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Welcome to the Digital Age of Public Safety

Written by Jennifer Gavigan

Welcome to the premiere digital issue of Public Safety IT! After five years as a key resource for law enforcement and emergency management, we are excited to deliver our cutting-edge content in a new, dynamic format.

Today’s public safety personnel are very busy, mobile professionals that consume all types of media. They want their news content “tethered” to meet their specific interests, delivered anytime, anywhere. Public Safety IT listened to our readers and we are delighted to announce the premiere of our first digital edition…delivering the content our readers want, in the media format of their choice, when they want it. They can now receive their copy of Public Safety IT on e-mail or on the mobile platform of their choice ( iPhone, iPad, Android or BlackBerry).

We will continue to provide all the same great coverage our readers have come to rely on, over the past five years, covering the spectrum of current public safety issues and solutions including: Interoperability; Next Generation 9-1-1; Grant Funding (DOJ, DHS); Wireless Broadband; Data Storage Solutions; P25 Standards; Public Safety Software; New Technology.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 brought to light the communications crisis concerning America’s emergency response system and wireless communications. The Help Emergency Responders Operate Emergency Systems (HEROES) Act helps address this serious problem. Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) and House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-NY), introduced the HEROES Act. Together, they are fighting to ensure that first responders 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.

In 2004, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) ensured more efficient use of the communications spectrum and greater spectrum access for first responders. This federal mandate is known as the “Narrowband Mandate,” which forces all first responders to upgrade their communications equipment and spectrum licenses by Jan. 1, 2013 to avoid the communications pitfalls in the aftermath of 9/11. This issue was highlighted by the “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007,” which included provisions 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 drastically reduced because of budget cuts and in some cases these programs have been eliminated.

The HEROES Act will address the vulnerability of our emergency communication networks by setting up a DHS-administered grant program 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 Jan. 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.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) needs to better coordinate disaster preparedness efforts with state and local governments, a government watchdog reported. The agency, responsible for coordinating the government’s emergency response plans, also needs more experienced personnel to deal with a growing workload as state and local governments trim emergency management budgets, according to a report by Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Richard L. Skinner. The agency spends about $4.3 billion annually on disaster response, mostly by distributing money through its assistance programs. Between 2005 and 2010, FEMA spent $218 million on National Level Exercises, or dress rehearsals for potential natural or man-made disasters that bring together officials at the federal, state and local levels to determine what might occur in a real-world scenario.

The report also credits FEMA for holding multiple emergency communication exercises with other federal agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration and the military. It participated in an exercise simulating potential communications problems following an earthquake in the Salt Lake City area. Participants included the military, other Homeland Security agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and state and local officials, according to the report.

In this issue, read about Cisco’s solutions for law enforcement’s response to natural disasters (see page 44) as well as the latest on Cloud Computing (see page 22) and Motorola’s LTE news (see front page). Federal Signal's 9/11 Public Safety Survey examines how much safer Americans feel 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks (see page 18). The results may surprise you.

Published in Public Safety IT, Nov/Dec 2011

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