Monday, December 25, 2006 Story: Decision to buy vans splits regional security panel: "Two Chevrolet Suburbans, equipped with the latest in communication technology -- tools that can communicate with just about anyone, anywhere in case of a disaster.

The price tag: up to $300,000 each.

In the first year of the new Homeland Security 'regionalization' concept in Missouri, these are the items the local Regional Homeland Security Oversight Committee has recommended the majority of its $1,040,357 state allocation be spent on. The decision was one that divided the 13-member committee -- seven for, six against."
FCC Proposes Nationwide Broadband Interoperable Public Safety Network: "The FCC Wednesday adopted a Ninth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes a national interoperable broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band which would have a centralized approach to maximize public safety access. In addition, the initiative seeks to promote the deployment of advanced broadband applications, related radio technologies, and modern, IP-based system architecture. "

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Statewide radio interoperability carries hefty price tag: "State emergency managers estimate it will cost $7 billion to achieve statewide interoperable communications for first responders, according to a new survey published by the National Emergency Management Association. The group also believes it will cost $1.5 billion to build, retrofit and upgrade emergency operations centers nationwide, which includes expenditures for equipment, software and personnel. These are nerve centers where emergency managers, police, fire and medical supervisors gather to coordinate their activities in responding to a disaster. Nearly $400 million is needed for urgent improvements to state operations centers, and $1.1 billion for local operations centers, the report said. "
Emergency communications interoperability at DHS questioned: "Democrats who will assume leadership roles on homeland security when the new Congress convenes in January are questioning Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's recently stated goal for having interoperable emergency communications systems nationwide by the end of 2008. Two Democrats, including incoming House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), wrote in a letter Dec. 8 to Chertoff that his 2008 goal 'demonstrates a misunderstanding of the challenges and scope of achieving interoperability among federal, state and local levels of government. The reality is that interoperable communications systems will require a complicated and expensive process that cannot be executed without real knowledge, leadership and funding on the federal level.'"
Interoperability is Achievable, Survey Suggests - Government Technology: "The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announces the results of a nationwide survey of first responders and law enforcement that assesses progress in achieving interoperable communications. The national interoperability baseline survey was issued to 22,400 randomly selected law enforcement, fire response, and emergency medical services (EMS) agencies, and confirms that roughly two-thirds of emergency response agencies across the nation use interoperable communications at varying degrees."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Airports cargo detection 9/11 commission seen as top priorities for Dems: "In the House, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, is likely to become the next chairman of the panel. Thompson’s areas of interest include interoperability for first-responder communications, strengthening border security and protecting rails and mass transit systems from terrorists. "
Chertoff gets ahead of Hill, sets interoperable radio goals (11/28/06): "During the September hearing, Chertoff said one of the biggest problems is that state and local officials had not agreed on what kind of interoperable equipment to buy. 'This is not, frankly, a technology issue, this is an issue of having community leaders come to an agreement,' he said. Chertoff added that Homeland Security would complete a survey by the end of 2006 asking all 50 states and the 75 largest urban areas what kind of interoperability gaps they have. He said the results would allow the department to give Congress 'a much more specific answer about what funding needs are required.'"
Federal Times: "First responders across the nation should be able to communicate on interoperable radios by the end of 2008, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Nov. 28. Chertoff set a preliminary deadline of interoperable communications at all major cities by the end of 2007, and said that all states should have that capability one year later. He said Homeland Security needs to finish setting specifications so localities know what kind of radios and other technology to buy."
Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff puts interoperability on fast track in cities : "Forty-six U.S. cities should have interoperable communications in place for first responders by the end of 2007, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday. All 50 states should aim to have interoperable systems for public safety by the end of 2008,' Chertoff said during a keynote speech at the National Grants and Training Conference in Washington."
DHS science chief backs digital solution to communications woes (11/30/06): "A top Homeland Security Department official said Thursday he has arrived at a conceptual solution for addressing communications barriers among federal, state and local emergency responders. The decades-long problem can be tackled through a universal digital communications backbone capable of linking currently incompatible systems, said Jay Cohen, the recently confirmed undersecretary for science and technology at DHS. He spoke during a Washington conference on information-sharing strategies sponsored by the Arlington, Va., Association for Enterprise Integration."
SAFECOM Releases 2006 National Interoperability Baseline Survey Findings: "The Baseline Survey assessed capacities across a wide array of factors, making it the first survey derived from a comprehensive definition of interoperability. The survey was designed in partnership with the emergency responder community, and founded on the five elements depicted in SAFECOM’s Interoperability Continuum—governance, standard operating procedures, technology, training and exercises, and usage of interoperable communications."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

DHS science chief backs digital solution to communications woes (11/30/06): "A top Homeland Security Department official said Thursday he has arrived at a conceptual solution for addressing communications barriers among federal, state and local emergency responders. The decades-long problem can be tackled through a universal digital communications backbone capable of linking currently incompatible systems, said Jay Cohen, the recently confirmed undersecretary for science and technology at DHS. He spoke during a Washington conference on information-sharing strategies sponsored by the Arlington, Va., Association for Enterprise Integration."
National Governors Association Report: "To help governors address the urgent need for reliable communication in emergency situations, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) today [11/28] released Strategies for States to Achieve Public Safety Wireless Interoperability. The brief guides governors in their efforts to improve wireless interoperability—the ability of public safety agencies to share information using radio communication systems to exchange voice and/or data on demand in real time, when needed and as authorized."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Crowded Airwaves: Air to ground communications: "Air to air communication is critical for safe aircraft operations. And, because of standards in training, equipment and frequency allocation, air to air communication is generally reliable. Air-to-ground communication, on the other hand, is not quite as reliable and can lead to serious problems during normal aircraft operations.

There are over 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States. For very practical reasons, each agency has its own radio frequency or frequencies. Moreover, each state and local agency is influenced by a political parent organization, such as a municipal police force, and is ultimately managed by a city. When making budgetary choices, organizations spend money for public safety-related technologies at vastly different rates. The combination of local choices and the need to have independent radio frequencies has created technological fragmentation in public safety."
Eddie Reyes - Keeping the City of Angels safe: An inside look at the L.A. Regional Tactical Communications System: "In my last column I highlighted the South Carolina State Interoperability Project, commonly known as the “Palmetto 800 Trunked Radio Network and I received lots of positive feedback from some of the readers that follow this column. I especially want to thank the fine folks from South Carolina who contacted me as well as a Sheriff’s Deputy from Des Moines, IA. So I thought I would try my luck again this month and take readers across the country, literally, to the Los Angeles region and focus on their communications and interoperability solutions."

Monday, October 09, 2006

DHS pulls back $5 million from communications project (10/6/06): "The Homeland Security Department in late August decided not to spend $5.3 million that had been set aside for a digital interoperable communications tool used to coordinate emergency response with local governments. DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie said a final decision on whether to shut down Disaster Management, an 8-year-old project designated by the Office of Management and Budget in 2002 as one of 24 e-government initiatives, has not been made. But the department is 'saving a lot of money by cutting down on repetitive systems,' he said."
Survey and mapping system closes communications gap: "Ever since the attacks of Sept. 11, one problem that has dogged first responders at all levels of government is the lack of interoperable communications. But a tool developed at the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center-San Diego is being used to tackle the problem—not by spending a lot of money on new equipment and trying to figure out who gets priority allocation of scarce resources, but by tracking the equipment already out there and identifying how it all fits together. "

Thursday, October 05, 2006

10-4 on your 10-20, or was that a 10-11?: "'Interoperability' is tough to say without stuttering. Since 9/11, stuttering has also accompanied efforts to achieve interoperability in the field, where first responders need to communicate effectively across departments, jurisdictions and even states when emergencies or catastrophic events occur.

A common-sense strategy announced this week by Gov. Tim Kaine offers one small but refreshing step forward."
The Seattle Times: Democrats claim Reichert caved on emergency communications: "From the day he was sworn in to Congress in 2005, Rep. Dave Reichert has positioned himself as the first friend of first responders: the police, firefighters and emergency medical crews called in when disaster strikes."

Sunday, October 01, 2006 - Congress wants emergency comms office at DHS: "Congress is calling for the Homeland Security Department to establish an Office of Emergency Communications to tackle the kind of long-standing problems that hindered first responders on Sept. 11, 2001, and again in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The office, working under the purview of the assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, would centralize and coordinate emergency communications work at DHS and promote interoperability among public safety systems at federal, state and local agencies."
Wired for Trouble: "'You have to understand that IWN is a law enforcement network; it is not necessarily a first responder network,' responds an industry official. State and local officials won't have a huge presence in the day-to-day operations of IWN. 'It's a different community,' the official adds. While interoperability with state and local agencies is not the focus of IWN, it will incorporate the specifications of Project 25, a nationwide public-private standards-making body for land mobile radios. Plus, there's another federal program to address nationwide radio interoperability at that level: Project Safecom, a DHS-funded communication standards effort."
Marking 9/11 with an eye to security: "Emergency communications. Chertoff said the 10 largest cities had 'command-level interoperability,' which means various departments - fire, police, EMTs - can talk to one another as well as to state and federal officials if necessary. Other cities have this level of communication as well, but not all.

'Some communities have it because they've reached an agreement about... what the rules will be about how you run the integrated system,' Chertoff said. 'But some communities can't agree... . We are doing a study... which will evaluate and test interoperability in all 50 states and the 75 largest urban areas. It will identify where things have been done and where things have not been done, and that will be a pretty good road map for how to close those remaining gaps.'"

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Training, Not Technology, Seen As Key To 9/11: "... According to the official Federal Emergency Management Agency's report on the reactions of first responders to the New York City, Pentagon, and Shanksville, Penn. accident scenes, it was the presence or lack of an organized command structure – and by extension, a communications structure – that helped determine the success of the operations. Within New York City, a temporary command post set up within the lobby of the WTC 1 tower within four minutes was destroyed when the second plane hit WTC 2; the collapse of WTC 1 destroyed the more permanent command center housed in a building across the street."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

As a firefighter at Ground Zero and now with GSA Michael Pena pushes for better emergency communications: "On Sept. 11, 2001, Michael Pena was off duty, but not for long. After news spread of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pena, one of three lieutenants with the Fire Department of New York City’s Rescue Company 1 in Manhattan, an elite group on the order of the Navy Seals, reported to the scene just as the south tower collapsed.

His experience with communications issues at the local level has left him sounding frustrated. “The main problem with communications in New York City is not the technology but rather the human factor of the police department and the fire department not wanting to communicate with each other,” he said. .... “It did change a little after 9/11, with the integration of radios placed in both police department and fire department supervisor cars to be able to communicate with each other on the command level. This is where the interagency communication needs to be, not on the operational level between firefighters and police officers.” "
Lessons Learned - Are There Any?: "Communications interoperability was one of the nightmares of 9/11. The cops couldn’t talk to the firemen, the firemen couldn’t talk to the cops, and sometimes they couldn’t talk to each other. This is not a technological problem. The solutions are available as off-the-shelf equipment. The barrier to a solution is the same as it has always been - political. Instead of asking “how do we do this?” the question is usually “who will be in charge?” "

Monday, September 11, 2006

Secretary Chertoff on September 11: Five Years Later: "... And I will tell you in a very straightforward way, the obstacle here is not technological; we have the technology. The obstacle is that we need to build procedures across governments and among agencies where we have agreement about what the rules of the road are going to be."
Training, Not Technology, Seen As Key To 9/11: "... According to the official Federal Emergency Management Agency's report on the reactions of first responders to the New York City, Pentagon, and Shanksville, Penn. accident scenes, it was the presence or lack of an organized command structure – and by extension, a communications structure – that helped determine the success of the operations. "

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gateways — the good, the bad and the ugly: "Today's gateways have lots of functionality, such as being able to connect any device that produces an audio signal (voice) and pass that transmission (message) to any other device that is capable of receiving audio signals. Those audio devices include portable and mobile public safety radios, telephones (landline, cellular and satellite), the internet or a local area network (LAN), dispatch consoles, CB radios, family service radios, you get the hint."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Who's Who in an Emergency: "Credentialing efforts for emergency responders are branching out to include telecommunications and utilities specialists, nurses and other private-sector workers.

But questions remain about who will pay for the initiatives and how extensive they will be. The Homeland Security Department has begun work on two aspects of credentialing. First is the effort to define and organize emergency responders into categories, such as hazardous-materials firefighters, psychiatric nurses and water rescue specialists."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Virginia Establishes State Communications Interoperability Committee: "Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine today signed an Executive Order establishing a State Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) to help coordinate the commonwealth's efforts to allow public safety agencies to communicate with one another through secure and reliable communications programs and systems

The SIEC will continue to keep relevant organizations involved in decisions on interoperable communication efforts. It will be comprised of various associations that represent the local first-responder perspective, a critical element that allows the SIEC to serve as a voice for that community. "
House passes emergency-communications bill: "The U.S. House of Representatives [on 7/25] overwhelmingly passed a bill that would create a national interoperability office within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and mandates that equipment purchased with DHS grants comply with interoperability standards."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: "The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved legislation Thursday authored by Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Joe Lieberman (D-CT) that would reform the nation’s emergency management system to enable it to better prepare for and respond to a disasters. Entitled the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, the bill would implement many of the findings of the Committee's Hurricane Katrina report, including reconstituting FEMA, improving emergency staffing, strengthening enhancing planning and preparedness, facilitating better communications and interoperability capabilities among emergency responders, improving emergency assistance programs, and reducing waste, fraud, and abuse. ...

[It would] Enhance emergency communications capabilities by consolidating several communications programs within a new Office of Emergency Communications within FEMA, requiring a national emergency-communications strategy, coordinating establishing dedicated grants to states and localities for interoperable communications, and regularly assessing the operability and interoperability of the communication systems that are essential for disaster response. "
DHS communications project faces cancellation (7/28/06): "A digital interoperable communications tool used to support hurricane response faces cancellation by the Homeland Security Department, according to sources close to the initiative. DHS reportedly issued an order in mid-July to Ohio-based nonprofit government contractor Battelle to immediately stop development work on Disaster Management, an 8-year-old project that the Office of Management and Budget designated in 2002 as one of 24 e-government initiatives."
ARRLWeb: Emergency Communications Bill Includes Amateur Radio as Interoperability Agent: "A bill to enhance emergency communication at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) includes Amateur Radio operators as part of an overall effort to provide interoperability among responders. The 21st Century Emergency Communications Act of 2006 (HR 5852), an amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, passed the US House this week on a 414-2 vote and has gone to the Senate. Its sponsor, Rep David G. Reichert (R-WA) -- who chairs the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology -- says his legislation is designed 'to improve the ability of emergency responders to communicate with each other' -- interoperability."
U.S. Conference of Mayors - Survey": "As the nation approaches the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, led by Conference President and Dearborn Mayor Michael A. Guido, held a media forum at the National Press Club today discussing the state of disaster preparedness in America's cities. .....

Survey Results:

Survey responses were received from 183 cities representing 38 states in the nation, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Cities with populations up to 100,000 comprise the largest group of respondents (104); cities in 100,001 to 300,000 population range comprise the next largest group (49). Twenty- nine (30) respondents are in the 300,001 and up range.

Some of the key findings of the survey include:

1. When asked have cities received sufficient federal resources to achieve full communications interoperability -- so that first responders can talk to each other and key assets, 80 percent said no. This figure was fairly consistent for all population ranges.

2. When then asked how far away cities are from having full communications interoperability, the average response was 4 years."
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Awards $42.2 Million Contract to SRA: "SRA International, Inc. (NYSE: SRX), a leading provider of technology and strategic consulting services and solutions to federal government organizations, announced that it has been awarded a competitive contract by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide strategy and execution support services to the Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC). The task order, awarded under the General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule, has an estimated value of $42.2 million over 45 months if all options are exercised."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

MARS Wins Major Homeland Security Task:: "Ham radio operators in the Military Affiliate Radio System will provide emergency backup communications for the Transportation Security Administration under a formal agreement announced by Army MARS Chief Kathy Harrison. Airport protection during the current hurricane season will be the immediate focus, Chief Harrison said. She added that the new collaboration with the TSA “is likely to expand to other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) areas” in the future. A “Memorandum of Understanding” signed by the two agencies--and already in effect--provides for use of MARS networks, manpower and equipment to maintain communications during the initial 72 hours of incidents involving aircraft, mass transit and pipelines. MARS is also tasked to provide interoperability with other communications systems."
Grants will boost interoperability policy: "Five states will get U.S. grants to improve their policy co-ordination on interoperable communications for first responders and other agencies. The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the SAFECOM program, the communications program of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement Tuesday that Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana and Washington would get $50,000 each 'to support governors and other state and local policymakers in developing state-wide interoperability plans for wireless communications.'"

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sacramento Metro Fire rips its radios: "The head of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District has blasted the way the county's radio communication system is being updated, saying it jeopardizes public safety and puts the lives of firefighters and other emergency workers at risk.

'The situation has become critical to public safety,' Chief Don Mette said recently in a sharply worded letter to county officials.

Mette said there have been times when there were not enough channels to adequately serve firefighters and law enforcement officials. He also said the system sometimes has spotty reception, even in populated areas."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Inbuilding coverage in the Big Apple: "On May 31, The Durst Organization announced that it has upgraded communications within its portfolio of Manhattan high-rise buildings to facilitate two-way radio communications for first responders, including the Fire Department of New York, Emergency Medical Services, New York Police Department and others."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Senate committee seeks acceleration of interoperability funds: "Senate Commerce Committee members yesterday decided by voice vote to approve an amendment to the massive communications bill making $1 billion in interoperability funds available to first-responder agencies this fall."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

OASIS approves new standards for emergency communications: "The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) has approved new emergency data interoperability standards aimed at drastically improving critical data sharing among emergency first responders, government officials and law enforcement authorities. In an announcement [yesterday], OASIS said the new Emergency Data Exchange Language Distribution Element (EDXL-DE) Version 1.0 has been approved as an OASIS Standard. That means it will now be used by emergency management systems vendors to help create data bridges among incompatible systems used by first responders and others."
Project MESA back on track: "Project MESA, or Mobility for Emergency and Safety Applications, finally received the vendor support it has been seeking the last four years. A Project MESA working group meeting in Boston in April resulted in five new proposals brought forth by manufacturers as potential technologies for the next generation of public-safety communications systems."
Roadblocks hamper emergency response system coordination: "Achieving interoperable communications — a Holy Grail of sorts for first responders — is easier said than done. That was the consensus of information technology experts who met earlier this month in Washington, D.C., for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference. Participants in a panel discussion said progress has been slow and erratic."
IWN Update: "“By providing near-instant communication availability and system response, highly reliable communications, and physical and encryption security features that minimize interception of sensitive communications, IWN will make law enforcement and protective operations more effective, efficient and safe,” said Justice CIO Vance Hitch in a statement.

IWN spending could range from $3 billion to $30 billion over the life of the contract, which could extend as long as 15 years."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Unofficial poll of CIOs finds states woefully behind: "Government interoperability and disaster preparedness experts painted a bleak picture of how much progress states have made toward communications interoperability since Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast last year. Fewer than a third of the 350 attendees of a National Association of State Chief Information Officers conference this month said states were better prepared today to deal with a major disaster than they were before Katrina. "

Monday, June 12, 2006

General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin Awarded Phase Two Contracts for Integrated Wireless Network (IWN): "The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and the Treasury announced today the award of second-phase system integration contracts for the Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) to General Dynamics C4 Systems of Scottsdale, Ariz. and Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems and Solutions of Gaithersburg, Md. Today’s award allows the companies to continue on to the third and final phase of the selection process for the IWN systems integrator."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Inability to communicate major flaw in storm response (Shreveport): " .... 'Participants recommended that land line, Internet, commercial radio and television, fiber optic, fax, two-way radio, cellular voice and text, satellite telephone, OnStar, and HAM radio should be considered in an integrated response. System failures are hard to predict, so participants felt that all available channels of communications should be used to reinforce a detailed common communications plan for each region,' the report says" - State CIOs skeptical of hurricane readiness: "On the first day of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, the ability of government at the federal, state and local levels to deal with major disasters is no better than it was when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region last year. That is the overwhelming consensus of government and private-sector technology experts who convened in Washington, D.C., this week for a conference sponsored by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. CIOs and other top technology leaders from 38 states, Guam, and the District of Columbia are among the 280 conference participants."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In these last days before the June 1 start of hurricane season, forecasters and disaster-response planners are coming to the dispiriting conclusion that few lessons were learned last year from Katrina, Rita and Wilma. ... Most city, state and federal emergency management authorities still can't communicate by phone or radio in a crisis because a $2-billion special outlay for "interoperability" is mired in legislative wrangling or being spent without federal coordination.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

IG sees flaws in DHS' approach to interoperability standards: "The Homeland Security Department is not expected to adopt its first standard for interoperable, digital, wireless communications for first responders until the end of 2007 — more than six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a new report from DHS inspector general Richard Skinner. "

Sunday, April 16, 2006

FEMA Not a First Responder, Says Paulison : "With the latest predictions indicating another active hurricane season in 2006, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing with what it describes as 'a renewed sense of commitment, improvement and urgency.' And at the 28th National Hurricane Conference held April 10-14 in Orlando, Fla., FEMA Acting Director R. David Paulison described the upcoming hurricane season as “a defining moment in emergency management. Above all, however, Paulison emphasized that effective emergency management requires a team approach, and that FEMA is not a first responder. 'The first response belongs in the hands of those closest to the incident, those state and local officials who are putting together the evacuation plans and shelter locations and educating their residents on when to evacuate, where to go and what to do,' he said."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Marines Discover Tactical Communications: "The US Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, VA awarded Motorola in Columbia, MD a $76 million firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery /indefinite-quantity contract for 60,000 Integrated Intra Squad Radios (IISR) and associated items.

As National Defense Magazine's September 2005 issue notes, the Corps realized it lacked small squad-level communications for urban operations after the invasion of Iraq. Marines liked the British Army's 'personal role radio' and bought 10,000 Selex PRRs from Britain's war reserve. The PRR is a small transmitter-receiver similar to civilian two-way radios, which allows infantry soldiers to communicate over short distances."

Friday, April 14, 2006

NACo Launches Public Safety Communications Project: "NACo recently received a $1 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and, with the funds, will offer a series of intensive policy academies on public safety communications and interoperability for local officials over the next two years.

The training is made possible through a funding agreement with DHS' SAFECOM Program Office, which works with federal, state and local public safety agencies to improve emergency response through more effective and efficient interoperable wireless communications."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Project MESA reaches a Crossroad: "Project MESA, which stands for Mobility for Emergency and Safety Applications, was launched nearly six years ago as a collaborative effort between the U.S. and Europe public-safety sectors to identify and create common specifications for the next generation of first-responder communications systems. With progress being sluggish at best, a Project MESA working group meeting this month in Boston could determine whether the effort will die should vendors fail to step up with technology proposals soon.

“We, as users, have gotten to a point where we can't do anymore without input from vendors,” said Philip Kidner, chairman of MESA's systems specification group."
Exercise aims for interoperability with DHS first responders: "The scene of a terrorist attack or a large-scale natural disaster, experts agree, is no place for technology specialists from different response agencies to begin coordinating communication efforts.

“The time of an incident,” said Air Force Col. Babette Lenfant, director of communication systems for the Joint Task Force Civil Support, “is not the time we want to be exchanging business cards with the National Guard and saying, ‘Here, this is what I do.’ ”

Various military services, the Department of Homeland Security and first responders such as police and fire departments are getting better acquainted with each other’s communications systems during the Defense Department’s Interoperability Communications Exercise. "
Public Safety Project To Target Local Elected Officials: "The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently received a $1 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct a series of intensive policy academies on public safety communications and interoperability over the next two years."

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Justice DOD better prepared to share information for '06 hurricane season: "With approximately 60 days before the start of the next hurricane season, Congress is questioning whether agencies are in better shape to share information this year. Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, asked agency officials whether the government has sufficiently learned the lessons from Katrina and Rita.

“How can we avoid the inadequate information sharing and murky situational awareness that characterized the governmental response to Katrina?” the Virginia Republican asked. “The committee is interested in learning about whether there is a need for additional legislation, guidance, procedures or resources to facilitate the information sharing priorities…”

And while the Homeland Security Department declined to testify about its preparations and improvements, other key agencies, including the Defense and Justice departments, said things are getting better and they are better prepared."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Budget includes money for radio revamp: "Gov. Kathleen Blanco wants to use $2.8 million of an expected windfall of sales tax and gambling revenue to improve emergency communications in areas affected by Hurricane Rita."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Keeping Everyone In The Loop: "“Communications interoperability” has been a hot button issue for years, and a basis for lots of funding opportunities. Certainly, communications systems are expensive, and it’s difficult to convince governmental bodies to fund a replacement for a system that works, even if it doesn’t work well. There are frequency allocation problems, and sometimes it’s difficult to find places for enough repeater towers, but the greatest barriers to overcome are not fiscal or technological, but rather political."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Public Safety Interoperable Communications Baseline Study - Technology & Communications: "In the very near future, you will begin to hear about a study that is designed to measure public safety interoperable communications across the country. This study is titled, 'The Public Safety Interoperable Communications Baseline Measurement' and is being facilitated by SAFECOM"

Friday, March 17, 2006

FCC Public Safety Reorganization: "Today, the Commission took a critical step forward in its plan to strengthen its public safety and homeland security functions by voting unanimously to establish a 'Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.' The new Bureau is designed to provide a more efficient, effective, and responsive organizational structure to address public safety, homeland security, national security, emergency management and preparedness, disaster management, and other related issues."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Interoperability still plagues DHS: "... The lack of technical standards isn’t as important as the lack of planning at the state and local level, said Bruce Baughman, director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and president of the National Emergency Management Association. Baughman said the first thing he asks people who say they have an interoperable communications problem is whether they have a communications plan. Nine out of 10 don’t, he said."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

FCC panel studies disaster plans: "When Hurricane Katrina started ripping apart radio transmission equipment in coastal Jackson County, the emergency radio system switched to Fail Soft, a limp-along mode that allows some limited communication.

'But many of our users had never used it and when they turned on their radios, the first word they saw was 'fail,' so that created a lot more uncertainty,' said George Sholl, Jackson County Emergency Management director."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wireless networking a focal point of new Safecom requirements: "Wireless networks will take on a much more prominent role in the Homeland Security Department’s updated requirements for interoperable communications for first responders. The Safecom program, which is the departmental unit promoting improved radio communications for emergency response agencies, has released a 208-page Statement of Requirements for Public Safety Wireless Communications and Interoperability (Version 1.1) on its Web site. The new requirements address all manner of wireless networks, from personal and temporary to huge, extended systems."
APCO Seeks Interoperability Funding in President's Budget: "The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International released a statement on the President's FY 2007 Budget, noting its lack of adequate funding for dedicated first responder interoperable communications grant programs.

'APCO International is concerned that there is no 'dedicated' DHS grant program for improving first responder interoperable communications in the President's 2007 budget,' the statement from APCO International said. APCO International further noted its disappointment in the Administration's intent to eliminate the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Interoperable Communications Grant program, despite the program's success.

In its statement, APCO International urged the Administration and Congress to:

* Increase direct funding for the SAFECOM program;
* Provide $100 million for the COPS Interoperability Communications Grant program, and;
* Provide $1 billion in dedicated funding for emergency communications grants from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to local governments.
Modeling employee background checks - InfoWorld: "Sterling testing systems never actually called the solution they came up with BPM (business process management) until after the fact, says Paul Mladineo, vice president of strategic development."
Business process management (BPM) techniques and tools offer promise to untangle emergency management and response, including the their nervous system: Interagency communications. BPM is already being used to model, analyze, and optimize human information exchange process for homeland security purposes.

Evaluating anti-terror technology - InfoWorld : "Business process management even has a place in the war on terror, according to Indy Crowley, research staff member and acting lead for IT at the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), an organization that evaluates technology under the SAFETY (Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies) Act of 2002."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Report: Network Operability Biggest Katrina Issue: "Interoperability of emergency radio, wireless and wireline networks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina took a back seat to simple network operability immediately after the storm, according to a White House report that analyzed the response to the crisis. The report, released yesterday, says 'basic operability' was the primary communications challenge after the storm hit the Gulf Coast. 'The complete devastation of the communications infrastructure left emergency responders and citizens without a reliable network across which they could coordinate,' the 228-page report says."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Florida Begins Linking Its Law Enforcement Agencies: "The Florida Department of Law Enforcement this month will begin work on a $15 million project to integrate the back-end systems of 500 law enforcement organizations across the state. During the first phase of the Florida Law Enforcement Exchange (Flex) project, data housed in the records management systems of local and state police, corrections and court departments will be cataloged and a metadata management layer will be created, state officials said. The metadata management phase of the project is slated to be completed by midyear. The remaining three phases will be completed in about a year."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Data sharing called vital to port security: "Greater training for communications equipment is the most urgent security need for San Diego's seaport, a top harbor security official said yesterday. John MacIntyre, program manager for homeland security at the San Diego Unified Port District, said he wants various security agencies – from the police to the U.S. Border Patrol – to improve the way they share data and information."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Interoperability, data sharing lacking in Katrina response: "The federal government’s ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina was partly a failure of technology, according to a critical report released this week by a House Select Committee chaired by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). The blistering 379-page report details a broad range of shortcomings in federal, state and local preparedness and response, including a lack of effective logistics, medical and communications systems. "

Thursday, February 16, 2006

R&D chief McQueary to step down at Homeland Security: "Charles McQueary, the Homeland Security Department’s top research and development director, will resign effective March 25. McQueary, undersecretary for science and technology, announced his resignation in a letter dated Feb. 10 to President Bush. McQueary wrote that he has fulfilled his goals since joining the agency at its formation in March 2003. He indicated no immediate future plans. "
FEMA technology set for upgrade: "Amid a whirlwind of controversy surrounding the federal response to 2005 hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the Homeland Security Department has unveiled plans to overhaul the information technology it deploys to cope with disasters. Under plans announced yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will get improved logistics systems, better customer service systems for disaster victims, modified contracting practices and better communications. Speaking at the National Emergency Management Association mid-year conference, DHS secretary Michel Chertoff said his department had met a congressional requirement to assess disaster response capabilities nationwide by Feb. 10. He said assessment of the emergency response capabilities of major cities and towns included some green, yellow and red indicators."

Monday, February 13, 2006

DOD rolls out DICE06: "The Defense Interoperability Communication Exercise 2006 (DICE06) started earlier this week to test communications equipment and systems for use among DOD services and agencies and with the Homeland Security Department and first responders, according to a release sent out by the Defense Information Systems Agency."
"First Responders' Day" Observed in Kentucky: "Joined by hundreds of Kentucky's law enforcement, firefighter and emergency personnel in the State Capitol, Governor Ernie Fletcher, along with the director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (Ret.) Maj. Alecia Webb-Edgington, hosted a February 9th ceremony honoring the first observance of 'First Responders' Day.'"
Communications firms cite problems: "WASHINGTON — In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency workers commandeered gasoline from a company trying to restore telephone service to the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans area, a Senate investigative panel found. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Monday released an e-mail obtained from Cox Louisiana Telecom LLC. The company was trying to restore service to 85,000 customers, according to Kay Jackson, director of regulatory affairs. ... The panel’s probe also found that Louisiana has not spent $58 million in first-responder grants dating back to 2003, Collins said. The state only uses 16 percent of its funding for communications, half the national average, she said."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Louisiana improving interoperability among first responders: "Created through Executive Order to address the need for compatible and effective communication among first responders, Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has charged the Statewide Interoperable Communication System Executive Committee to develop a statewide, user-driven approach among all levels of government to provide reliable communications for the entire emergency response community."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Burden of proof: "First responders soon may need more than a radio or a password to access interoperable networks under development: They will need to verify their identities.

But will fire and police officers accept having to swipe ID cards on their radios or laptops before calling for help? The federal smart-card regulations anticipated under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 are adding layers of complexity to the already difficult goal of strengthening public safety communications by making radios and networks more interoperable with each other.

The identity management regulations initially affect only federal workers and projects, such as the Integrated Wireless Network, a nationwide, $10 billion, wireless network being developed for law enforcement agents in the Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury departments. But many state and local response agencies expect eventually to conform to HSPD-12 as they adapt their own systems to verify identities. An example is DHS’ plan to distribute 200,000 smart cards to first responders in the National Capital Region around Washington."
DHS interoperability effort hits snags: "The Homeland Security Department is making slow progress in its efforts to achieve interoperability in first responder communications, Andrew Maner, the department’s chief financial officer, said at an academic conference today. "

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bridgeport RFQ for Interoperable Communications Project: "The City of Bridgeport (CT), one of twenty-six agencies receiving grants under the U.S. DOJ COPS Interoperable Communications Technology Program this past September, has released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for technology firm consultant services. Services are sought for Bridgeport's Public Safety Interoperability Project, an effort to consolidate dispatch operations and created a joint emergency operations center. Selection criteria include company experience, staff qualifications, similar successful project experience, and references, among others. Project management services, in particular, are sought."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

First WiMax Products Officially Certified: "The first fixed WiMAX products have received official certification from the WiMAX Forum, the trade organization said Thursday. The approvals are something of an anti-climax since more than 150 deployments and trials of WiMAX have already been launched, the trade group said. Still, the certifications mark the official launch of the wireless broadband technology. The 802.16-2004 standard for fixed WiMAX was approved last year and the process of certification testing started last summer. The first products to be officially certified as adhering to the standard and as interoperable with other standardized products come from Aperto Networks, Redline Communications, Sequans and Wavesat, the group said. These first products to be certified operate in the 3.5 GHz range."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hurricane Katrina Independent Panel - The FCC has named member's for its panel intended to review the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the telecommunications and media infrastructure in the areas affected by the hurricane. Public safety communications will be one area of focus.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Swap of airwaves encounters snags: "A long-awaited swap of airwaves aimed at eliminating cellphone interference with emergency-service radios across the USA is in turmoil, prolonging communications problems and risking public safety, law enforcement officials say. Public-safety officials and consultants largely blame cost disputes with Sprint Nextel, which is bankrolling the $2.8 billion project. They fear the spectrum transfer, which began in July and is to be completed by mid-2008, could be delayed or done improperly, further hindering communications."
Washington public-safety agencies plan wireless network: "As Everett police Sgt. Boyd Bryant drives through his city's downtown, the laptop computer in his car beeps and blings as he connects and disconnects from a wireless network that covers several blocks. After stopping, Bryant logs on to the city's servers, checks his e-mail and downloads a file. Some hope police and other public-safety workers across Snohomish County will eventually be able to do what Bryant can do now in parts of Everett. The plan, say members of the Public Safety Technology Wireless Sub-Committee, is to lay wide blankets of a high-speed wireless network across the county's most populated areas."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Major metro areas found ineligible for anti-terror grants: "Metropolitan areas as large as Phoenix and San Diego no longer qualify for a major terrorism-preparedness grant program under the Homeland Security Department's new, more 'risk-based' eligibility formula. Homeland Security Tuesday issued a list of 44 regions that may seek a slice of the $765 million available in fiscal 2006 from the Urban Area Security Initiative, which the department said 'provides resources for the unique equipment, training, planning and exercise needs of select high-threat urban areas.'"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Operation: Operability: "The 9/11 terrorist attacks triggered a nationwide scramble to develop interoperable communications among emergency responders. But Hurricane Katrina left officials scratching their heads over the utter disappearance of even basic communications."
Compatible radio systems would cost billions: "As chaos engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, emergency responders traded urgent information in a way that was hardly a model of 21st-century high technology."