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Progress on first-responder communication, but not enough

Both in our HazInfo project and in the work we did subsequently in the Maldives, we addressed the problems of first-responder communication. The report from the NYT highlights the progress that has been made since 9/11, but also the remaining gaps (identified and written about in the 1990s by our colleagues Peter Anderson and Gordon Gow).

During Hurricane Sandy, New York police commanders could talk by radio with fire department supervisors across the city, to officials battling power failures in nearby counties and with authorities shutting down airports in New York and New Jersey.

As routine as that sounds, it represented great strides in emergency communications. And it addressed one of the tragic problems of Sept. 11, 2001 — that police and fire officials at the World Trade Center site could not reach one another by radio.

The recent positive developments still do not fulfill the post-Sept. 11 plans for a nationwide communications system for first responders. Emergency officials who showed up from other cities to help clean up after the hurricane could not talk to New York officials with the radios they had brought from home.

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