When the NYPD helicopter pilot circling the World Trade Center warned that “large pieces” of the South Tower looked about to topple, the report never got to the firemen inside: Their radios couldn’t communicate with those of the police.
It seemed an obvious problem to fix – just as it had after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999. Yet three years after 9/11, the goal of compatible and adequate communication among the nation’s first responders is nearly as remote as ever, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
Technology is not the problem. Possible answers range from equipping mobile trucks with patching technology to establishing a nationwide interoperable network for all first responders. The European Union plans to have such a network in place by 2010. But the US is beset by turf battles on this issue, highlighting the way that even apparently obvious gaps in America’s security apparatus can require concerted leadership to fix. The factors inhibiting better communication among the nation’s first responders range from the clout of corporations to concerns among police and fire departments that new systems may have problems of their own.