoperability Planning Methodology, which can be downloaded from SAFECOM’s Web site, is based on the strategic planning approach jointly developed and tested by the Commonwealth of Virginia and OIC/SAFECOM to create the Virginia statewide interoperability plan in 2004."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Agencies train for mass casualties: "Some 800 first-responders and law officers from about 20 agencies - who don't all speak the same language - are training here this month as part of a Tucson Fire Department mass casualty training program. The agencies range from police, who speak in a '10-code,' to area fire departments and medical personnel who speak their own language, along with federal agencies and private industry."
Police: Manhunt marred by poor communication: "Atlanta's police chief Friday said last week's deadly courthouse shooting and the subsequent manhunt for a suspect points to the need for improvements in communications and leadership protocol during emergencies."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Colorado state system funding: "State grant funds totaling $13 million to improve the local and state communications network in rural areas are now available, and Cortez may apply for the funds that would enable fire and police responders to exchange clearer messages in areas with bad reception. The funds were opened up by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in cooperation with the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Department of Information Technology. The monies will go toward updating the state's Digital Trunk Radio system infrastructure, including microwave towers and site equipment, said Barbara Kirkmeyer, spokesperson for DOLA. The DTR system's construction began in 1998, providing a single system in Colorado establishing radio communication among public safety and emergency responders. The system's building and design has been done through partnerships between state local agencies."

Monday, March 14, 2005

'Interoperability' goal of Big Sky 11: "In the end, Montanans should be safer. In the meantime, counties are struggling to lay the groundwork for a statewide communication system that will cost millions and is still years from reality."

Friday, March 04, 2005

Homeland Security Funds Split California Interests: "At first blush, a vote to allocate $5.6 million for an emergency radio system to link Alameda and Contra Costa counties signaled unprecedented regional cooperation driven by homeland security concerns. But beneath the sunny veneer of the Feb. 9 vote by a two-county committee that administers federal grant funds for the East Bay is a fragile alliance that continues to feel the strain of partners clamoring to make sure their individual needs are met."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Homeland funds split East Bay: "OAKLAND - At first blush, a vote to allocate $5.6 million for an emergency radio system to link Alameda and Contra Costa counties signaled unprecedented regional cooperation driven by homeland security concerns."
Mississippi legislature is looking to build a statewide radio system: "Senate Bill 2514, which passed the Senate earlier this month and is now in both the House public utilities and appropriations committees, would create the Mississippi Wireless Communication Commission. Its aim would be to investigate 'implementing a statewide radio communications system to serve wireless users in state and local governments and those private entities that enter into a partnership with the commission.'"
Feds warn city on incompatible radios: "Oakland advised not to buy handhelds that won't talk with area-wide emergency network. Federal radio experts are advising Oakland against plans to buy thousands of upgraded handheld radios for its fire, police and other agencies unless the radios can talk seamlessly with a larger, East Bay-wide network under development."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Gov. Warner Announces Grants to Upgrade Virginia's First Responder Radio Systems: "Governor Mark R. Warner yesterday announced that Virginia is allocating $2.16 million in federal funding to 27 localities to support local interoperable communications projects and initiatives. This funding was awarded to Virginia by the federal Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and will be received by the localities in the coming two weeks.

The State Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) evaluated 62 local grant proposals that competed for up to $100,000 each, which includes 20 grant proposals that will be funded through a $1.7 million award from ODP. The Executive Committee also identified eight localities to receive a total of $460,000 in funding from the NIJ for local interoperability demonstration projects.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

DHS favors easing deadline on state security funds (2/22/05): "The Homeland Security Department would like to ease a stringent deadline for states to disburse federal funding to local communities for counterterrorism activities, a department official said Tuesday. 'We're trying to get away from' the 45-day deadline for states to distribute the funding, David Boyd, director of wireless communications activities at the department, said at a homeland security conference. He added that lawmakers are 'intensely interested' in the requirement, but the department believes careful planning by states over the fiscal year is necessary before sending the dollars to local firefighters, police officers and other emergency 'first responder' groups.

Also on Tuesday, Boyd made a plea to industry representatives to create information technology systems with 'open architectures' and without proprietary standards. 'If you don't, we'll have to,' said Boyd, who oversees the department's SAFECOM project to ensure that public-safety officials can communicate across jurisdictions. He also stressed that emergency responders need 'voices first' technology rather than data and imagery devices. 'A firefighter is not going to read' a handheld device while standing in a burning building, Boyd said. He said the first priority for emergency responders is communicating 'with their own troops' and the second is talking across jurisdictions. Boyd argued that federal agencies have to observe local rules and existing systems because 90 percent of wireless communications equipment is bought at the local level."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

States still working on communications: "A new survey indicates that significant challenges remain in communications interoperability and development of centers to collect, analyze and share intelligence data among the 55 U.S. state and territorial governments . Officials have been working to prepare first responders to respond to terrorist attacks, establish homeland security and statewide emergency operations centers, and develop mutual aid agreements with other states. But the survey released this week by the National Governors Association's Center for Best Practices indicates that although statewide interoperability remains a top priority, getting the necessary equipment and technology remains a challenge. About 73 percent of state officials are still working on statewide interoperability, while 22 percent have achieved it, according to the report."

Friday, February 11, 2005

Department of Homeland Security FY 2006 Budget: "The Office of Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) within the S&T Directorate will allow the Department to expand its leadership role in interoperable communications that could be used by every first responder agency in the country. The OIC has currently identified three program areas: communications, equipment, and training. With $20.5 million in FY 2006, the OIC will plan and begin to establish the training and equipment programs, as well as continue existing communication interoperability efforts through the SAFECOM Program."

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

News: Florida Counties Talk on Interoperable Network During Emergency: "The state of Florida's new Interoperability (IO) Network successfully assisted first responders in rapidly responding to a fire in Putnam County on January 25, 2005. During the first unplanned use of the IO network, fire-rescue stations from Putnam County were dispatched to a residential fire and explosion in the western region of the county. Realizing the need for mutual aid, Putnam County Fire Rescue needed to contact Alachua County immediately. "

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Safecom SCIPs across states: "Federal officials unveiled a model plan yesterday that state officials can use to build grass-roots statewide interoperable communication networks. Officials for the Homeland Security Department's Safecom Program released the Statewide Communications Interoperability Planning (SCIP) methodology proposal, based on a statewide plan that Virginia agencies unveiled last October in their drive to create a network for all law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions."
New Jersey Interoperability: "New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey has appointed Raymond J. Hayling II as the state's first Chief Public Safety Communications Officer, a position designed to improve and coordinate New Jersey's public safety communications planning, funding and interoperability systems."
Virginia homeland security official details priorities: "Virginia's top priority is making sure communications among the state, local and federal government and the private sector are linked 'because, at the end of the day, our ability to prevent, respond and recover is largely dependent on our ability to communicate."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Michigan counties seek security funds: "First Responders from all 15 counties and five tribes across the Upper Peninsula are vying for Homeland Security funds to place all U.P. emergency agencies on the Michigan Public Safety Communications System."

Monday, January 17, 2005

Emergency Interoperability Consortium Announces Agreement with Department of Homeland Security to Promote Data Sharing During Emergencies: "The Emergency Interoperability Consortium (EIC) announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to promote the development and proliferation of data sharing standards for emergency response. Thought to be the first of its kind between DHS and a non-government entity, the agreement establishes an alliance between the organizations to jointly promote the design, development, release, and use of XML standards to help solve data sharing problems commonly encountered during emergency operations. The initial term of the agreement is three years. "

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Can We Just Talk?: "SACRAMENTO - The Sacramento Police Department received approval from the Sacramento City Council to accept a grant that will allow them to make critical improvements to an outdated radio communications system. The council also approved a request from the department to create a partnership with the County of Sacramento for system-wide upgrades. "