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Pre-9/11 Issues Still Prevalent For Emergency Workers

September 5, 2011 by  

This report came more than seven years after the 9/11 Commission released their original research documents.The Associated Press reported that the radios necessary for emergency responders to communicate with each other are still not working at the levels that they should, 10 years after the problem was initially discovered.

A National Preparedness Group report released on Wednesday concluded that the recommendation for the creation of a nationwide broadband network for emergency responders has continued to languish, according to the news outlet.

“Despite the lives at stake, the recommendation to improve radio interoperability for first responders has stalled because of a political fight over whether to allocate 10 MHz of radio spectrum … directly to public safety for a nationwide network,” noted the report.

This report came more than seven years after the 9/11 Commission released their original research documents, containing 41 recommendations for sweeping changes to policies and institutional structures of the government, The Washington Times reported.

Although some of the recommendations were carried out and turned into policy, there is still significant room for improvement, something that may not occur due to the current state of politics in Washington, according to the newspaper.

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  • Robert Smith

    Ham radio operators have been partially filling in the gap. It isn’t a perfect solution but placing a ham(s) in the emergency rooms, at the disaster site, at police headquarters, with a mayor, and at the utility offices, etc. much cross communication is possible.

    Hams are volunteers generally spending thousands of dollars of their own money and skills preparing equipment for such operations. They participate in drills and train their own to deal with situations that can lead to saving lives.

    These unsung heros have seen a need and they are contributing to a solution. Americans volunteering not for personal gain but because it needs to be done.


  • Morton L. Friedman

    There is, and has been, s fundamental problem. Spectrum utilization requires that the different agencies are allocated reserved parts of the radio spectrum. And different frequency bands have each their own characteristic limiting in what circumstances they can be effectively used. The problem was emphasized with the JFK assassination and the Watts riots, decades before 911.

    What was needed, and still is, are ALL-band radios for all agencies that might be expected to participate in emergency operations. It was possible in the 60′s, it is even easier today. Money has always been the problem, as they tend to be low on the priority of shopping lists.

    One thing to bear in mind. Those all-band radios must be secure, and their usage restricted to authorized agencies. In fact they should be coded and protected against eavesdroppers. The public has no ‘right to know’ the operational activities during emergencies, and neither does the media.

  • Robert Smith

    From Morton: “The public has no ‘right to know’ the operational activities during emergencies, and neither does the media.”

    Actually the public does have a right to know. Remember, emergency personell are accountable to those who pay for their services, the American public. What difference does it make if the public knows that 3 fire trucks were sent there while some other place only got two?

    The only way to hold them accountable is with knowledge.

    I do agree that sometimes operational security is necessary, when busting a criminal effort for example, but those conversations should be available later through air-check recordings.


  • Morton L. Friedman

    No sir,

    The Public ‘Right to Know’ is after the operation is completed. One of the first things taught to all law enforcement and emergency personnel is that all communications to outside entities are by the commander in chief of the operation. No rank and file operational person is empowered, nor qualified, to judge if the operattion is due to natural causes or a criminal act.

    Whether you like it or not, any emergency operation, especially when there are multiple units involved, is akin to a battle, whether it be a battle against Nature, criminals, or terrorists. And yes, mob rioting is a criminal activity. And like the military, possibly even more so, communication security is mandatory. In civil activities, all of the communications become part of the evidence for the prosecution, subject to Rule of Law pertaining to evidence.

    I will suggest that you read any NTSB accident investigation report, in total, and then read a media report. The NTSB report will run many pages of excruciating detail. The media report will exerpt what they want to tell the story that they want to tell / sell. A world of difference.

    Your Ham radio operators often provide a very worthwhile service in providing global communications. An example would be getting worldwide support in the event of an earthquake or tsunami. But in a local tactical environment they are basically unauthorized eavesdroppers. Of course, as civilian volunteers, they can be deputized as a ‘posse’, with all the restrictions that apply to a posse.

    • Robert Smith

      Morton, you really don’t have a clue when you say things like: “An example would be getting worldwide support in the event of an earthquake or tsunami. But in a local tactical environment they are basically unauthorized eavesdroppers.”

      Actually not true. I personally was at Flight 90 when it went into the Patomic tying (with other hams) DC, Military, Alexandria, and Arlington responders together. Traffic was very heavy. We even provided telephone communications.

      I was also at the Red Cross in DC to participate in the NDMS proticals to get information from a disaster site to emergency rooms and beyond as patients could be shipped anywhere in America.

      I was NEVER “deputized” when I was on site. We had drilled, practiced, and sat in classes with first responders to develop the personal trust that needs to be in place before a disaster.

      Folks who I trained were at the Pentagon during 911 on the Alexandria emergency bus that responded. They were there for almost a week.

      Oh yes, during large disasters, during the early states particularly, often Ham radio is the only link to the outside.

      You can go to:

      There you can see the diversity of the Ham community and emergencies.


  • Charles Hargrove

    As the lead of the amateur radio response for 9/11 in NYC (, as well as a recognized expert on NYC public service communications (, all I can say is that the wrangling over communications between agencies has been mostly political and financial over the past two decades.

    The easiest solution to have an ability for various agencies to be able to talk to each other is to have a common interop channel programmed into their radios and not spend billions on a new digital trunking system that does nothing but add complexity and actually introduce the potential for keeping things secret from the public.

    I have always stated that empirical observation and proof is much more important that a theory. Maybe that’s why certain arrogant persons hate what I point things out and especially when I am proved right in the long run.


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