Federal Communications Commission

Connecting America’s Stories: Public Safety

May 12th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

The effort to manage the oil spill hitting the Gulf Coast is just one more reminder of how critical the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan are for ensuring public safety.  The gulf coast states have built a communications network to help their safety and cleanup operations talk to one another – a problem that has plagued emergency responders for years – quite memorably during both Hurricane Katrina and September 11th. Around the country people are using broadband technology in new and creative ways to help keep their communities safe and informed. 

Peggy is a farmer in Deming, Washington.

We've recently started a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) that disseminates information (flood warnings, announcements for emergency training sessions, and alerts about at-large criminals, sex-offender re-locations, etc.) Without this email-tree, we would all be in the dark, cut off from training that could save lives, and at higher risk to danger.

In this video authors of the plan look at how communications technology can be better designed to make Americans safer.

Jennifer Manner, lead for the Public Safety and Homeland Security chapter of the Broadband Plan, focused on the need to get all of the country’s public safety agencies on the same frequency – literally. 

One of the challenges has been that the networks are very fragmented, so emergency responders aren’t often able to talk to one another across jurisdictions, or across geographies… if you remember during Katrina this was a big problem, during 9-11 this was another big problem. …

[One of our proposals is] an Emergency Reliability and Interoperability Center (ERIC) – we wanted the system to be interoperable – we wanted the officer in New York to be able to go to California to help out and be able to use his device there. 

In addition, the Broadband Plan looks at ways for citizens to get information more quickly and efficiently.  Jennifer also talks about the great potential for activating citizens in emergencies.

If you think about the Amber Alerts that we have today, wouldn’t it be more effective if they could actually show you the face of the child who is missing, or the picture of the car in a real time basis?

Check out the Action Agenda for the next steps the FCC is taking to make these and other changes to support public safety in America a reality, and keep sharing your stories of how broadband access helps you and your community stay safe.

One Response to “Connecting America’s Stories: Public Safety”

  1. Loren says:


    Using readily available technology, images of AMBER alerts may be sent in minutes using a spot beam sat, repeaters, and digital signage. Everyone has a digital receiver box that can handle emergencies (OTA, cable, or satellite).

    During times of emergency, redundancy is key. NOAA has saved lives using their NEXRAD-88D stations. DTV was designed for public safety. The backbone of this network is very robust and covers the entire country.

    QAM256 modulated, AM return path failure is common in times of severe weather and emergencies. Power fails. The Digital Television Transition opened blocks of OTA broadband and whitespace, all of which can be used to send rich data-casted content.

    Thanks for reading,


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