New York, NY (April 12, 2011) –Senator Greg Ball (R, 40th District –Westchester/Putnam/Dutchess), Chairman of the Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs Committee has sent a letter to the President of the United States, as well as all members of the U.S. Congress and officials from New York’s state security agencies informing them of the Radio interoperability and communications system problems faced by New York’s first responders, nearly ten years after 9/11 exposed the weaknesses of New York City’s emergency communication systems.
Senator Ball and his colleagues on the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee in a bi-partisan effort signed the letter, which summarized the findings of Ball’s recent Homeland Security Hearing in NYC on April 8th, and pressed leaders to take the necessary actions to fix the problem immediately
Ball’s letter outlines the testimony of Robert Morris, Vice President, Port Authority Police Benevolent Association (PAPBA) and Michael O’Meara, Executive Vice President for the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Benevolent Association (MTAPBA) who both spoke of serious communication and interoperability pr
oblems faced by some New York Police Officers. “The officer carries a radio on his belt but he might as well be wearing a brick,” said Morris to describe the current situation, where some communication devices work so poorly at various locations that officers are using their personal cell phones to communicate with each other. The men explained at the hearing that this creates a very serious safety hazard, not only to the members of the MTA Police Department, but also to the millions of riders who use our system.
The letter cites the 9/11 Commission Report recommendations that “high-risk urban areas such as New York City and Washington, D.C., should establish signal corps units to ensure communications connectivity between and among civilian authorities, local first responders, and the National Guard.” As well, that federal funding for emergency preparedness be based, “solely on risks and vulnerabilities, putting new York and Washington, D.C. at the top of the current list. Such assistance should not remain a program for general revenue sharing or pork-barrel spending.”
Senator Martin Golden, a member of the Senate Homeland Security, Military and Veteran Affairs Committee stated, “New York State must continue efforts so to ensure that the most modern and effective communication system is in place for use by our first responders so to deal with any emergencies that may arise more efficiently. It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to build a communications network that better protects all New Yorkers.”
Senator Adams remarked, “As a former Captain in the New York Police Department who was on the force during the attack on the World Trade Center, I know firsthand how important it is for emergency personnel to have unfettered lines of communication. I urge President Obama to heed the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and provide for expanded interoperability amongst first responders, including the reservation of radio spectrum exclusively for issues of public safety.”
Senator Addabbo noted, “We have a long way to go in securing areas ten years after 9/11. Based on the testimony of witnesses and my questioning of those witnesses from the NYPD, FDNY, MTA, Port Authority and other public safety personnel, my main concern continues to be the governmental lack of funding allocations for improved security measures, and considering the interaction of the entities involved in maintaining the safety of individuals, the need for upgrading the communications systems between our safety-related agencies.”
Senator Ball will be holding the next installment of his Homeland Security Hearings to discuss the status of security in New York State in Albany on May 17th, where solutions to the radio inoperability problem exposed at the April 8th hearing in NYC will be further discussed, as well as the possible solutions.
“Whether the problem is a technical one, a political one, a funding issue, or a collective action licensing problem, we have to fix our radio interoperability problem once and for all, to insure the safety of millions of New Yorkers and the lives of our first responders,” stated Senator Ball.
You can view the April 8th hearing in its entirety at Senator’s Ball YouTube page. See www.tinyurl.com/HomelandSecurity4811