DHS report finds some improvements for first responder communications

WASHINGTON: A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report released this week found that communications among first responders have improved, but work still needs to be done.

WASHINGTON: A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report released this week found that communications among first responders have improved, but work still needs to be done.

The DHS Nationwide Interoperable Communications Assessment looked at how governments, technology, and training help law enforcement and fire and emergency medical services effectively communicate with those from other jurisdictions.

"What's been found is that in the years since 9/11, improvements have taken place across the board," Jarrod Agen, DHS deputy press secretary. "[But] there is work that needs to be done to take it to the next level."

The report found that interoperable communications policies have been solidified for all 75 urban and metropolitan areas and cooperation among first responders is strong, but strategic planning from the governments across regions needs improvement.

"To have local and state politicians and managers coordinate on the same level for funding [and policies] is an extremely complex issue when you have so many people involved," Agen said. "You can have over 100 different communities involved. The difficult thing is to get those on the same page and coordinating [with each other]."

Nonprofit First Response Coalition (FRC) has called for President George W. Bush and Congress to hold a National Interoperability Summit and set a fixed date to establish complete interoperable communications. Steven Jones, executive director of the FRC, said the overall goal is to get all first responders transmitting on a common frequency while using completely compatible equipment.

"There really has been a lack of federal leadership on the issue; this is not to say DHS [doesn't] care about this issue or hasn't made strides," Jones said. "But, at the local and state level, it's hard to coordinate your efforts when you don't have leadership up from above."

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