Tuesday, February 06, 2007

District to link all responders over radio

Courtesy of Alan Henney and the SCAN-DC group:

Original article at:

By Michael Neibauer, The Examiner (Feb 5, 2007 3:00 AM)

WASHINGTON - Two dozen District government agencies outside police and fire still can’t coordinate over the city’s public safety radio network more than five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the D.C. Unified Communications Center has prepared an upgrade under a recently awarded one-year, $199,960 contract with D.C.-based consultant Telecommunications Development Corp. The deal calls for the development of an intra-District interoperability plan for 23 agencies within D.C. currently using the 800 MHz Radio Network.

“This effort will permit agencies that would not normally have the ability to communicate with one another the means to do so with the implementation of this project,” UCC spokeswoman Debbie Know said.

The government is pleased with its current emergency radio system, but it does have deficiencies, Knox said. Secondary responders were never linked, she said, leaving those agencies with no direct capability to communicate with members of the perspective communities, dispatch or local support staff via the 800 MHz radio network.

The D.C. Department of Health, for example, a vital agency in the case of a bioterrorism attack or virus outbreak, can communicate with RFK Stadium security, the Emergency Management Agency and the D.C. Department of Transportation. But it can’t talk to police or fire over the existing network, Knox said.

“Communications is one of the biggest issues and problems with emergency response, particularly for something on the magnitude of a 9/11,” said D.C. Council Member Phil Mendelson, chair of the judiciary committee. “So this would be part of a comprehensive effort to improve the ability of all responding agencies to talk to each other.”

The District’s first responders seamlessly communicate with each other and others in the National Capital Region through the Motorola SmartZone 800 MHz network. The NCR was recently given high marks for its interoperable communication technology and operating procedures in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security scorecard.