As some of you will know, I am an ex-cop that comes from a police family, and my son is carrying on the "family business". The reason I do much of what I do in the Cyber Flu Community is in an effort to educate myself on issues that may be of benefit to the Police/fire/EMT folk that will be "out there" during a moderate to severe PanFlu, and that, for good or ill, includes my one and only progeny.
When my husband and I wore the uniform we worked for a small city in a medium sized county. Within the county there are seven cities, each with their own police and fire departments, and of course the county sheriff's department, county fire department, and county wide EMS service. All told, there were seventeen Emergency First Responder agencies that worked side-by-side and often on the very same calls for assistance but we couldn't communicate with each other over our radios or walkie-talkies.
There was a "Mutual Aid" channel that we all had access to, but that always proved less than mutually aiding because many of the entities didn't speak the same "language", we used different codes. It was not only inefficient, and counterproductive, on occasion, it put people's lives, uniformed and civilian at risk.
I am happy to say that my son doesn't labor under this archaic and "territorial" system because our county has gone to a county wide radio system and they use plain language to make sure that each department, whether police, fire, or EMS can not only communicate with each other, but they will be rapidly understood. In professions where even seconds can make the difference between life and death this is no small thing.
So as someone who's been-there-done-that, and as a mother who doesn't have to worry about her son doing the same, I was nothing short of thrilled to read about the nearly one billion dollars awarded in matching grant funds for radio upgrades for our emergency responders across the country and territories. In fact, I am so thrilled that for once I am not sitting here bemoaning the flagrant squandering of tax dollars. Of course, I guess you could say that this is "pork" that is ok with me because it's "my pork"… but we won't go there because this is genuinely a great thing that servers all citizens.
Secretaries Gutierrez, Chertoff Announce Nearly $1 Billion in First Responder Communications Grants Funds to Help Fire Fighters, Police and Other First Responders Communicate During a Disaster
Release Date: July 18, 2007
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Department of Commerce, 202-482-7002
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and U.S. Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff announced today $968 million Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grants to help state and local first responders improve public safety communications and coordination during a natural or man-made disaster.
The PSIC grant program will assist public safety agencies in the acquisition, deployment, and training of interoperable communications systems to enhance interoperable communications of voice, data, and/or video signals. Also, released today are the grant guidance and application kits. Applications are due in 30 days, and grants will be awarded by September 30, 2007, as required by the Call Home Act of 2006.
The U.S. Congress authorized $1 billion to establish the PSIC program as a one-time, formula-based, matching grant program in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The program will fast track awards to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.
"When disaster strikes, first responders must have the tools to communicate," said Secretary Gutierrez. "Under this streamlined program, states will be given grants to use technology that will make our cities and states safer."
"Achieving interoperable communications is a major priority for our department and should be a priority for every community across our nation," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "These grants will help states and cities purchase equipment, conduct training and exercises, and develop effective interoperable communications plans to get this important job done."
First responders from different jurisdictions and agencies use disparate communication technologies that impede critical communication among fire fighters, police, and other emergency personnel during a disaster. Such differences can pose problems and impede the critical work of the nation's first responders.
You may be asking how this relates to the issue of PanFlu, and since I am an expert at relating just about everything to PanFlu I will tell you…
Should we experience a moderate to severe Influenza Pandemic the Police/Fire/EMS will be stretched from thin to nearly invisible and those that are "out there" will need to be able to communicate with whoever else is "out there". Now all I have to hope for on this issue is that the departments laboring under the old, inefficient, 20th Century technology, pony up with the matching funds to take advantage of this wonderful, potentially lifesaving opportunity, and join the others who are firmly in the 21st Century world of Emergency Responders.
Our guys and gals in uniform serving and protecting us, sometimes with their very lives, are worth it.