. . . What is the problem?
In a serious national, state, or local emergency, experience has demonstrated that communications systems are among
the first to fail. Cellphone networks, telephone connections, and public safety repeaters tend to become unusable
-- either by technical failure or by improper use or overuse -- just when they are most needed.
. . . How is this a problem?
When qualified first responders, critical personnel, and other tactical emergency workers are unable to communicate,
the effectiveness of the emergency response is greatly reduced.
. . . How has this happened?
Over recent years, emergency communications systems have migrated to trunked- and spread-spectrum radio networks
that are not compatible with adjacent public safety networks using different systems. This phenomenon, called "lack
of interoperability," permeates modern emergency radio communications. In a recent "Meet the Press"
interview, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge described the problem:
© NBC News
|Secretary Ridge: (…) First Responders (…) want an interoperable
communications system in order to get things done when they arrive to save lives.
Mr. Russert: Interoperable, you say. D.C., District
of Columbia, cannot communicate with Virginia.
Secretary Ridge: Right.
Mr. Russert: To this day.
Secretary Ridge: Well, but again, Tim, we inherited
a situation post-9/11 where we have to rethink our relationships between levels of government. We have to rethink
the relationship between even some of the technology that we bought before September 10. It is a process of making
all of these things merge. (…) And, again, communications and putting these systems together is one of their highest