Fans of the 1970s TV show Emergency! will remember that famous radio call. The show was the first to serialize and glamorize paramedics as first responders in crises large and small.
With the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy no longer a front page news story, it’s worth appraising a couple of aspects about disaster preparedness:
First, I found it heartening that the Northeast region was able to get the word out and communicate so effectively in terms of pre-storm evacuations and service closures to avoid mishaps and fatalities during the storm. I have no doubt that hundreds of lives were saved by these actions.
Secondly comes word that as far as first-responder communication, we still have a way to go to ensure that first responders have their own bandwidths on which to seamlessly communicate with one another.
NY and NJ first responders had success in communicating at the push of a button, but teams from outside the region that had come to provide extra help were left with dialing cell phone numbers on the usual 4G network–subject to the same dropped calls and network outages as the rest of us.
Haven’t we learned from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina? The government has created FirstNet, an independent federal agency, to set up a national emergency responders network, in addition to setting aside a portion of the broadband spectrum to create such an entity. But the FCC isn’t planning on auctioning off this part of the spectrum until 2014 at the earliest due to resistance on the part of broadcast networks and other government agencies, according to a NYT piece by Edward Wyatt.
Hopefully with the election season out of the way, the President can prioritize full establishment of a secure and strong emergency communication network during his second term–and leave us all a little safer for it.