Recently I attended a press conference where New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood with Long Island First Responders to announce her support for legislation that would upgrade our country’s emergency communication system. First responders are the firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other public safety professionals who save lives on a daily basis and those we expect to respond immediately in any emergency situation. They are what many can consider everyday heroes and who we as a nation rely on during some of our most dangerous and horrifying situations. I was surprised to learn that currently, these professionals all communicate on different frequencies and with different systems, hence they cannot respond as effectively, efficiently, and perhaps as quickly to these emergencies, according to Gillibrand’s office. To me this was mind-blowing that in today’s world where technology rules those who we rely on so heavily to save lives don’t have everything they need to respond as effectively as possible.
These insufficiencies were reported by the 9/11 Commission, a committee formed to analyze the response to the 9/11 attacks. Even more mind-blowing is that 9/11 occurred almost 10 years ago, and this legislation is just being addressed now. Gillibrand announced her support of legislation that would change this all. The Public Spectrum and Wireless Act would upgrade the emergency communication system by doing the following:
-Develop a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband network, which is:
-10 megahertz of spectrum
-known as the “D-block”
-something Obama called for in his winter State of the Union address
While Gillibrand said she feels the bill will pass without opposition, there is one problem that stands in the way. Currently, she says, the Federal Communications Commission mandates that first responder organizations upgrade their existing communications to newer technology by January 1, 2013 that they feel will make the use of wireless spectrum more efficient. However, this upgrade will not help the interoperability issue and still does not meet the 9/11 Commission recommendations. And of course, this upgrade will be very expensive. Gillibrand urged the FCC chairman to take this into consideration. Gillibrand claims the Public Spectrum and Wireless Act would provide the necessary funds to develop and deploy the nationwide wireless network, but this FCC mandate will cost public safety entities more money and will not fix all the problems.
I feel that if more people knew about these insufficiencies they would be really pushing to get this legislation passed. It seems like a no-brainer that every public safety official would communicate on the same network and in the same manner, but since they don’t, this is something that really needs to change immediately.