Monday, January 29, 2007

House panel aims for fresh look at homeland security (1/25/07): "As the new Congress revs into gear, Democrats and Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee are likely to take a fresh look at programs dealing with biometrics, cyber security, technology innovation, communications, cargo-scanning equipment and border security, according to sources, aides and lawmakers. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, for example, continues to champion the need for Congress to provide state and local governments with billions of dollars in new funds to purchase and deploy emergency communications equipment that can work across jurisdictions."
Police Won’t Use $140 Million Radio System - New York Times: "For more than 10 years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been working to correct a major hindrance to police work in the subway system: a radio network that keeps transit officers underground from talking with officers patrolling the streets above. The goal was simple but potentially revolutionary: replace an antiquated radio system with a network that would make it possible, for instance, for an officer chasing a suspect down a subway stairway to radio ahead to other officers. Last October, after spending $140 million, the authority completed the installation of the system citywide. But it has not been turned on.

That is because the Police Department refuses to use it, saying the new system is hobbled by widespread interference that garbles communication and creates areas where radios cannot receive properly. “What you get is distorted audio,” said Joseph Yurman, a communications engineer for New York City Transit. “You can hear it, but it sounds as if you’re talking through a glass of water.”"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

US State and Local Governments’ Spending on Technology to Improve First Responder Communications to grow 7% over next five years: "Despite the high priority placed on public safety by governments at all levels, first responders continue to struggle to communicate with peers in other agencies or jurisdictions as part of coordinated emergency response efforts. State and local governments must address both the technology and organizational issues that prohibit interoperability among public safety communications systems, says a new report by independent market analyst firm Datamonitor.

According to the report “Government Technology – Fostering Interoperability in Public Safety Communications,” spending by US state and local governments on communications technology for first responders will rise from $3.2 billion in 2006 to $4.4 billion by 2011 as public safety agencies look for ways to collaborate and share information during critical situations."
Upgrade of Houston PD radios may wait 5 years: "Five years after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington made clear how important it was for local law enforcement and emergency responders to communicate in a disaster, the city of Houston remains outside a regional radio network of more than 500 agencies. More than 10 years after city officials began talking about the need for 'interoperability,' a Houston police officer still cannot push his mike button and talk directly to patrol deputies at the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Instead, officers must rely on county dispatchers to send out the call. When county dispatchers are not monitoring that channel, a city dispatcher must contact his counterparts by phone."

Friday, January 12, 2007

NYC says law hurts radio efforts - "New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged Congress on Monday to scrap a rule on emergency radio transmissions that he argues hurts his city, which has invested millions of dollars in upgrading police and fire communications since the 2001 terror attacks."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Faulhaber - Solving the Interoperability Problem "Public safety radio communication provides the essential link by which fire, police, EMS and other emergency personnel respond to life- and property-threatening situations. Communications enables the situational awareness, command and operational control without which the response of multiple agencies to an emergency is less than useless. Key to this communications capability is interoperability: the capability of first responders from different agencies to communicate during emergencies."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

DHS: Interoperability has improved, but needs to be better: "Tactical interoperable communications among first-responder agencies has improved noticeably in recent years but considerable work remains to regionalize interoperability capabilities, according to a 179-page report released this week by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

DHS made scorecard assessments of 75 urban and metropolitan areas in the county, based largely on exercises conducted in each area. Interoperability policies have been established in all of these areas and first-responder cooperation in the field is strong, but leadership often is not formalized and communications links between agencies need to be tested regularly, according to the report."
Chertoff pledges more progress on emergency communications interoperability: "Homeland Security Department secretary Michael Chertoff cited a newly released report card rating cities’ progress on achieving interoperable emergency communications as a guide to further work in the field to plug gaps over the next two years rather than an indictment of laggard cities.

“We’re going to identify the [interoperability performance] gaps and get them to where they need to be,” Chertoff said, as he released the scorecards. “What we are talking about is getting beyond the basic level to advanced [interoperability preparedness].”

He cautioned against using the report card scores to compare cities’ performances in the field across the board, because of varying regional characteristics. Citing such variable factors as the role of skyscrapers and land features in causing problems for radio communications, Chertoff warned that direct comparisons among cities would be “like comparing apples to oranges.”
Baton Rouge officials say report biased: "WASHINGTON — Baton Rouge-area emergency response officials on Wednesday rebuffed a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report saying the region had one of the worst metropolitan systems in the nation for communicating by radio during disasters. Although acknowledging varying levels of equipment compatibility and financial resources, officials in an eight-parish region near Baton Rouge studied by the federal government contend that they are making strides in what is called “interoperability.” The local governments tested their systems last summer, an exercise that came off with few communication mistakes, participants said."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

DHS: Remarks by Secretary Michael Chertoff at a Press Conference on the Nationwide Interoperable Communications Assessment: "Secretary Chertoff: ... As we begin 2007, this is a good opportunity to talk about interoperability, which is a major concern for homeland security. ... What is interoperability? Well, simply put, it's the ability of first response agencies — whether they be fire, police or emergency medical services — to communicate with each other during an emergency or a disaster. This means having radios that can talk to each other. But it also means having established operating procedures for communication and clear lines of authority. This is an issue in which we've been focused on for the last couple of years and, in fact, it's an issue which the 9/11 commission identified in its final report as one of the priority 'must dos' for all levels of government.

Interoperability, though, is more than just a matter of technology. People tend to think about it as, we've just got to find the right radio or the right communications device, and then everybody can talk to everybody else. But, in fact, true interoperability also involves matters of governance; policy making; standard operating procedures; such as knowing where you get your radios and who is entitled to talk to who; training, so that people know how to use the equipment; and exercising, so that we can evaluate where performance continues to need work."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

6 of 75 cities get top disaster rating: "On Sept. 11, 2001, New York fire battalion chief Dennis Devlin issued an urgent plea: His men were in 'a state of confusion' and needed more working radios immediately. Yet, more than five years since Devlin and 342 other members of the city's fire department perished at the World Trade Center, the government says only six U.S. cities have fully answered the late fire chief's call by adopting advanced emergency communications systems. New York is not one of the six, according to the scorecard by the Homeland Security Department that was to be released Wednesday.

A draft portion of the report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press gives the best ratings to the Washington, D.C., area; San Diego; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Columbus, Ohio; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Laramie County, Wyo. The lowest scores go to Chicago; Cleveland; Baton Rouge, La.; Mandan, N.D.; and American Samoa. The report includes large and small cities and their suburbs, along with U.S. territories."