Press Conference: Announcement of Bill to Fund Communications Equipment for First Responders

Teaneck, NJ – Today, Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) joined by local officials, Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, Ambulance Corps, and EMTs hosted a press conference at the Police Department in Teaneck, New Jersey, concerning an unfunded federal mandate that hurts emergency preparedness.

Congressman Rothman and House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-NY), introduced the Help Emergency Responders Operate Emergency Systems (HEROES) Act on September 20, 2011. 

The HEROES Act will address the vulnerability of our emergency communication networks by setting up a DHS-administered grant program of $400 million for local municipalities to apply for funding for essential communications equipment that the federal government requires them to upgrade.
The HEROES Act of 2011 will:
  • Establish a $400 million DHS-administered Narrowbanding Compliance Assistance Program to assist first responders in meeting the January 1, 2013 narrowband mandate
  • Use the sale of federally owned spectrum to pay for the competitive grant program
  • Reallocate the D block to public safety and provide funding for the construction of a national interoperable public safety wireless broadband network


Together, they are fighting to ensure that First Responders, true heroes of our nation, have the communications equipment to do their jobs and that the already overburdened local taxpayers do not have to unfairly pay for an unfunded federal mandate.

“Immediately following the horrific September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the capacity of our nation’s radio and communications networks was overwhelmed. This not only meant despair for individuals looking for family members, this also meant that First Responders were not able to coordinate or communicate their efforts to save lives and respond as effectively. We must make sure that never happens again,” said Congressman Rothman.

In 2004, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) required more efficient use of the nation’s communications spectrum and greater spectrum access for First Responders. This federal mandate is known as the “Narrowband Mandate,” which directs all First Responders to upgrade their communications equipment and spectrum licenses by January 1, 2013. This issue was highlighted by the “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007” to aid states and local governments in complying with the 2013 deadline. Unfortunately, the funding for the FCC mandate and elements of the 9/11 Commission Act has been mostly eliminated because of budget cuts and in some cases these programs have been completely terminated.

“Unless new federal funding is found soon, already-overburdened local taxpayers will be forced to finance these essential upgrades for our local First Responders. More than 18,000 police departments, more than 26,000 fire departments, and millions of First Responders across the country are affected by this mandate,” said Congressman Rothman. 

“Without adequate support, many of these local First Responders – including those right here in Teaneck and throughout New Jersey – will be left with radio and communications equipment that will be unable to operate effectively during an emergency. I am proud to sponsor this bipartisan solution with House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King and to stand with our First Responders in calls for Congress to pass this legislation without delay. Our First Responders and local taxpayers deserve nothing less.”

Scheduled to attend this press conference along with Congressman Rothman and assorted local officials are Carlstadt Fire Chief Robert Moore, East Rutherford Fire Chief Francis Joseph, Fair Lawn Fire Chief Chris Hoitsma, Fort Lee Chief Jeffrey Silver, Hackensack Fire Chief Thomas Freeman, Edgewater First Aid Squad Captain Kathy Frato, Bogota Police Chief John C. Burke, Edgewater Police Chief Joe Klimaszewski, Englewood Police Chief Arthur O’Keefe, Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi, Fair Lawn Police Chief Erik Rose, Garfield Police Chief Kevin Amos, Hackensack Police Officer In Charge Tomas Padilla, Hasbrouck Heights Police Captain Joe Cronin, Lodi Police Chief Vincent Caruso, Lyndhurst Police Chief James O’Connor, New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro, North Arlington Police Chief Louis Ghione, Rutherford, Police Civilian Director John Thompson, Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler, Teaneck Police Chief Robert Wilson, Edward “Chuck” Gerity, VP Operations/Emergency Management for Holy Name Medical Center, and others.

For more information please contact: Aaron Keyak at aaron.keyak@mail.house.gov or (202) 905-6361

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