Firefighting, Leadership, Technical Rescue

Nearly 45,000 U.S. Police, Fire Officials Urged To Push Congress To Solve First Responder Interoperability Crisis

Washington, D.C. – Almost three years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thousands of police and fire divisions in cities and counties across the United States still do not have coordinated communications capabilities. This unresolved national crisis – referred to as a lack of “interoperability” – is prompting the First Response Coalition to reach out directly to more than 43,000 local police and fire officials to solicit their help to get Congress to overturn the Nextel spectrum grab in favor of a plan that deals both with the interference problem and the interoperability crisis.

Gene Stilp, who is the First Response Coalition coordinator and a volunteer firefighter, EMT, and vice president of the Dauphin-Middle Paxton Fire Company #1, in Dauphin, Pennsylvania, said that, “The FCC plan is wrong for police officers and firefighters. It only takes on part of the interference issue and doesn’t do a thing about interoperability. The FCC plan is short-sighted, and, if we don’t act together, we’ll miss the opportunity to get Congress to step in and solve both the interference issue and the significantly larger interoperability problem.”

The letters to a total of 42,463 police and fire officials in all 50 states started going out earlier this month and responses are just now starting to come in. The outreach program is getting a very favorable grassroots response including over 17 fire chiefs who have joined the ranks of the First Response Coalition in opposing the FCC’s current plan for the taxpayer-owned spectrum. In the letter, the First Response Coalition proposes a plan to “auction off the spectrum that the FCC plans to give away and dedicate the $5-10 billion that would be raised for communication system upgrades. (The plan) also would accelerate regional deployment to ensure that a majority of systems nationwide are upgraded by 2006.”

“Nearly three years after the tragedy of 9/11 was made worse because first responders could not adequately communicate with one another, almost nothing has been done to address the interoperability crisis,” said Bill Fox, a New York Metropolitan Fire commissioner and a member of the First Response Coalition. During August, the Coalition is underscoring its call to action with key Capitol Hill meetings, including sessions with U.S. House of Representatives members serving on Energy and Commerce, Government Reform and the Select Committee on Homeland Security. The coalition also has met with the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs and Commerce committees.