In response, here are some concerns and comments from those with long experience in emergency communications:
1. Communications system requirements for emergency management and disaster services are CHARACTERIZED by very low usage patterns during routine operations and EXTREMELY high usage patterns during a major event.
2. Although radio systems of emergency management agencies appear to be virtually unused on a day-to-day basis, yet when a major event occurs, these same systems are often very inadequate for meeting the need to communicate. Notwithstanding that, without them the situations could have been catastrophic.
3. Large-scale emergencies and disasters put a heavy burden on public communications systems. More often than we realize events exceed the capability of local agencies. When that occurs they have to turn to outside agencies for mutual aid. A major fire, for instance, can involve 1000 firefighters from 100 different agencies with multiple frequencies required for communications. In escalating situations there may quite possibly not be enough outside aid to help the local jurisdiction, or it may be fragmented to where it isn't effective.
4. The National Telecommunication and Information Agency Public Safety Wireless Radio Committee Final Report 4/11/96 cited these incident needs as NOT being met due to interoperablilty issues:
- New York World Trade center
- Hurricane Andrew, Miami
- Oklahoma City bombing
- Rodney King riots in Los Angeles
- Northridge Earthquake - Los Angeles
- Loma Prieta Earthquake - San Francisco
5. Large-scale events should not be looked at as an anomaly. While major earthquakes do not occur often, nor do floods or hurricanes, taken together they occur more often than managers like to think. In reality, large-scale events happen every year at unpredictable locations and at unpredictable times. Public Safety agencies have to be prepared to respond to such events as they occur. To do that they need effective communications capabilities even if it means keeping a low-usage system to assure its availability when the time comes that it IS required.
6. Internal operations of emergency management agencies require at least one clear radio channel for command/control of their own personnel for both routine events AND large-scale emergencies or disasters. Communications with OTHER agencies and governments may require additional multiple channels.
7. Today, unused frequencies are being sought for commercial use, hence any frequency that is not kept in some use will likely be lost and therefore unavailable when it is vital. Operational personnel decry the potential loss of FCC allocated frequencies for Public Service because of managerial 'bottom dollar' focus to the detriment of community protection.
8. Individuals pay for insurance for years, sometimes decades, before it is 'cost effective'. One family paid for auto insurance for 25 years before it repaid itself (became cost effective) in one accident from a defective steering system. With government, emergency communications systems are insurance for the future.