Chris's Rants

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Faylur to cammewnicate

This from the Chicago Sun-Times:
Daley said the city offered 36 members of the firefighters' technical rescue teams, eight emergency medical technicians, search-and-rescue equipment, more than 100 police officers as well as police vehicles and two boats, 29 clinical and 117 non-clinical health workers, a mobile clinic and eight trained personnel, 140 Streets and Sanitation workers and 29 trucks, plus other supplies. City personnel are willing to operate self-sufficiently and would not depend on local authorities for food, water, shelter and other supplies, he said.

During Sec'y Chertoff's press conference earlier today, a reporter asked why it was that first responders from across the country, who were volunteering to go to the Gulf Coast and provide their services had been prevented from doing so by DHS.

Chertoff's response was that it would only add to the confusion because of the difficulties in communcations between the various systems used by the first responders from different jurisdictions.

I can't find the transcript online yet, but that was the jist of his response. (He, of course, denied that they were being prevented in one breath and then made the point above, which pretty much contradicted his denial yet no one called him on this).

What he was essentially saying was that there was no interoperability between the first responders' communications systems.

One has to wonder whether the communications crisis, that earlier this week was being cited as the primary reason for the lack of coordinated response to the breach of the 17thy street levee, was due in part (small or large) to the same interoperability issues that the Secretary cites in his rationale for turning away some of this country's greatest heroes, the police, firefighter and EMTs from assisting in the crisis in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and not just the fact that the land line and cellular systems were in disarray. After all, in a disaster, whether man-made or natural, it has to be expected that the power grid and the telephone systems will likely be effected, and hence cannot be relied upon for communcations amongst the responders.

I am sure that this will undoubtedly come out of the investigations that will ensue in Congress once things settle down a bit. However, I'd like to point out that this issue is one that had been highlighted by the 9/11 Commission Report as a problem that needed to be addressed.

One that has been a festering problem stretching back before 9/11.

One that has yet to be addressed by Congress, or the administration, despite all of their lip service that 9/11 changed everything.

What 9/11 didn't change, by any stretch of the imagination, is the fact that corporate interests trump everything in politics, including issues of public saftey, especially with the current cast of criminals in office on Capitol Hill (both sides of the aisle) and across the mall at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Here's what the First Response Coalition had to say on the matter just 13 months ago:
GovPro: First Responders to Congress: Action Now on Interoperability! (emphasis mine):
When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) acted less than a month ago (July 8, 2004) to place Nextel's bottom line ahead of the grave ' interoperability' crisis in police and firefighter communications that was highlighted amidst the horrors of 9/11, the First Response Coalition called on Congress to overrule the Commission's ill-advised decision. Our recommendation was that Congress should earmark the proceeds from a lawful spectrum sale to address the problem of ' interoperability' – that of police, firefighter, EMT, and other local emergency units to communicate with each other and with local, state and federal agencies.


The fact that these same cities are living once again under a very real terror threat – and that the interoperability crisis remains unsolved three years after 9/11 – makes it imperative for Congress to get involved in framing a resolution for the problem.
As we all know, neither Congress nor the administration heeded the desperate plea of the first responders, they gave a wink and a nod to the Nextels, their lobbyists and other corporate interests and did nothing.

Could the availability of interoperable first responder communications have prevented some of the death and destruction we witnessed this past week along the Gulf Coast? That's hard to tell at this stage.

However, one thing is certain. The legions of first responders from across the country who were volunteering to take time off from work, to risk their lives to help those in need, would not have needed to be turned away if Congress and the administration had made interoperable first responder communications a top priority after 9/11. That would have saved lives.


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