Emergency responders in most cities still don’t have the equipment and skills needed to communicate with each other in a crisis, says a U.S. Homeland Security Department report quoted by USA Today. Only six of the 75 cities and regions surveyed received top scores for “interoperability,” or the ability to reliably communicate by radio: Washington, D.C., and its suburbs; San Diego; Columbus, OH; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Sioux Falls, SD; and Laramie, Wy.
The 9/11 attacks highlighted communications problems among fire, polic,e and other emergency responders in New York City, at the Pentagon, and at the air crash site in Somerset County, Pa. The problems were especially acute at the World Trade Center, where firefighters couldn’t hear police warnings to get out of the towers before they collapsed. Since 2003, Homeland Security has handed out $2.9 billion in grants for interoperable communications systems. The lowest scores went to Chicago; Cleveland; Baton Rouge; Mandan, ND; and American Samoa.