“Hard To Believe” Disaster Communications Remain Broken


Emergency workers isolated and unable to call for help; radios and cell phones inoperable; and government unable to respond to a catastrophic event. The chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina had an eerie familiarity to members of the Sept. 11 commission, who delivered their final report last week, says the Washington Post. “On September 11, people died because police officers couldn’t talk to firemen. And Katrina was a reenactment of the same problem,” said Thomas H. Kean, the commission co-chairman and ex-New Jersey governor. “It is really hard to believe this has not been fixed.”

Four years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the commission concluded, emergency communications networks in most U.S. cities still cannot sustain a major natural disaster or terrorist strike, despite pledges from Congress and the Bush administration to upgrade the networks and implement national standards to make it easier for emergency workers to talk with one another during crises. “The New Orleans calamity proved overwhelmingly the government’s inability to solve chronic, fundamental problems with communications,” said Reed Hundt, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. “No one in the government has shown leadership on this issue, and now the results are tragic.” After Katrina, said Louisiana Sen. Robert Barham, chairman of the state Senate’s homeland security committee. “It got to the point that people were literally writing messages on paper, putting them in bottles and dropping them from helicopters to other people on the ground.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/09/AR2005120902039.html

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