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First Responder Networks 5 Years After 9/11

kdawson posted more than 8 years ago | from the wire-them-all-together dept.

Security 189

stinkymountain writes, "Five years after 9/11, you'd think all of the nation's first responders would be on a state-of-the-art wireless network that would enable police, fire and other emergency personnel to talk to each other in case of a disaster. But they're not -- yet. Network World ran an investigative piece sketching why progress has been so slow, and describing the progress that has been made." The article leads off with a scenario that represents the toughest possible test for a first-responder network. Even the best imaginable networked system might bog down in the midst of "fog of war" situations.

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2 thumbs up for unca sam (-1, Troll)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045059)

You lost in Iraq, you are broke and we all hate you ! happy birthday, 911 ! :-D

Hey Congress! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045105)

Lack of funding is a major impediment. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has helped Washington, D.C., and Denver with grants to upgrade wireless systems, but it hasn't been able to cover the cost for all of the major cities in the United States. Replacing all of the infrastructure used by first responders would cost more than $40 billion, Vaughan estimates. "That's a problem," he says.

Here's a chance to bring a shit load of money to your districts WITHOUT it being considered pork! Duh!

Re:Hey Congress! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045279)

The communication problerm, on 9/11 was too simple ..

A device called a repeater is a radio receiver and transmitter that re-transmit the low power walkie talkies from a high location, with much higher power giving these hand held transceivers much increased range both in terms of receive and transmit distance .

This so called failure was no failure at all
  Its a political Football for one simple reason

Many of the the repeater(s) that provided these communications were on the trade center itself !
    Nothing else need be said,
No matter how well it worked, It cant work if it is gone
Poleticans can care less about how it works. And why it cant

Re:Hey Congress! (1)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045729)

If the system is prone to failure due to destruction of the infrastructure (e.g. the building) wouldn't that argue for a more distributed model? Either build more depth into the system by building multiple back up repeaters or by switching standards

Re:Hey Congress! (4, Informative)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045828)

I have some idea of how to build and maintain distributed RF networks. They way you phrased your question seems to indicate that you do not. I get the thought that you and others have this model in your head where Radio systems are all some magic digital mesh network. They are not. Many of them are using 15 year old technology or older. To create the kind of emergency network communications system that we all think should already be in place would require a basic replacement of much of the current communications systems.

There are several basic reasons for this: 1-There is old technology still in use. 2-Current systems were paid for piece-meal, by one department or another and not purchased, planned, or configured for wide dispersion communications cooperatives. That is to say that the fire dept. buys their gear, the police buy their own gear too, and someone has the unfortunate job of trying to make the two systems match up at some level, usually not a great matchup. 3-Financing means that the updates to even the most coordinated of communications systems happens in fits and starts. So, while the police get new comms gear, its 5+ years before the fire dept. catches up, but then their gear is much better, or supercedes the old police system. Hospitals get upgrades even less frequently! Now, add to this the need for additional comms channels to FEMA, Army, National Guard, Coast Guard, municipal utilities, power utility, gas, water, etc. etc. The chances of getting all those systems on the same page is a bigger problem than just getting FEMA to take appropriate actions.

After 911, there were multiple deptartments, cities, and services involved. After Katrina/Rita, there were multiple states involved, and their multiple comms systems.

The only sure way is a huge forklift style upgrade of just about everyone's comms systems. BTW, adding geographical redundancy is a huge cost to all those groups, so get ready mr. and mrs. taxpayer... its a huge cost.

Re:Hey Congress! (1)

Doctor Memory (6336) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045892)

More distributed, or more flexible. I think it might make more sense to have a "repeater-in-a-box" solution that could be hand-carried to any high point in the area and deployed temporarily. A repeater controller, transceiver, and antenna could be packed into a box that could easily be carried by one person (the two other guys on the deployment team would carry the batteries ;). A repeater set up in this fashion could also be redeployed quickly if the situation changed. The system could also be kept in a radiation-hardened location to shield it from EMP, something that a fixed location is unlikely to afford. Of course, that may not be an issue, since you'd have time to replace a fixed station -- replacement parts would come in on the same truck with the replacement handies...

Re:Hey Congress! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045919)

Yes indeed !
I'll give you an Insightful on that.
  Had they had multiple repeaters the story would have been better

Perhaps a trunked radio system, with many distributed receive sites for the handhelds.and multiple transmit sites
Sparingly shared by ONLY police and fire ,with 1 shared mutual aid channel for others so tey can collaborate


Repeaters on trucks are also now commonplace. (1)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045835)

Even in the nearby city of Portland, Maine -- with less than 1/30 the population of NYC, there are fire trucks with repeaters in them which can be dispatched to locations around the city if the system is down for one reason or another.

CB channel 9 for 802.11 (4, Interesting)

w33t (978574) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045108)

Reading about how the radios could not communicate inside of certain buildings I wonder if it might make sense to include an "emergency" channel in wireless networking equipment. After all, many warehouses have wireless access points setup for their mobile inventory devices.

This 802.11 emergency channel that could be activated and used by emergency personell equipped with special radios - kind of a "skype-911".

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (1)

paranode (671698) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045270)

In an emergency, especially those such as a destroyed building, Internet is probably the last thing you'd want to rely on.

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (1)

EatHam (597465) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045649)

I could not call my friends for shit, but IM? Even AOL IM? Worked fine.

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (4, Insightful)

loose electron (699583) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045334)

Why does everyone love to point the finger at 802.11 for things it was never designed to do?

Internet methods for emergency communication in a burning building where the power plug has been pulled? Dependence on computer systems in these types of emergencies?

I don't thinks so.

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (2, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045360)

It's a nice idea, but can you imagine how fast it would be abused?! "Hello, random router, I'm a ... fire official ... please let me route traffic through you." Heck, you could boostrap an entire fidonet-like service in any major city without spending a dime.

No, the bottom line is that, when you're inside what is essentially a faraday cage, you're screwed. You might have the radios figure this out and talk directly to eachother, but that's about as good as you're going to get. The only way around it that I can think of would be to drop a repeater in a doorway or blow down a wall.

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045987)

You might have the radios figure this out and talk directly to eachother, but that's about as good as you're going to get. The only way around it that I can think of would be to drop a repeater in a doorway or blow down a wall.

And both are valid solutions I was thinking of mentioning (ignoring the one about blowing down a wall). Why can't the radios mesh and have one (or more) that can talk to the nearest fixed repeater act as a local repeater? Why can't they have repeaters they can drop in the middle of the building to take care of the problem? I know that some police cars have repeaters built into them, so why not have a briefcase one for emergency use? If it's such a huge warehouse, I'm sure that police cars could have driven in it directly, why not drive the cars in and have the repeaters in them help out?

The problem is that the people designing the systems are non-technical and the technical people are being involved only after the system is designed and the budget is approved. When someone is given $5 million to build a wireless network to have 98% outdoor coverage and that is the correct amount for that task, he can't make it also cover inside to that same 98%. So, they need to get the tech people in the design process sooner. They need creative people with technical understanding to come up with scenarios like the failure listed so that the people that approve the budget can decide whether they will or will not address such problems.

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045455)

Want to know why tmany couldn't communicate after they worked great for tens of years ?
See reply to title 'Hey Congress', the radio antenna and repeater that controls the handhelds hundreds of them was on the trade center itself, rendering the handheld units useless when the tower(s) came down

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (2, Interesting)

identity0 (77976) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045658)

What I've wondered is if they can't set up a system to prioritize calls through the cell phone system during an emergency, to allow first responders to communicate. It seems that during every regional-level disaster, the cell system gets jammed, basically DDoS'ed, by lots of anxious people calling relatives. While that's understandabele, I think it would be more useful to allow people involved in disaster relief or law enforcement "first priority" status for calls.

It might be feasable to do it with either a registry of first responder cell phone numbers, or special SIM chips that could be used during emergencies to give higher priority to traffic. Of course, it might just be impossible given the current cell infrastructure.

Another thing is that the people trying to contact relatives to check on them is random and disorganized. I remember multiple privately-run lists of people who had fled hurricane Katrina on the web, which led to a bunch of redunduncy and confusion at the time. I'm suprised the federal government hasn't created a "find people that have been evacuated" site yet. Having a central source people could turn to would make things easier and probobly lessen the amount of traffic over the regular phone system.

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (2, Informative)

dan the person (93490) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045739)

What I've wondered is if they can't set up a system to prioritize calls through the cell phone system during an emergency, to allow first responders to communicate

They already do that, at least for GSM equipment, not sure about the US stuff.

During the london underground bombings they turned off public access to the cells around aldgate.

Re:CB channel 9 for 802.11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045689)

how about using a real radio frequency for this kind of stuff? Michigan state police and ham radio buffs use a awesome band called 6 meter in the 50 mhz range. it penetrates buildings very easily, has great range and with FM modulation sounds really good.

But the radios can not be a tiny little thing like they want for "convience" but have to be of a significant size... 2" by 3 " by 5 inches + antenna.

Boo frigging hoo to the poor poor officer that has to carry a big heavy radio.. wahhh. we should give them a raise and let them only eat their fucking doughnuts while sitting in the patrol car. All cops are corrupt assholes that abuse their power and need to be treated as such. (yes ALL of them. if they do not support firing and blackballing of an officer that breaks ANY law.. including traffic laws then they are corrupt assholes. if you are enforcing the laws then you had better adhere to them perfectly.)

A local... (4, Interesting)

BJZQ8 (644168) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045109)

A local Fire/Police organization was recently trying to upgrade their radios to a newer system. The project failed spectacularly with huge cost overruns and was eventually cancelled. Their solution? Award a virtually identical contract to the same vendor for the same system. The problem is government...wasteful spending brought on by too many years of overfunding. Where a $5 solution would suffice, they ALWAYS spend $500. The solution? I dunno, anarchy maybe.

Re:A local... (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045418)

Will Rogers once said: "Thank Goodness we don't get all the government we pay for!"

Re:A local... (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045771)

What's interesting is he didn't pay nearly the amount of taxes we do. If you really think about it, you have to ask how and why tax rates ever increase at all.

I mean, we know the government is subject to inflation, just as we are - but then as inflation goes up, so do wages and taxes collected. It SHOULD be a wash.

(the reason is simple - expansion of government, and none so quickly as under the current administration).

I'm a volunteer firefighter... (3, Informative)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045809)

...we have an old VHF system. The city fire department, police department and sheriff office in our area are all on digital 800 Mhz systems. In order to upgrade the county fire departments, there would have to be enough money to upgrade handheld radios of over 250 firefighters at about $800 a piece. Not to mention to repeaters and such that some departments have. Don't forget the personally owned radios that the firefighters have in their vehicles, too. Of the five volunteer departments in the county, with about 50 certified firefighters (they test and train just like the paid firefighters), new radios could break any budget unless federal grant money comes in.

Re:I'm a volunteer firefighter... (3, Informative)

castoridae (453809) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045968)

Rather than replacing the radios, have you looked into bridging solutions that might allow interoperability between your existing VHF radios and their digital radios? As long as both infrastructures are already in place, why not use them...

Re:I'm a volunteer firefighter... (1)

Vol_Firefighter (991624) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045991)

I'm also a volunteer firefighter and are department just got mobile units that are 800Mhz for are officers. But we found out when we sent a truck to help cover a neighboring fire department in another state that those units were useless. We where told they should have work but they didn't. The issue I have is what happen if the need us on a run how are would we communicate on a scene.

Re:A local... (1)

castoridae (453809) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045901)

Well the problem is, funding comes in the form of use-it-or-lose-it grants for a specific item (like radios). The other problem is that a fire/police officer isn't professionally equipped to select a solution. Why would they know anything about radio systems, other than from a user's point of view?

What happens is they go call the company(ies) they know - like their original vendor, with whom they have an ongoing relationship via support anyway - and ask what options are available to solve the problem outlined in the grant. What's the first thing the vendor asks? How much do we have to work with (i.e. how much is the grant for)?
  Maybe the actual problem is that the agency awarding the grant (some arm of Homeland Security, presumably) doesn't help the local agencies select a solution, they just send a check with strings attached and leave them to sink or swim on their own.

Re:A local... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16046016)

One might think that RF and EE -type engineers would be in big demand; after all, with all the new mandates for better communication systems - these guys should be the go-to experts.

When CNN wants to talk about why the radios didn't work inside WTC, they don't speak to RF engineers, they speak to a uniformed fire captain, the misinformed mayor, or some under-informed political hack for the Port Authority.

When the FAA and AF command centers couldn't get enough information to make decisions on 9/11, you might think they might increase coverage to avert info-gaps. My local TVnews tells me the NYC metro area is under-staffing ATC by around 30%.

Friends tell me a local PD (07xxx) is refitting its aging radio infrastucture. Instead of taking the lower-priced, higher wattage, more versatile Isreali version... they are signing a new contract with the same-old-vendor. Guess what - they continue to use radios from the same mfr. who made all the radios that failed the firefighters in the WTC.

We don't need terror; we should live in fear of our own idiots.

Homeland Security is a farce (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045128)

The department, and the concept. Unfortunately, it was just a tool for the government to pretend to do something about the problem - the illusion of safety, if you will. For all the whining Americans do about having to pay taxes, you'd think they'd demand that the department do its fucking job.

Easier said than done (2, Insightful)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045131)

Like a lot of things, this is one problem that cries out "Something must be done! This is something; therefore, it must be done."

It's easy to look at the communication failures on 9/11 and recognize we need a better way of doing things. And it seems like a fairly simple problem that can be solved by a neat, tidy bureaucratic process. But as the example of the warehouse full of refigerators shows, it's really not that simple.

Re:Easier said than done (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045394)

They should...(dropped call, redial) get a verizon...cell phone...and then it would... be fine...

Re:Easier said than done (1)

955301 (209856) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045510)

I do think it's that simple - it's just that the you cannot use the same processes that got you into an unworkable situation to get you out of it again.

A friend of mine once told me, the way to build an effective emergency system is to cause an emergency and see what people use and what they discard - the parts and processes they still use are the once to build the system out of.

Walkie Talkies, a truck unrolling a spool of fiber down the street, a bunch of bystanders on exercise bikes generating power, and a lot of paper notes being passed around to people with running shoes - if you don't see creative stuff like this it's going to fail eventually.

Re:Easier said than done (1)

SueAnnSueAnn (998877) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045693)

Easier said then done is right. We have had a regional communications system in Southern California for some time now APCO project 25/26 compliant. The digital radios themselves are a compromise between the most efficient use of spectrum space and audio quality. To add to the issues these public agencies face you can add the increased multipath distortion, phase distortion and effects caused by Doppler shift when digital radios are used in aircraft. As for the issue of using handheld radios in buildings; back in 1990, I was part of a rather costly retrofit of UCSD Medical Center here in SanDiego. In older buildings where windows are few and far between, special equipment has to be installed in the buildings in order to get signals in and out. in order to maintain communications with the outside world. While the system promises many benefits, some of its faults will have to be lived with. The voice quality is no better then a cell phone, and degrades just as rapidly in fringe signal arias. This can lead to possible danger to personal and civilians during an emergency. No System is perfect it is the Awareness of problems in any system that contributes to the efficant use of that system.

Over kill may be the problem. (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045156)

Why use broadband? I am trying to understand why the SWAT team lost communication in the building? Do they used a centralized system? It is impossible for each SWAT member to talk peer to peer with each other SWAT team member?
Come on people streaming video is nice but not at the expense of calling for help.
Maybe they should start carrying a few simple HTs as back up for their super wiz-bang system.

Re:Over kill may be the problem. (1)

loose electron (699583) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045363)

Broadband communication using OFDM modulation is very resilient to multpath radio signals and localized fading problems.

Think lots of reflections and deadband issues.

That has nothing to do with video...

Re:Over kill may be the problem. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045600)

But why use broadband for simple voice?
A simple 11-meter "CB" system would have probably worked just fine in that building. It sounded like they are using a hub based system but I am not sure since I really don't know much about digital trunk radio systems. I brought up the streaming video because in the article they talk about rangers streaming video and getting weather data in real-time.
Even if you are going to use broadband style system it would seem to me that a mesh system would be more resilient. Of course you then have the issues of complexity, cost and battery life.

Re:Over kill may be the problem. (2, Informative)

loose electron (699583) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045870)

CB at 27MHZ with AM modulation?

Wrong frequency and wrong modulation method.

You want something that will surive multpath reflections without a lot of degeneration - that says over 100-200 MHz.

You want somthing that can sort out the signal and work with it after it has reflected off of a bunch of things and is getting received. If it is voice alone, then something like FM would work.

But then I just described a lot of the police radios already out there.

If you want it to be digital, then you need a multipath resilent modulation scheme. OFDM is where you go to do that. []

Above is a good overview.

Ideally, you want the capability for group communication, selective communication, and knowing the location of all the radio units at the control base station.

In a perfect world - Let's add the capability for everyone to communicate with the base station getting wiped out and no transponder/repeater dependency in a pinch. Barring those, lots of redundancy in the system, so if one gets wiped out, then another can take over.

If you are not aware of it, that has been around for for disaster communication for quite a while: []

The distributed nature of the above, and all the redundancy of the multiple sources make it work, albeit not perfectly. Hm.... sounds like a terrorist network doesn't it?

Feb 2009, FCC Mandate (3, Informative)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045172)

Probably the biggest single reason is the lack of available spectrum needed to support broadband wireless devices for public-safety radios.

That is finally about to change. The FCC has mandated that TV stations give up the 700MHz channels and that bandwidth be available for broadband public safety applications. Unfortunately, that switch wont occur until February 2009.

Re:Feb 2009, FCC Mandate (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045963)

The bottom line is that the FCC values helping the broadcasters make an inexpensive as possible move to digital over emergency communications.

If they really cared they make the change stand by it and let the broadcasters piss, moan and fork out the cash to upgrade.

You can bet if the FCC had backbone the broadcasters would upgrade. They'd complain, try to lobby congress, threaten, use scare tactics telling people their TV will die...wait a sec...don't they already do this?

What does 9/11 really have to do with this? (4, Insightful)

mendaliv (898932) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045181)

It strikes me that in this article, they're just using 9/11 to shock people into seeing a problem that was *already there to begin with*.

The warehouse shootout they mentioned probably would've happened the way it did, 9/11 or not, and the departments would still have complained that they needed more funding for better comms gear than they can afford.

Re:What does 9/11 really have to do with this? (2, Insightful)

Mikachu (972457) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045922)

It's because it's a great example of how the government is pouring tons of money into things like homeland security and yet it's (obviously) not going where it needs to.

The problem, in my opinion, is not really lack of funding on homeland security, it's just not really being put in the right places.

government failure in action (3, Insightful)

jay2003 (668095) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045190)

The federal government not only should have figured out standards for first responder radios, it ought to have provided the radios to all first responders. Any time you hear a politician compare the Al Queda threat to WWII, try to remember that if President Roosevelt had responded in the slow, unfocused manner President Bush has, we would all be speaking german now. In WWII, this country completely transformed its economy in less than 2 years to rapidly produce ships, planes and tanks. In 2006, we can't even get working radios. How the mighty have fallen.

Re:government failure in action (1)

BJZQ8 (644168) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045254)

Okay, then, lets produce some ships, planes and tanks...and fight who? This is a war against an ideology, not a country. I don't think the world is ready for us to fight EVERYONE who has that ideology. What, might I ask, in his stead as President, do? Transform our economy to make a working radio system? You are fighting physics, not a war.

Re:government failure in action (1)

blugu64 (633729) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045549)

Wait...are you saying WWII wasn't an war over differing ideologies??

Re:government failure in action (1)

BJZQ8 (644168) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045675)

I am saying that WWII was about territory and conquest, planting your flag in an enemy's pile of rubble/capital. There were Nazi tanks to strafe, there were Japanese Yamatos to sink. Who do we kill in this war? We could go flatten Tehran and Damascus, but what would that fix? Perhaps a better term would be "we are fighting a religion" and really, fighting a relgious war that is millenia old.

trolls in action (0, Troll)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045272)

Stay inside your cubicles and be forwarned, the government hating trolls are at it again [] , and again [] , and again [] ... and I'm certian there's more to come.

Re:trolls in action (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045438)

So pointing out repeated and useless waste of billions of dollars is being a troll?

Re:trolls in action (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045518)

I'm certain that you're in a position to know exactly what is going on, and that you're the very first person to realize and point this out. Therefore you must not be trolling right now. I'm certain that's why you went all up and AC too!

Re:trolls in action (1)

BJZQ8 (644168) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045571)

Okay then, I'll post with my name in it. I am in a position to know exactly what is going on in the School District where I work, and I see the same thing happening everywhere else. Maybe I'm not the first person to realize it, but NOBODY seems to care. And by the way, I see you posted AC yourself. I see the government screaming for more money, and I see NO results from their billions of spending. Hell yes, I'm going to point this out. They are sacrificing any future we may have for this country on the altar of "safety" and "security". Maybe it doesn't bother you, but I'll shout it from the rooftops as long as I'm alive.

Re:trolls in action (0, Offtopic)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045711)

They are sacrificing any future we may have for this country on the altar of "safety" and "security"

I can't resist asking: What future will we have if we are not safe and secure? I totally agree with you that the large government wastes more money than than we could ever imagine, and there are many flaws in the system, but what our country needs more now than ever is a sense of "one-ness" and "loyalty" to the land we love. Yet, everybody, including you & me, seem to so divided on the most obvious item, protecting our home land.

Re:trolls in action (0, Flamebait)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045559)

We don't hate the government, we just hate you and what you've done to our country. And by hating you, I mean hating you PERSONALLY. You suck ass. The Conservative Corruption Club is going to pay for their crimes.

Labelling all your enemies trolls is about as stupid as you can get, but I'm sure you're going to try to be more stupid than that.

Re:trolls in action (-1, Offtopic)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045597)

Labelling all your enemies trolls is about as stupid as you can get

You're blaming me for using a tool that your lib /. friends abuse all the time. Those lib moderators literally comb the posts, looking for conservative comments, then go back and not only mark that comment a troll, but all travel to your user page and purposely troll down every comment you've made recently, no matter what the topic. So blaming me for calling you a troll is highly hypocritical considering you probably turned around a just modded my recent comments troll.

Re:trolls in action (-1, Troll)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045802)

I'm not blaming you for moderation. I'm pointing out that I hate you because of what you've done to our country.

I don't have any moderation points, though I am eligible and have perfect Karma. I think it's because I read Slashdot too much, and I fall outside of the category of a typical user. In any case, I wouldn't moderate you down. I'd kick you in the face and jerk off in your eye sockets instead. That's what you deserve, you COUNTRY WRECKER.

Awesome article pitcure (1)

Fhqwhgadss (905393) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045195)

I love the picture at the bottom of Dana Hansen, manager of wireless networks for the city. She stares victoriously into the distance, hands on hips, and proudly proclaims "Our radios didn't work in the building ... The SWAT team had to do a workaround."

Way to go team!

Re:Awesome article pitcure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045596)

Well since you commented on the photo..

It looks to me like she is struggling hard to suck in her gut and that looks like a fake with teeth smile.

I am not complaining about her build, I happen to like woman of average size which is not large by any means, not teenager model barbie doll that people tend to drool over either. Why is it called Chicken of the Sea then?

Of course not. (5, Insightful)

JavaLord (680960) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045199)

Five years after 9/11, you'd think all of the nation's first responders would be on a state-of-the-art wireless network that would enable police, fire and other emergency personnel to talk to each other in case of a disaster.

Five years after 9/11 you'd think we would have reformed our INS department, so that people who pose no threat could gain citizenship with more ease, and people who might be a threat were deported.

Five years after 9/11 you'd think we would have the most secure airlines in the world, with sensible screening processes, yet we do not.

Five years after 9/11 you'd think we would have had an honest review of our interventionist foreign policies since the end of the cold war, by Bush, Clinton, and GW Bush yet this hasn't happened.

Five years after 9/11 you'd think we would have made more progress in developing our own energy, or finding alternative fuels to use.

The only conclusion we can draw is that government, especially big government moves slowly, and is not doing the will of the American public. The American public is just too distracted to care. I blame world of warcraft.

Re:Of course not. (1)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045439)

...I blame world of warcraft.

I disagree with your conclusion. Everybody knows that it is Papa Smurf's fault. That commie bastard.

Re:Of course not. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045448)

I would love to see you point out a solution to any one of those problems.

Re:Of course not. (2, Interesting)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045490)

The American public is just too distracted to care.

That's completely unfounded bullshit. I assume you come to this conclusion in one of the common ways: the government doesn't tell you of the millions of phone calls, emails, and letters they get from citizens and organizations who care, so you assume they don't get many; Bill O'Reilly and others broadcast that the public is in uproar over "the war against Christmas" and never mention what the public is actually thinking since they don't know.

The fact is only 2 things tell us what the general public is thinking: polls and votes. The largely inaccurate polls might tell us the president's approval rating is low, but tell us nothing of what the people actually want done. Voter turnout tells us that people think the candidates are too similar to make a vote matter, or there is no one running who they are interested in. If there were candidates who really stood out, were well spoken, and spoke to the heart of what most of the public is actually thinking there would be huge turnout and all of a suddon you'd think people really cared. It's a lack of options, not a lack of caring.

Re:Of course not. (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045879)

"The fact is only 2 things tell us what the general public is thinking: polls and votes."

Actually, only one thing tells the general public what to think - Rupert Murdoch. Well, maybe all the gay "reality" shows on Bravo a little bit too.

Re:Of course not. (1)

rbochan (827946) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045591)

You're forgetting...

Five years after 9/11 you'd think we would have more than just a hole in the ground where the WTC once stood.

If they can't even, LITERALLY, fill a fucking hole in the ground, why on earth would anyone expect this government to get anything else done?

Re:Of course not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045784)

If they can't even, LITERALLY, fill a fucking hole in the ground, why on earth would anyone expect this government to get anything else done?

It's not even "this government" as an entity. In this case, as I understand it, the fault lies with FDNY. They enforced a policy that *every* bucket of debris must be inspected by a firefighter looking for human remains (mostly other firefighters). Nevermind that a fireman has no particular training in that above volunteers, and many of the other workers *did* have that type of training. And nevermind that the firefighters were understaffed doing their regular job especially after losing a bunch to the WTC disaster!

Re:Of course not. (2, Interesting)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045964)

A Ray Nagin fan, eh? I'll tell you why work on the WTC plaza is so slow:

1. There was a lot of debris. I don't think anyone who hasn't seen the towers can possibly understand the enormity of these buildings. It simply doesn't register unless you've stood at the base and looked up. People think "yeah, yeah, a couple of big buildings, I get it." while picturing a large building they may have seen and thinking "it's a little bigger than that." Wrong... it's like 10 times bigger than that. My wife's never been to NYC, I showed her a picture of the towers and pointed at one of the tiny buildings next to it and said "see that little building? That's bigger than any building I've ever seen in Belo Horizonte [where she's from]" and that building was less than a quarter the height and probably much less than a quarter the footprint.

2. The debris was very hazzardous, including a lot of fun things like asbestos. Remember, there was smoke rising for months after the collapse.

3. The streets in NYC are not big enough for effective hauling of that much debris, and only so many trucks and people can be at the site. Include the fact that roads around the site were open, it makes it very difficult to effectively remove all that debris.

4. They don't want to "fill" it, they want to build a new building there.

5. Ray Nagin's an $%*#@(!. (Hey, everybody's entitled to an opinion, right?)

Re:Of course not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16046006)

If they can't even, LITERALLY, fill a fucking hole in the ground, why on earth would anyone expect this government to get anything else done?
Because this governemnt invaded and is rebuilding two countries in responce to 9/11 and one country had nothing to do with 9/11.

Re:Of course not. (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045630)

Not to mention port security.

>The only conclusion we can draw is that government, especially big government moves slowly

No, that is not the only possible conclusion. The spectrum issue could have been solved with the stroke of a pen by reallocating severely underused DoD frequencies. $40 billion for a nationwide upgrade could have been put into the budget within a year and would have contributed more to save lives from terrorism than some other things have.

Notice that DC got an upgraded system already. The alternative to your "only possible conclusion" is that the people in power care about their own safety ("WARN was used first for the presidential inauguration in January 2005") and not at all about ours, except as a way to frighten us into letting them spy without oversight, imprison without charges, and torture.

Re:Of course not. (2, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045849)

Five years after 9/11 you'd think that people would be over it so we wouldn't have to see the victims bodies being waved on political poles over and over and over....

Bones that see a word, bones that don't (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045230)

Your eyes the one that sees the word, your butt's the one that don't!!!!

This is the single-most intelligent thing said on Slashdot, evar!

Article doesn't look at every state (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045237)

It appears the article failed to look at all 50 states and only take tidbits from different areas that have an issue. It states that DC is #1 in the nation for preparedness; however, if you check it would be the State of Ohio.

After multiple years (starting well before 9/11) and Millions of Public Dollars, Ohio offically rolled out MARCS (Multi Agency Radio Communication System)in 2004-05. The system has towers in all 88 Ohio counties and bosts coverage of 98% of the state (some of the terrain in Southeastern Ohio prevents total coverage). MARCS has enabled all agencies, whether it be the State Highway Patrol, EMA, County Sherriff's, City Police, and other responders, to communicate with each other without restrictions.

MARCS has also been studied by other states that are in the process of implementing their own first responders network. The article would have been better if it looked at all 50 states because while those mentioned might not be ready, I am sure there are others Like Ohio that have deployed or in the proccess of deploying multi-agency networks.

Re:Article doesn't look at every state (1)

OracleDBA (86361) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045356)

Yea but look at the cost in Ohio to put a radio on the system, mostly prohibitive for the majority on non-metropolitan counties.

Another problem.... (4, Informative)

McFortner (881162) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045284)

Another problem is that in many cases, those who make the decisions on what to buy have no experience in using the equipment. They believe whatever the sales reps tell them and the end users get stuck with equipment that works poorly while getting told that there is nothting wrong with it. Public Safety personell are cursed with equipment that does not work as well as the equipment they used to use.

I know this because I work in public safety and we have this problem. 800 Mhz systems are being pushed heavily right now, yet nobody thinks of the problems. Sales reps gloss over problems, saying that these systems will work so much better than the VHF systems they are replacing. But these new radio systems work in the same general frequency range as the cell phones everybody has. How many times are your calls dropped because you drove into a valley or walked into a building? How would you like to be an officer searching for an armed suspect when that happens? I have had that happen, and trust me, it is not a good feeling when it does.

The sales reps will say you don't need any extra tower sites for the new system, what you have will be more than enough. But for decent coverage in the UHF band you need your antennas on the high ground so you can cover the low areas of your coverage area and you need a lot of them. Cell phone companies understand this and put their towers on the high ground near areas of heavy usage. Unfortunately, public safety does not get anywhere near as many, and those that they do have are often set up where they already have land, such as the back yard of fire stations. These are frequently not in the best location geographically for radio coverage, and money is not spent on obtaining decent transmitter locations.

Sales reps don't care about this. All they care about are sales. They know that once the sale is made, they are out of there and it is no longer their problem, but the buyer's. Sounds a lot like the IT field, doesn't it?

There are 4 types of liars (in order):
4. Liars
3. Pathalogical Liars
2. Car Salesmen
1. Sales Reps

So remember the Dispatchers saying, "Beware of Sales Reps bearing gifts."

Re:Another problem.... (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045426)

That's why you hire an experienced radio engineer to do a study of the proposed system and the costs and construction requirements for the desired level of coverage. There's nothing wrong with 800 MHz as long as you recognize that it takes more base stations to get the same level of coverage as an existing VHF/UHF system. All systems have dead spots.

Re:Another problem.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045582)

RE:["Reality is for people who can't handle drugs."]

you keep thinking that and one day you wont be able to handle either reality or the drugs, they both will be your killer...

Re:Another problem.... (1)

McFortner (881162) | more than 8 years ago | (#16046063)

There's nothing wrong with 800 MHz as long as you recognize that it takes more base stations to get the same level of coverage as an existing VHF/UHF system.

Don't forget that the higher the frequency, the smaller an object needs to be to attenuate the signal. The 800 MHz spectrum begins to show attenuation from leaves on trees! Modern buildings with reinforced concrete or metal skins attenuate the signal easily and makes the signals so weak that they can't be received. I can think of several stores and buildings in my area where officers can not get a signal out when they can not get a signal out in case of an emergency. Not exactly what you want when lives are at stake. But this is becoming the norm now. Just imagine how the officer feels when he is depending on this radio to get assistance and he hears nothing on the other end....

Of course, according to those who bought the system, there is no problem. Just wait until this causes an officer to die in the line of duty....

Re:Another problem.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045810)

You forgot statisticians. It should be:

There are 5 types of liars (in order):
5. Liars
4. Pathological Liars
3. Statisticians
2. Car Salesmen
1. Sales Reps

Another Attack Vector (2, Insightful)

vlakkies (107642) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045300)

FTA: With IP, SWN can upgrade radio software over the network and provide mobile data support.

The state of software security being what it is, I wonder if the next major attack would not be accompanied by a day zero exploit of a bug in the radio software that renders all the radios useless because the bad guys uploads some bad software. Vendor diversity in radios may be beneficial just as it is in operating systems.

After one year... after five years... (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045315)

The biggest obstacles appear to be FCC inaction and DHS failure to supply funding. The problems were apparent and being widely discussed days after 9/11.

One year after 9/11, lack of progress could be fairly attributed to the complexity of the problem.

Five years after, it begins to look like incompetence... or lack of will... or both.

The Manhattan Project took four years from start to successful use of the finished product in wartime conditions.

Re:After one year... after five years... (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045555)

The problem is that you aren't just dealing with the federal government, you have to deal with a multitude of federal, stste, county, city, town and local agencies. All of which have their own needs, priorities, funding issues and politics. In many cases, they aren't used to cooperating with each other. You usually end up with a bunch of systems that can't communicate with each other. Most of this could be solved with better radio technology and adherence to open standards, but who is going to foot the bill for the new hardware?

Re:After one year... after five years... (1)

castoridae (453809) | more than 8 years ago | (#16046039)

Right on - but you underestimate the amount of money being thrown at the problem. There is enough for new hardware. NY State just spent some atrocious amount for a new radio system (well into the 9 figures I believe). But it still won't be compatible with, say, NJ State, or even many of their own towns who want to use their own radio system every day instead of the new state-owned system. Every little jurisdiction (and big ones) buy something different - DHS just isn't doing any serious detailed coordinating of how their grants are used - and that's a job beyond any local agency, and probably beyond most state agencies as well.

Open standards would be a good thing. Or an emphasis on purchasing bridging technologies to tie incompatible systems together instead of just replacing everything. It's cheaper, and individual agencies wouldn't need to change the way they operate.

but Manhattan Project was a "no-bid" contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045613)

To re-phrase it so its understandable to folks who don't work government contracting -- it was Halliburton-style bidding.

Mandated signal boosting hardware (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045386)

I'll throw out my totally uninformed opinion out there, hopefully to have it quashed by someone "in the know."

Exit signs and emergency lighting that work on backup power are required by building codes. Why not require a small, adjustable, signal repeater in every large building / on every floor of a major building? Obviously I'm just pulling a solution out of thin air, but why isn't something like this pushed harder? The hardware can't be that hard to lay your hands on, and by putting the onus on the business rather than the county, it saves money. Hell, subsidize them for buildings that need a retrofit.

But then I supposed it's harder to do that than it is to suckle at the juicy tit of federal Homeland Security money. Why be practical when you can put an 11 million dollar spending bill on your re-election resume.

Re:Mandated signal boosting hardware (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045672)

Lack of standards. Joe Firefighter walks in to your building. Is he using VHF-LO, VHF-HI, UHF, T-Band, 800 MHz? Is it analog or digital? Is it conventional or trunked? If trunked, which proprietary trunking system do they use? To make things worse, the feds usually use frequency bands that are reserved for the federal government, and are incompatible with the frequency bands used by state and local governments.

Where our tax dollars are going... (1, Insightful)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045397)

Very strange, I'm not sure either. You'd think that even BEFORE 9/11 happened, NORAD would have known about the planes' diverted flight path (and if not the first plane, the second one at least..??) ...but for some reason they had no idea.

Talk about strange.

You'd think that 5 years after this horrible disaster, all of this "homeland security", increased taxpayer spending, would at least help us prepare for another homeland strike..but for some reason, most of us feel more at risk than before 9/11. Even our president tells us it could happen at any time, and the only thing to do is "fight the terrorists".

Talk about eerie...

I'm 26, young and still have a lot of fight left in me...but I'm scared for the older people that are sitting at home, watching CNN/Fox news, scared that a terrorist will blow their house up. Or the kids (the kids!) who don't understand why two huge buildings "just fell down"... For some reason, these billions and billions of taxpayer dollars that are supposed to be going toward helping us all feel better about the security of a nation...just isn't there.

Talk about a completely unbalanced proportion. 5 years later, we still don't know what happened on 9/11 [] .

Re:Where our tax dollars are going... (1)

Kombat (93720) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045504)

Very strange, I'm not sure either. You'd think that even BEFORE 9/11 happened, NORAD would have known about the planes' diverted flight path (and if not the first plane, the second one at least..??) ...but for some reason they had no idea.

Of course, the controllers did notice the plane's diverted flight path. While this is unusual, it is by no means a cause for alarm. Put yourself in the controller's shoes. It's another normal day on the job. You notice one of your planes changing heading without clearance. You call him/her on the radio, they don't answer. Then their transponder goes offline. A terrorist hijacking? Probably not. More likely, they've had a radio failure, and are diverting to a nearby airport.

Unfortunately, it turns out it was a terrorist hijacking. And when a second plane started behaving erratically, the panic button was pushed, and intercepter jets were dispatched from Massachusetts. They flew out over the Atlantic ocean and went supersonic trying to catch up to the wayward airplane, but they were too late.

There was nothing unusual about the way the controllers did their jobs. They did everything by the book, and followed their training to the letter. There are very specific protocols in place for aircraft who experience radio failures, and it's not entirely unheard of for it to happen. An aircraft that isn't responding to controllers, and who is changing course, is not cause for immediate panic.

Re:Where our tax dollars are going... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045588)

A terrorist hijacking? Probably not. More likely, they've had a radio failure, and are diverting to a nearby airport.

You need to understand that this is slashdot. 90% of the Bush bashers on here would proclaim that they knew the entire plot as soon as they would have seen the first plane divert from it's course and that they would have called up Clark Kent and he would have saved the day.

ie: you're dealing with a bunch of hind-sight geniuses. The proclaim to have all the answers and that they can't be wrong. They claim they live in their parents basement out of choice and it has nothing to do with the fact that most slashdot users are a about as technically competent as your average Geek Squad member with with the social skills of Norman Bates.

Re:Where our tax dollars are going... (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045852)

Way to stereotype.

I don't claim a damn thing. I just think that the collection of facts, reports, and things of the like are questionable. Is that so bad? Is it un-American to question your government? Fuck no.

You need to understand that the popular opinion isn't always, 100% the most informed, and you should think for YOURSELF and form your OWN opinion, with as little bias as possible. If you've done that, then great. I see very little of that these days, however, especially with all of the strange things happening with elections, sudden emergency NORAD terrorist alerts, long-standing wars on countries who apparently had NOTHING to do with the 9/11 disaster (WMDs? We don't need no stinking WMDs!)...Can't you admit that it's just a tad bit strange?

Re:Where our tax dollars are going... (0, Troll)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045811)

Ok, your theory might be true for the FIRST plane...but how about the second one (or third or fourth?), more than 15 minutes after the first plane who mysteriously went off track flew INTO A *$&#ING BUILDING..?

The problem: money, greed, perceived urgency (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045478)

Money: there's not enough of it. There never is.

Greed: everyone from vendors to politicos wants a big piece of the pie, which just inflates the total cost

Perceived urgency: Fast, good, cheap, pick two.

This is pretty much the same as the e-voting systems and other do-it-now big-government projects.


1) Prioritize and get a handle on what the cost of saying "no, not this year, maybe next year" is for each project. Not every police department needs the latest technology.
2) Make it clear to vendors that agencies WILL delay purchases if they believe it will save money or lives in the long run. Technology is getting cheaper by the day. If having high-tech gear today rather than 2016 saves 3 lives, but the money is pulled from another project that could have saved 4 lives, you've just killed someone.
3) Make it clear that private industry will be bidding against in-house projects, projects from other government entities, and "the clock" - the estimated cost of doing the project later + the "security/convenience" cost of delaying or canceling the project.
4) Meaningful measures to prevent or manage cost overruns and delays, particularly those the vendor could have prevented but also those caused by the client or outside forces.

#3 puts an effective cap on the cost of the project: any bid over this amount will be rejected. If no bids are below this amount, the project is delayed or canceled.

Re:The problem: money, greed, perceived urgency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045773)

Your cost-benefit formula is fine, but it is not clear to me how you estimate the cost in lives of the buy-vs-don't-buy options. The problem with terrorism is that successful attacks are largely unpredictable and any specific details warning of an attack are usually not available with sufficient lead time to respond by enhancing communications systems. (ie once you have hard info, it's too late to decide) I'm sure an actuarial approach could take a stab at estimating the cost in lives, but I expect such an approach would be limited by a serious lack of good data on the benefits of the advanced radios. Until you collect the data you are facing an unknown level of risk. At that point people just go ahead and buy the radios now...

Tip of the ice cube (1)

Yea-but... (743927) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045481)

Consider that we're dealing with DHS, the largest organization within the US Gov... and they were just formed out of a bunch of large US Gov organizations that have little to no track record of playing well together. DHS is distracted by it's own internal problems and they have little energy to spend on solving the problems of local first responders. They have leadership with significant attitude as well, not to mention that they think that their authority means they know it all too... They believe they are Large and in Charge...

DHS is headed by "Big-Bang" specialists that, once they get around to it, will attempt to devise a large centralized plan that they will attempt to roll out or roll over on the first responders... some day in the far distant future. Remember the line, Hi, I'm from the Government, and I'm hear to help... Well, be afraid, be very afraid.

DHS will follow the same pattern that large Government orgs have been following for years. What they won't do is actually help to facilitate local first responders any time soon. They're just too distracted getting organized to pay too much attention to the little guys.

States and big cities are going to be on their own for some time and even with good direction, coordination, and leadership from DHS, it will still be the local governments that will have to do the heavy lifting. Local governments should realize that it's their business in the first place to protect their local populations. If your local governments are sitting around waiting for the DHS to move, I suggest that you pay close attention to this topic next time you vote for your state and local representatives. They are the ones with direct influence over the first responders that your life may depend on.

Speaking as a Paramedic and Hazmat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045537)

Sorry to post anon, my dept would likely dismiss me otherwise would that it appeared I spoke on anyone's behalf save my own.

The frank problem isn't technology, regardless of what the article might suggest - it's simply funds.

Let me explain:

I am fortunate in that I also work for a Govt agency in addition to a local muncipality, and in terms of COMMS, the primary difference is not our network backbone (trunked, talk grouped, encrypted 800 MHz), but our portables. My Govt radio can seemlessly go from standard Tx/Rx to peer-to-peer (5 mi) to repeater, and at $8000 each, you also so be pleased to note they work in almost from inside almost all structures. These radios (Motorola) are built like tanks, and if you can break them by anything short of running one over with a Bradley (...), I'll be impressed.

My city radio, also a Moto, can do standard Tx/Rx and peer-to-peer in a 3 mi radius - it performs admirably inside most structures, but I do note a significant amount of signal degradation inside most hospitals (which are built to isolate, so not a very surprising find). At $4000 each, they can hardly be called cheap - build quality is nearly identical to my Govt radio, and to an otherwise well meaning city comptroller, 2 radios are a better "best value to the city" than 1.

A complicating factor, which I cannot address without taking sides, is the problem of Command - **THIS IS NOT POLITICAL** - rather, it still remains unclear, even with NIMS guidance, who ultimatly should take charge of an emergency: Fire Vs. Rescue Vs. Police? Military Vs. Civ? Local Vs. State? State Vs. Federal? DHS Vs. FBI? The list goes on indefinatly, and there are strong points on each side as to whom is most qualified to assume the lead - it's unfortunatly we only engage in that debate as the emergency unravels.


Will opening the 700 MHz band help? Certainly.

Will new COMM nets, meshes, and such help? Clearly.

But give me an extra $4000, and it will help me more today.

A fundamental problem.. (1)

wfberg (24378) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045544)

A fundamental problem with these solutions, is that they're solutions looking for a problem.
Yes, traditional radio communications for first responders don't interoperate well and aren't as 'advanced', but let's look at the solutions. They're proposing digital systems, transmitting in the 800 and 700Mhz range. In other words; microwave technology. Easily blocked by walls, not very long range.

If you wanted short range, but very advanced, digital communications, there are already solutions for that on the market. Cell-phones. 911 calls already take priority on cell networks, just tell the operators to reserve 10% bandwidth for emergency services, and you instantaneously have a huge network at your fingertips; well designed, more transmitters where there are more people, etc.

It still won't work properly in buildings. In Europe they're actually suggesting that the "next generation" system for first responders used here would mean forcing building owners to install repeaters on their sites (on their own dime, too). You just know that's going to be a success!

How to solve this? You really just need the best of both worlds. Make cell networks give you bandwidth and get some standard handsets with perhaps additional software for encryption/push-to-talk; and rely on a SECOND system (yes, I said it, a second system) for those hard to reach places where you need longer wave frequencies and more wattage to penetrate the walls. That'd be for tactical use, as a backup, etc. Good old, interoperable analogue.

Hey presto. Plenty of bandwidth, pretty good networks (which if need be, you can always spend additional tax payers' money on to upgrade in places where it's weak or to make it more disaster resistant*). Not needed; proprietory next-gen non-standard gear, extra frequencies, etc.

[*] if needed. In reality nowadays, cell networks are often up and running sooner after a disaster than other networks; just wheel in mobile base-stations with a generator and a microwave line-of-sight linkup (or even satellite) and you're golden.

Yes, you'd have to work out some issues, but overall this should be a better solution. Let's not forget that in Europe the railways have their own cell networks (GSM-R; 35 networks, all using nicely standardized off-the-shelve equipment).

A Firefighter's Opinion (4, Insightful)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045585)

The reason why it hasn't happened is that WE DON'T WANT IT OR SEE THE NEED FOR IT.

I do NOT want cops polluting my tactical channels with their blather. Do any of you own scanners? Take a listen to EMS, Fire, Law Enforcement, and Air Traffic channels. None of these groups want anybody else to contend with when the shit is hitting the fan. The vocabulary is different. The lingo is different. The culture is different. It's hard enough at an emergency scene to keep traffic to a minimum between the various commands, let alone adding several more channels that someone has to monitor, and shout over.

This is why NIMS and Unified Command exist. The various agencies can talk to each other IN PERSON since they're face-to-face, and then relay the messages via their radio frequencies to their people.

We don't want it. We don't need it. If you want to see how we operate in an emergency, ask to be an observer at the Command Post the next time your local jurisdiction does a mass-casualty drill. Airports do them on a grand scale once per year to once every two years. The regional Counterterrorism Task Forces do them once per year. Your regional Emergency Management Agency does it once per year. Watch and learn. We don't need more crap on the radio.

Re:A Firefighter's Opinion (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045838)

The regional Counterterrorism Task Forces do them once per year. Your regional Emergency Management Agency does it once per year. Watch and learn. We don't need more crap on the radio.

I have and I also notice that in REAL emergencies your stuff does not work and the HAM RADIO guys save your asses.

Yet you ignore their reccomendations on how to fix your poorly designed communications systems because they are "hobbiests" and "amateurs" ignoring that most have more experience and education than the engineers that motorola's sales guy sent in to design your system. 800mhz trunked is stupid for emergency it always fails, great for the day to day crap though. long range VHF systems from the 60's work and continue to work and are perfect for emergencies... but you guys dont gear up for emergencies.

Every year we offer to help and work with the regional emergency groups, they ignore us until the shit hits the fan then they come crawling asking for help. Local search and rescue groups are far more organized and effective than any of the government paid groups.. yet they as well are ignored until needed (and needed far more than people realize) Get off your high horse and involve those of us that actually know what the hell it takes to get emergency communications as well as how to actually do the tasks needed.

Re:A Firefighter's Opinion (1)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045932)

Um, maybe where you are things are different. We don't use 800 mhz, and we don't intend to. In addition, the reason why at least in our area HAM isn't usually figured into preplans is the same reason why other agencies are not, either. It is because our SOG's are for incidents directly within our jurisdiction. It is up to EMA to handle larger incidents, and to open one or more Emergency Operation Centers if the need arises, and unify command thusly. Amateur radio clubs do have a role to play, and at least in our area the Stormwatch and other clubs are on a contact list for EMA. You would not deal directly with me or my department under most circumstances. In a large incident, you would be assigned individually to various units, companies, or commands by the EOC to ensure that communications that were down are reestablished.

I'm sure you already know that (or we're just too sensible over here), but for the average observer reading this thread, their impression may be different.

If you have a complaint about how you are treated, take it up with EMA, not us. We're just the ones doing the detail work - you know - putting out fires, rescuing people off rooftops, etc.

Now why am I not surprised... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16045736)

It seems to me as if slow responses are the thing the US excells at. Just take a look at the way the Katrina disaster was being handled. New Orleans maybe big, but still finding bodies after one year is IMVHO purely ridiculous. Thats not even happening in poor countries when a disaster or earthquake or tsunami hits. But the mightiest country in the world however...

I think its in the nature of the way things progess there. There are just too many people who's attitude ends at the edges of their job description. The moment something occurs which is out of their contract its "I wasn't hired for that". No, gee, wouldn't you think that a little effort on your part would eventually benefit the whole company you work for? Guess not.

So far the aftermath with disasters like these have been nothing but negative. Like learning about ignored experts warning about soon to be collapsing levi's up to people at NORAD who become very excited the moment they learn that the hijacking of the plane entering the tower was actually for real ("This is no drill, we have at least 6 planes being hijacked" "No drill? Cool!" - source: NORAD tapes). About 9/11... The thought alone that several people were actually being send back up to the towers after which they eventually died totally fills me with disgust and disdain.

This isn't merely a rant about how awfull the whole situation looks when you're looking back at it. This is also not a rant about the stupidity of NORAD who actually lost the location of the White House at some point and who, if they did got clearance to take the plane down, would have attacked several totally unrelated airliners. If it wasn't for the slow wheels of bureacracy....

The bottom line of all this? I'd say that the goverment has a helluva lot more to fix, clean up and merely get back into gear before worrying about minor details like these.

"Toughest Possible Test?" Not even close. Nukes? (2, Insightful)

Cr0w T. Trollbot (848674) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045814)

"The article leads off with a scenario that represents the toughest possible test for a first-responder network."
Um, a lone shooter in a warehouse? Not even close. How about the following as the "toughest possible test":

A ten kiloton nuclear weapon goes off in the heart of downtown Manhattan tomorrow.

How's that for a test? Certainly Iran is doing everything in its power to make this a real possibility...

- Crow T. Trollbot

state-of-the-art wireless network??? (1)

acoustix (123925) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045837)

If we have learned ANYTHING in the last 5-10 years of trying to make wireless work it is that wireless is not reliable. It didn't work on 9/11 (ask the policemen and firemen). How are we going to make it work now? Wireless has too many issues with buildings, security, etc to be useful in another similar situation. Plus, if someone really wanted to make things messy all they would have to do is jam the emergeny frequencies being used.


Progress is slow (2, Informative)

p2ranger (606522) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045952)

Back when I was an EMT for an ambulance company, we had 4 banks of radios we listened to. UHF, VHF, digital, and another portable digital. We talked to our dispatch ceneter on VHF, town A's fire dept on UHF, town A's police dept on digital, Town B's fire dept on VHF, Town B's police on portable digital, and then a few other agencies mixed in there as well. It was confusing at first learning which radio to talk to depending on which town's district and what type of a call you were on.

The fire dept I'm on now has been fiddling with trying to get a radio system down. They've gone from analog to digital back to analog, and now digital again. Some people say the digital signal isn't as strong as the analog. Our digital radios don't talk to our police dept. at all. The PD recently went to digital radios, but we still can't talk to them. We have to relay everything through dispatch. As an example, we were on SWAT standby a few nights ago. We staged out and saw a police officer waving his light at us, so we drove on in. As we came in, they yelled at us to get out of there because the scene wasn't safe yet. So we staged again around the corner. Break down in communications? I'd say so.

We also have Toughbook laptops and GSP tracking on all of our rigs. If the system worked reliably, it would be great. Supposedly the GPS coordinates are relayed to the dispatch computers for each call to determine who is closest. Info on each call from dispatch can be seen in the rig as it is entered in the comm center as well as real time mapping to map us into a call. Fairly often the system doesn't update fast enough or crashes and the officer has to pull out the run books to map us into the call. Not that using the old books is bad, but having to make the switch enroute to a call ain't good.

There are channels that have been set aside for interagency operations. They are labeled based on which side of the metro area the call is in. I know the fire protection district next to ours has only in the last few months gotten radios that will let them talk in that new system.

Money is a big issue. Not everyone can afford to get digital radios and antennas throughout their districts. It would be nice if everyone was on the same page. What happens for example when one of the districts that still uses analog radios responds for mutual aid to a district that is covered with digital radios?

As long as the govt has their hands in it, the problem will never get solved.


This is something I know a bit about... (3, Informative)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 8 years ago | (#16045990)

I'm an officer in a fire department. A much smaller department of course -- but we all study the same issues and see the same FEMA, NFPA, etc. bulletins.

The problems at the trade center were not so easily blamed on radios. Katrina related issues in New Orleans however, were influenced a great deal by radio communication problems.

That said, here are some things to consider:

1. Most departments are NOT like FDNY. 86% of firefighters in the USA are "on-call" not live in full timers. 96% of departments in the USA are staffed in part or in whole by on-call firefighters, and 40% of the population is protected by these "volunteers". Focusing on FDNY and their issues on 9/11 isn't doing a service to the real problem.

2. With Katrina, every cell tower, every radio repeater, and all the power for thousands of square miles was down. Trucks with portable backup repeaters couldn't operate in the deep water and muck. With no communication, fire crews are acting as islands and cut off from knowing where emergencies are or from getting help. Police had the same problem, but the added issue of a populace which would rather fight them then help them.

Now, taking that knowledge in hand, let's talk about what has happened since 9/11 in my little department. Since 9/11 here's what's changed:

1. Every member of my department has their own radio at all times. This is unusual for rural departments - or was. These radios are not cheap. They run about $1500 each. Remember, not just any radio will do -- they must be "intrinsically safe" (meaning no internal sparks) and must stand up to some fairly serious abuse.

2. Every member of my department (and most in other departments I've spoken to) has complete the now required "NIMS" (National Incident Management System) training and certification process at levels 100 and 700. Most town leaders have also completed this training. Officers such as myself also complete NIMS 300, while chiefs complete several more. This system is set up so that in an escallating emergency all responders are on the same page from a language, radio traffic, procurement, authorization, authority, and responsibility perspective as an incident grows from a single unit response to a multi-state task force. The system is patterned after a very successful program used for years by the forest service.

3. Although most towns still use their own frequencies on their radios, in our area all the towns which are adjacent and most which are one town removed are pre-programmed on our radios. There is also a statewide non-repeated frequency so that any firefighter on the fireground has a way to communicate.

4. I am told, though I have not seen, that for very large incidents equipment exists that allows high level incident management teams from the federal level to respond and "slot in" a radio from each local jurisdiction. This device acts as a switch of some kind, bridging the radio systems on the fly. I'm told a decision on how far down the chain that technology will be pushed is still in the works.

5. Even in our little town of under 10,000; we've gotten together with nearby towns and drilled at mass casualty and hazardous materials incidents.

Now, if you think there are more things we should do, consider that most "volunteers" (remember, that's 86% of firefighters) put in more than 50 hours a year of unpaid training time as it is. Where were you?

The people who understand the failings in the 911 response but are not part of the chain of command are other firefighters. All of us, around the country, can point to things the FDNY did wrong. It's easy to do after the fact. We're also the most reluctant to do so. Our brothers may have made mistakes, but they did a lot of things right in the face of terrible danger and stress. We're reluctant to point fingers. That doesn't mean we don't discuss it among ourselves and in our training.

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