Updated 08/17/2011 08:39 PM
9/11 A Decade Later: Officials Renew Push For Emergency Broadband Network
As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand gathered on Staten Island on Wednesday to urge Congress to finally pass a bill establishing a nationwide broadband network exclusively for emergency workers to communicate. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
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It is a well-known fact that communication failures proved deadly on September 11, 2001. First responders could not talk to each other by radio; some failed to hear the crucial call to evacuate.
Fire and police officials say locally, radio operability problems have been fixed, but there is no way to communicate with state and federal agencies when disaster strikes. The 9/11 Commission recommended dedicating part of the radio spectrum, known as the D block, to create a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders.
On Wednesday, the city fire and police commissioners and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a press conference to make sure that recommendation is followed through. They spoke at Rescue 5 in Concord, Staten Island, which lost 11 firefighters during the World Trade Center attack, as a reminder that real lives are at stake.
“As we approach the 10th anniversary, we take away many lessons learned from that day," said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. "The most important lesson was we need as much information as we can, and get it to the first responders on the scene.”
“The fire department, the police department, they are in complete communication and they are able to work together. The missing piece is, they can’t talk to the federals,” said Gillibrand.
Legislation co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Gillibrand has gone nowhere, which is why she, along with Cassano Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, renewed their public push.
The broadband network could allow for police to quickly check for outstanding warrants, or for emergency medical technicians to send pictures from an accident scene to the emergency room.
“It’s not only about voice, it’s about data. It’s about blueprints, for us to get blueprints of buildings, and transmit that quickly back and forth,” said Cassano.
Gillibrand said by auctioning off other, unused radio spectrum, the plan will not only be devoid of costs, but actually generate an additional $6 billion.
“At a time when Congress is focused on cutting spending, the bipartisan legislation pays for itself,” said Gillibrand.
Gillibrand said she will push for an up-or-down vote soon, but is seems unlikely the legislation will be passed before the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.