Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rep. Cuellar (D-TX): Improve emergency systems: "Improving emergency communications should be a top priority for the next administration, the chairman of a House subcommittee that deals with homeland security legislation said today. In a speech, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) emphasized the importance of improving emergency response communications and interoperability, much of which depends on information technology systems. Cuellar chairs the House Homeland Security Committee’s Emergency Communications, Preparedness, and Response Subcommittee. Cuellar also said the next homeland security secretary should appoint an assistant secretary to manage the Homeland Security Department's Office of Emergency Communications.

“We should elevate the importance of the emergency communications of DHS,” he said. “The Office of Emergency Communications is buried in DHS.”"
Congress pushes for national emergency communications plan: "Congress criticized the Homeland Security Department on Tuesday for delaying the coordination of a national emergency communications plan for first responders, emphasizing that states have little time to take action when formulating applications for grant money. The Office of Emergency Communications, established in October 2006 in accordance with recommendations of the 9/11 commission to improve communication among emergency responders and government officials during natural disasters and acts of terrorism, was supposed to have submitted a National Emergency Communications Plan to Congress in April. The plan was developed in cooperation with state, local and tribal governments, federal agencies, emergency response providers, and the private sector. It will provide recommendations for interoperable communication during disasters by using standard technologies, such as handheld radios and broadband networks."
New Maryland communication plan: "Flanked by state and local emergency workers, [Maryland] Gov. Martin O’Malley last week launched a sweeping initiative aimed at linking the statewide communications systems used by fire, police and other first responders to better handle crisis situations. The new network will not be fully online for at least four or five years, but state officials expect parts of the system to be operational sooner. It’s designed to fill gaps in communications that have long plagued emergency responses, such as the January shootout between police and an escaped inmate who overpowered guards at Laurel Regional Hospital."

Monday, July 14, 2008 | News | Linking up — Baton Rouge, LA

Progress Toward Interoperability: "Louisiana is better prepared today to cope with emergencies thanks to an improved statewide communications plan, officials said. That plan is a change in radio communications that will allow all first-responders in the state to talk to one another.

The switchover, from the 800 MHz system to 700 MHz, began in January 2007, and should be up and running statewide by next summer, said Brant Mitchell, assistant deputy director of interoperability with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Right now, the new system is operational in all parishes south of Interstate 10 and in southeast Louisiana, Mitchell said.

“If you look at the major disasters of the last 10 years, the No. 1 problem in all of them was that police, fire and emergency agencies were not able to talk to one another,” State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said. "The push to change is both national and local."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

IAFC working group releases digital best practices: "Some digital-radio problems in fireground settings can be offset with proper procedures and training, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) said yesterday while releasing a presentation on technical best practices for using portable digital radios.

IAFC last year formed a working group to study the problems firefighters were experiencing when using digital radios in the presence of loud background noise—not only from power tools like chainsaws often found at a fireground, but also from alert mechanisms included in a firefighter’s apparatus."