Federal Communications Commission
Home » Blog

Author Archive

National Women’s Heart Health Month

Posted February 10th, 2011 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

As we celebrate Black History Month, we also recognize February as National Women’s Heart Health Month. This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) is hosting the Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat campaign to encourage women to call 9-1-1 immediately when the seven symptoms of a heart attack occur:


  • Chest pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness or sudden dizziness
  • Unusual upper body pain, or discomfort in one or both arms, back, shoulder, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat


The issues surrounding Women’s Heart Health are especially important to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. Every minute a woman suffers a heart attack in America, but according to a 2009 American Heart Association (AHA) survey, many are not aware of the key symptoms of a heart attack. More astounding is the fact that only 50% of women said they would call 9-1-1 if they thought they were having a heart attack. It is imperative for the safety of women that these statistics change; 9-1-1 is the number to call during such health events.

During this month’s observance of Women’s Heart Health and in the months to follow, please encourage yourselves, your mothers, wives, aunts and sisters to educate themselves on the symptoms of heart attack and, without hesitation or procrastination, to call 9-1-1.  It could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Please take time to visit the following websites for further information and to find out how you can participate in the Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat campaign. WomensHealth.gov and the Office on Women’s Health Facebook and Twitter pages.

Access downloadable TV broadcast quality sound bites by visiting the Plowshare Group’s download center.

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments

FCC Hosts Two from Wounded Warrior Program

Posted February 1st, 2011 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

The Wounded Warrior Program is an internship program developed by the Department of Defense for injured service members who are convalescing at military treatment facilities in the National Capitol Region. The program provides meaningful activity outside of the hospital environment and offers a formal means of transition back to the military or civilian workforce. Placing these service members in supportive work settings that positively impact their recuperation is the underlying purpose of the program.

The Wounded Warrior Program is a great opportunity for convalescing service members to build their resumes, explore employment interests, develop job skills, and gain valuable federal government work experience that will help them prepare for their adjustment to the workplace. The Department of Defense Computer/Electronics Accommodation Program provides for participating service members on assignment to federal agencies. This includes electronic equipment, transportation, sign language interpreter services, and other services they require.

I’m honored to report that the Federal Communications Commission has continuously participated in the Wounded Warrior Program since July 2008. Today, the Commission has two service members serving as emergency management interns with our Public Safety team while continuing their recuperation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Sergeant Lyndon Sampang, an Army veteran of eight years, was severely wounded on March 18, 2010 while on patrol in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne. Prior to his assignment to Afghanistan, Sgt Sampang had completed a tour of duty in Iraq. Sgt Sampang began his internship with us on December 7, 2010.
Staff Sergeant Thomas Kowolenko, a veteran of 17 years, is a member of the Connecticut National Guard and was injured while on a training assignment at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. SSgt Kowolenko has worked as a Network Deployment Technician for AT&T since 1987 and is also a certified firefighter. SSgt Kowolenko began his internship with us on January 3, 2011.

We’re honored to have both of these extraordinary service members working with us and are grateful for their service. We’ll keep you updated on the program and their work here.

Posted in FCC Staff Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments

Solutions to Stop Use of Contraband Cell Phones by Prisoners

Posted December 31st, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

A few weeks ago a cell phone was found in Charles Manson’s California prison cell. Corcoran, California Prison authorities confirmed that Manson had been in contact with people outside the prison walls, and for some time.  Just last month, Georgia inmates are reported to have used them to coordinate a work strike across a number of the state’s prisons.

A cell phone these days is apparently something the average American cannot live without.  And, it seems, neither can the nation’s inmates. This is a major public safety concern. Today, prisons across the nation are reportedly confiscating thousands of cell phones from inmates, yet this contraband is still being used by inmates daily.

Cell phones in the hands of prisoners present a serious threat to public safety.  Despite federal and some state laws prohibiting their possession, today, thousands of prisoners nationwide are in possession of contraband cell phones and are conducting illegal enterprises despite serving time for other crimes.  An inmate’s illegal activity may involve discussions with fellow criminals outside the prison walls about drug trafficking, money laundering or intimidating witnesses – or worse, plotting their murders.  This is a national problem that has been of concern for state and local law enforcement and department of corrections officials for sometime.  And, it’s a problem the FCC is committed to help solve.

Well, some argue, just jam the cell phones.  However, that’s not easy, not preferable, and not legal.  The Communications Act of 1934 broadly prohibits jamming devices, including cell phone jammers, and the FCC cannot waive this statutory prohibition.  There is a very good public safety reason for the prohibition of jammers.  The use of jammers in prisons to stop the use of contraband cell phones by inmates could interfere with police, fire and emergency medical communications.  Already, there has been increased FCC enforcement against illegal jammers that have interfered with public safety communications and GPS signals.  Interference from jammers is likely because public safety radio communications operate in frequency bands adjacent to those used for commercial mobile communications.  National public safety groups have stated their concern about vital communications being disrupted as a result of illegal jamming.

Moreover, jammers could disrupt or prevent authorized calls, including 9-1-1 calls, from civilians living, working and travelling in proximity to a prison using jammers.  Public safety groups estimate that 50-75 percent of all calls to 9-1-1 centers are made from cell phones. We expect that this trend will continue to grow with more than 270 million commercial wireless customers nationwide today.  The FCC is committed to making sure that these calls are not disrupted by illegal jamming activities.

Last week, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) submitted its report – Contraband Cell Phones in Prisons: Possible Wireless Technology Solutions available at Contraband Cell Phones in Prisons, Possible Wireless Technology Solutions  – to Congress.  The report, written in coordination with the FCC, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the National Institute of Justice, investigates and evaluates wireless jamming, detection, managed network access, and other technologies that might be used to prevent contraband cell phone use by prison inmates.  The report provides an overview of the characteristics and capabilities of various technologies.  NTIA finds that:

Prison officials should have access to technology to disrupt prison cell phone use in a manner that protects nearby public safety and Federal Government spectrum users from harmful disruption of vital services, and preserves the rights of law-abiding citizens to enjoy the benefits of the public airwaves without interference. 

As detailed in the report, the FCC has taken quick action to defeat contraband cell phone use in prisons that does not involve the use of cell phone jamming devices.  There are new and emerging technologies now available that work.  One such technology the FCC calls “contraband cell phone capture,” which is designed to capture cell phones calls inside the prison, analyze whether the calls are from legitimate devices or not, and prevent completion of calls from unauthorized cell phones, in effect making those cell phones useless to inmates.  Prison administrators are able to do this without affecting the legitimate use of cell phones by prison authorities within the prison and by the public living or working in close proximity to the facility to make 911 emergency or commercial calls.  

The technology for contraband cellphone capture can be configured to detect the approximate location within cellblocks of contraband cell phones thus allowing for search and seizure.  Oftentimes, other contraband is swept up in these searches.  When operated under appropriate court ordered warrants, detection devices can collect information about inmates’ use of contraband cell phones, thus aiding in the interdiction of ongoing criminal enterprises being conducted behind bars.  The technology works very effectively, capturing inmate cell phone calls from the very beginning. In fact, this past September Mississippi became the first state in the Nation to deploy this technology at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.  In the first month alone, more than 216,000 unauthorized calls were intercepted, and the rate of attempts showed a sharp decline once inmates realized those calls would not go through.  Other states – Maryland, South Carolina, California, and Texas – are evaluating call capture systems, as well.  In the end, prisoners would no longer have incentive to use contraband cell phones because they simply won’t work behind prison walls.

The FCC stands ready to work with our federal partners, lawmakers, states, counties and cities on this important issue and can assist them with navigating the regulatory landscape as they move forward with legal ways to deal with this issue.  The goal is to find and implement the most effective and precise technological options to defeat contraband cell phone use in prisons as quickly as possible without adopting technologies that could endanger the public.

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Critical Infrastructure Protection Month

Posted December 21st, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

On December 3 of this year, the President issued a Proclamation that December is Critical Infrastructure Protection Month.  In the Proclamation, President Obama said, "[M]y Administration is committed to delivering the necessary information, tools, and resources to areas where critical infrastructure exists in order to maintain and enhance its security and resilience."  This effort is a central focus for the Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.  The Bureau’s mission is to ensure public safety and homeland security by advancing state-of-the-art communications that are accessible, reliable, resilient, and secure, in coordination with public and private partners.   As part of the nation’s national security protection programs, the Bureau is a key contributor in protecting communications facilities that are a critical component of the nation’s infrastructure.

There are several critical infrastructure sectors and each sector has an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC).  As part of our responsibilities in critical infrastructure protection, we support the Communications ISAC by providing subject matter expert liaison staff.  The mission of the Communications ISAC is to facilitate voluntary collaboration and information sharing among government and industry in support of Executive Order 12472 and the national critical infrastructure protection goals of Presidential Decision Directive 63.  The intent is to gather information on vulnerabilities, threats, intrusions, and anomalies from multiple sources in order to perform analysis with the goal of averting or mitigating impact upon the telecommunications infrastructure. 

In addition to terrestrial communications with which we are most familiar, the space-based Global Positioning System (GPS) is inextricably integrated into most of the critical infrastructure sectors.  Although it has not yet officially been designated as a critical infrastructure sector, we are helping, in association with DHS, DOT and other agencies, to protect the GPS positioning, navigation, and timing receivers from interference and jamming.   

Although we are involved in many other areas related to public safety and homeland security, the Bureau has a vested interest in collaborating with state, local and Federal partners to do whatever we can to protect the critical infrastructure related to communications.  The work of the Commission and more specifically the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is an integral part of protecting our nation, and as the President also said in his Proclamation, "Working together, we can raise awareness of the important role our critical infrastructure plays in sustaining the American way of life and developing actions to protect these vital resources."  We are committed to doing so.

See the proclamation.

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments

Moving Forward on Next Generation 911

Posted December 21st, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Today, the Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry which initiates a comprehensive proceeding to address how Next Generation 911 (NG911) can enable the public to obtain emergency assistance by means of advanced communications technologies beyond traditional voice-centric devices.  This represents the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s next step in implementing the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan.

In the telecommunications industry overall, competitive forces and technological innovation have ushered in an era of advanced Internet-Protocol (IP)-based devices and applications that have vastly enhanced the ability of the public to communicate and send and receive information.  Unfortunately, our legacy circuit-switched 911 system has been unable to accommodate the capabilities embedded in many of these advanced technologies, such as the ability to transmit and receive photos, text messages, and video.  However, we have begun a transition to NG911, a system which will bridge the gap between the current 911 system and the evolving technological environment.
This November, I had the chance to visit Arlington, Virginia’s state of the art 911 center, which is at the forefront of the move toward NG911.  With 70% of our nation’s 911 calls originating from mobile phones, the evolution of our 911 system to one which not only accepts, but welcomes, text and multimedia messages is crucial.  The advances in our NG911 system pave the way for first responders to attain maximum situational awareness of an emergency before stepping onto the scene.  Additionally, it allows consumers, who often rely on text and multimedia messaging, to feel comfortable in the fact that the 911 system is responsive to their unique needs in the new media environment. 

Furthermore, the switch to an IP-based system allows the 911 system to manage 911 calls dynamically.  Often, when a major disaster occurs, the 911 system becomes congested due to surges in emergency calls to the local answering point, resulting in dropped and blocked calls.  The NG911 system, by dynamically managing calls, will allow calls that are destined for particular answering points to be routed in an efficient and effective manner, preventing the congestion that often accompanies major emergencies.

Accordingly, today’s NOI seeks to gain a better understanding of how the gap between the capabilities of modern networks and devices and today’s 911 system can be bridged and on how to further the transition to IP-based communications capabilities for emergency communications and NG911.This NOI will move us closer to forming a new regulatory framework for NG911 that adapts to evolving public expectations in terms of the communications platforms the public would rely upon to request emergency services and ensures that our nation’s 911 system is at its most effective in the future.  The Bureau remains committed to ensuring that our nation’s 911 system serves the American people in the best possible manner.  This NOI furthers the process begun in the National Broadband Plan of ensuring that the transition to NG911 is effective and efficient and adapts to the changing communications environment.

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

A 9/11 Tribute – Facing Challenges Together

Posted September 10th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau


This Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of September 11, 2001, an infamous day. Tomorrow, let us remember the lives lost and also the brave first responders and volunteers who risked their lives to save others in peril, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. Let us also honor our service men and women who continue to fight and preserve our freedom at home and abroad. 
As we reflect on these many sacrifices, we have not forgotten the challenges that we face as a nation. The 9/11 Commission recognized many challenges that must be remedied to ensure we don’t face the same failures in the future. One specific challenge cited by the 9/11 Commission was the lack of interoperable communications among public safety, characterizing this flaw as a major threat to our nation’s safety and security. Nine years after 9/11, our nation still lacks an interoperable nationwide public safety network. 
On this solemn anniversary, I can say that we know how to answer the 9/11 challenge, and we have taken action. The FCC has taken concrete measures to enable the first steps in the deployment of this nationwide interoperable public safety network. We have recently established the Emergency Response Interoperability Center which is fast at work establishing the technical rules to ensure there is an interoperable nationwide network. We have also approved 21 early deployments of the public safety broadband network throughout the country. But there are many other steps which must be taken in addition to our efforts, to ensure that the network will be built everywhere and that it will be affordable and interoperable. As I have said before, there is nothing inevitable about interoperability on this network.
As this nationwide network is deployed, I believe we will be able to fulfill  the 9/11 Commission’s vision to ensure that America’s first responders have access to state-of-the-art communications that they need to effectively and efficiently communicate with each other, regardless of their jurisdiction or the uniforms they wear, wherever and whenever they are called to service. I look forward to the day when the network is operational and America’s first responders are better equipped to help their communities and save lives in times of disaster. It would be a good and appropriate way to honor those who died or were injured on 9/11, both civilians and first responders.


Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments

Five Years Ago

Posted August 30th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

As the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is here, we are faced with a strong swirl of emotions and memories.  The unprecedented devastation that the Hurricane wrought was compounded by organizational troubles from many quarters.  As painful as it is for America, I want us to remember the death and destruction inflicted on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.  I want us to remember the bravery and determination of the people who suffered through it.  And I want us to remember the valiant first responders, volunteers, members of the armed forces, and others who worked to save lives and property.  It is important that we not forget any of this.

As I and our FCC staff members reflect on the anniversary of this American tragedy, we consider lessons learned and how we have worked to ensure the tragedy and devastation of Katrina are not seen again. I was not at the FCC in 2005, but I am proud of the response of the FCC during Katrina.  In fact, the White House Lessons Learned document that was issued following Hurricane Katrina expressly recognized the FCC for “What Went Right” and the Commission was cited for acting quickly to facilitate the resumption of communications services in affected areas and authorizing the use of temporary communications for emergency personnel and evacuees.

Despite our success at response, we also recognized that there are things we can improve.  First, while the FCC was well-prepared for most emergency events, we learned the importance of having a formal incident management system to manage the required FCC response to an emergency of the magnitude of Katrina.  Accordingly, the FCC quickly worked to create a new Bureau, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, where emergency response and incident management could be resident. 

Further, we have been actively engaged—from the top-down, to improve our ability to respond to any major public emergency.  For example, the FCC, working with its licensees and regulated entities developed the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), which provides the communications sector a web-based tool to share operational status and restoration information on service outages.


Information collection and analysis at the FCC-Headquarters level, while important, also needs to be matched with a commitment of personnel on-the-ground.  Accordingly, the FCC deployed full-time Regional Communications Liaison Specialists to FEMA Regions IV and VI to establish close working relationships with and obtain the support of state, tribal, and local public safety officials as well as regionally deployed Federal agency representatives before major disasters occur.  During emergencies, these Liaison Specialists will serve as primary FCC first responders in the disaster area, supplemented by FCC Headquarters and field office emergency trained personnel. 

Additionally, the Liaison Specialists will perform duties under the FCC’s spectrum monitoring Roll Call Program.  Roll Call is a spectrum monitoring system that analyzes wireless transmissions and matches them to licensing records.  Information gathered pre-event is then matched to scans conducted right after an event, such as a hurricane, to identify critical licensees that may have lost communications capabilities and then to locate and deploy resources to get these licensees back on the air.

To manage these emergency programs, the FCC has implemented a scalable Incident Command System that starts at the Division-level, and then can be used by the Bureau- and Commission-level as the event or incident requires.

While the FCC family contemplates Katrina’s legacy and the toll Katrina imposed on our brothers and sisters in the Gulf Region, we continue to rigorously plan, prepare, train, and exercise so that when the next blow, expected or not, comes, we stand ready to respond with alacrity to do our part to save lives and protect property.


Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments

PSHSB August 31 Speaker Series

Posted August 26th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

On August 31, PSHSB will welcome Dereck Orr from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as our latest headliner in the Bureau’s Speaker Series.  The Speaker Series brings representatives from other government agencies to the FCC to speak about their work involving public safety and homeland security.  Dereck is the program manager for Public Safety Communications Systems in the Office of Law Enforcement Standards.  The Public Safety Communications Systems program focuses on leading the development of wireless telecommunications and information technology standards, profiles and guidelines for interoperability and information sharing among criminal justice and public safety agencies at local, state and federal levels. 

Dereck has a very impressive background and is enthusiastic about how his office can advance the communications capabilities of the nation’s first responders. He has been at NIST for eight years, and during that time, he was detailed for a short time to serve as Chief of Staff for SAFECOM.  Because of this experience and many others, he has unique insight into public safety’s unique communications needs.

We are excited to have Dereck speak with us about NIST’s role in improving public safety communications across the nation as well as his office’s role in the Commission’s newly created Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC).  We have worked closely with NIST in the past, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them well into the future. 

I look forward to seeing you for this stimulating presentation and discussion on Tuesday, August 31 from 10:00am-11:30am ET in the Commission Meeting Room. This event will also be streamed live and you can watch it at FCC.gov/live .

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments

Our Sleeves Are Rolled Up: We Are Ready to Do Whatever It Takes…

Posted May 28th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

The 2010 Hurricane Season forecasts predict as many as 15 named Atlantic storms, several of which could reach hurricane-level strength in the Southeast and Gulf Coast.

In my job with the Federal Communications Commission, I am constantly impressed with the leadership, dedication and true heroism of America’s first responders, all of whom make daily sacrifices to serve their communities.  Nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina I still remember hearing the stories following that devastating disaster about how first responders and hospital personnel were stranded in New Orleans without communications and had only limited essential resources with which to survive. Like many others in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, some local public safety officials and first responders were stranded on rooftops, but were still making efforts to assist those in need, to do what they could to help others survive until rescue teams could get to them.  Their efforts were amazing and showed that they were willing to do whatever it took to get the job done—even in the most challenging and trying circumstances. 


Building and maintaining partnerships with federal, state, tribal and local officials, first responders and the communications industry, through a variety of means, is instrumental to ensuring that the Nation has a coordinated and seamless disaster response at all levels of our society.  At the FCC, we routinely foster these partnerships through meetings, speaking engagements, workshops, forums, outreach tours and more traditional means of communications via telephone and email.  This way, when we meet with public safety officials on the ground as part of a comprehensive federal emergency response effort, we have well-established relationships in-play and are greeted by familiar faces who are managing the disaster.  These efforts are in line with our primary mission, which is to ensure the continuous operation and reconstitution of critical communication systems and services. 

Based on early forecasts for the 2010 Hurricane Season, with predictions for as many as 15 named Atlantic storms, several of which could reach hurricane-level strength in the Southeast and Gulf Coast regions of the U.S., it will be critical to our collective efforts to prepare communities in the projected impact zones and assist them in responding to any landfalls.  Of course, we hope that no hurricane hits U.S. soil, but we must stand ready to respond and react if, and when, that should occur.

We at the FCC, have rolled up our sleeves and are ready to do whatever it takes to respond to hurricanes and other disasters.  We learned several lessons from Hurricane Ike, when we had staffers working around-the-clock.  Building on those efforts, we are working closely with our federal partners at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), specifically the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Communications System (NCS), as we assist them with communications response and recovery efforts. 
To that end, we have a number of initiatives that will help improve our situational awareness regarding communications in disaster-impacted areas and enable us to work with our federal, state and local partners.  First, there is the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), a voluntary, web-based system that wireless, wireline, broadcast, and cable providers can use to report communications infrastructure status and situational awareness information to the FCC during times of crisis.  

We have enjoyed excellent participation in the past with DIRS, which has proven extremely helpful to us and our federal partners in coordinating response efforts in restoring essential communications services impacted by the disaster.  We urge all communications providers that have previously registered in DIRS to ensure that their contact information is current and accurate.  We also encourage all communications providers that have not yet submitted their emergency contact information to register in DIRS.  The information provided will be secured by the FCC and protected from public disclosure.

Second, there is a fairly new initiative known as Roll Call.  This program is comprised of receivers and spectrum monitoring equipment, computers and FCC licensing databases that are used to scan primarily for public safety and broadcaster communications.  The results show which radio-based communications systems are operational within a 30-mile radius.  Roll Call thus enables FEMA to quickly assess the situation and work with state and local officials to strategically place back-up communications in a particular area.  In addition, the information is used by the FEMA and the NCS in coordination with the FCC to assist communications service providers in their efforts to quickly restore the communications services that are out.

The FCC also approves Special Temporary Authorizations (STAs) for communications service providers seeking to provide communications to first responders and emergency managers outside of their FCC license as they work to restore their traditional lines of communications.  Communications service providers needing emergency STAs or seeking consultation with FCC Bureaus and Offices about their communications recovery efforts outside of normal FCC business hours (M-F 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EDT/EST) may contact the FCC’s 24/7 Operations Center at 202-418-1122 or fccopcenter@fcc.gov.  You can find FCC Contact information during regular business hours and more comprehensive details about the process for receiving STAs here.

The FCC is committed to working with all of our government, industry, nongovernmental, and community partners during disaster response efforts; we are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.  We know that the American public is counting on the success of our partnership and will accept nothing less than our collective best.

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments

Louisiana, Mississippi, And Alabama Bring First Responders Closer Together As U.S. Takes Action To Contain Gulf Oil Spill And Protect The Shoreline

Posted May 7th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

States of Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as Orange, Beach, AL, Create Seamless, Interoperable Communications from the Texas Southeast Border to Pensacola, Florida

As the crew of the MV Joe Griffin is in the Gulf of Mexico working to lower a 100-ton concrete and steel containment dome over the oil well that erupted on April 20, federal, state and local officials continue to take actions to help minimize further damage to the Gulf Coast’s shorelines.

In any disaster, an effective response requires reliable, seamless and robust communications that enable all levels of government and first responders to communicate with one another and share time-sensitive information and relevant data. Information on the latest situation, the availability of resources and the capability to use those resources is critical to government’s ability to continuously analyze the situation and deploy a rapid, effective and sustained response.

There are many heroes emerging from this disaster.  This week we received correspondence from Benjamin Bourgoyne, Communications Section Chief for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in the State of Louisiana. Mr. Bourgoyne informed the FCC and other federal partners that they, along with the State of Mississippi, and Orange Beach, Alabama, had taken the lead in creating an interoperable wireless communications network for states along the entire Gulf Coast, stretching from the Texas Southeast border to Pensacola, Florida.  They were able to create this interoperable network by initiating a number of 700 MHz trunked public safety radio talk groups on the respective wireless information networks in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

As Mr. Bourgoyne noted, “If this is successful, it will pave the way for permanent talk groups where specially programmed land-mobile radios could be used by first responders to effectively communicate from anywhere within the network,” bringing public safety officials and agencies closer together in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

This is quite an achievement, and I would like to personally thank and commend the state and local officials who led this effort for their dedication, teamwork and quick thinking in a time of crisis. It is no small task to create such a network.  It is a huge effort to ensure that it is reliable and offers public safety true interoperability for voice communications. 

The success of this initiative and the willingness of these officials to work together to create this multi-state interoperable network demonstrates just how valuable interoperable communications is to public safety and why it is so critically needed in disasters and emergencies.  It also makes me look forward to the day when a public safety broadband wireless network, one that is truly nationwide and interoperable, will eliminate the need for the Herculean effort that was required by these tremendous professionals to ensure that they could talk to each other as they respond to this disaster.

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Consumers
1 Comment