Thursday, September 14, 2006

Communications breakdown

The classic "two tin cans with a string" telephone isn't an ideal system of communications. But in some recent disasters, we haven't done much better.

Communications failures were major problems in 9/11 and Katrina. There isn't much dispute about the need to address this issue. However, we don't seem to be making much progress. The Washington Post reports:

House Republicans are blocking an attempt to spend $3.1 billion to help the nation's police and fire agencies communicate in emergencies as Congress debates a proposed overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
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The inability of police and firefighters to talk by radio was a critical factor after the 2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, according to the Sept. 11 commission.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that 23 percent of the nation's 60,000 police and fire departments cannot communicate with each other over the radio, one-third cannot talk to county sheriffs, and most cannot talk to state or federal agencies. Governors and state homeland security advisers say the issue is their top priority, according to the National Governors Association.
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Yesterday, state emergency management officials and congressional aides said talks have bogged down over funding and jurisdictional fights, including whether to rename FEMA and whether to bring the nation's disaster laws in line with recommendations made in post-Katrina government reports.

Fortunately, all terrorist attacks, major hurricanes, and earthquakes have been put on hold until this is straightened out, by order of DHS.


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