info 05.30.07

First Responder Communications

We've complained on a number of occasions that the city has not done enough to improve first responder communications — in fact, as of December, 2005, when we first wrote about it, virtually nothing had been done.

Some good news to report this morning. Northrop Grumman was awarded a five-year, $500 million contract last fall to build the city's mobile wireless data network, called the New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN), which is now operational throughout lower Manhattan south of Canal Street, river-to-river. It will be built out over the five boroughs over the next year and is fully interoperable — a crucial feature — among city agencies. Exchanging data — videos, maps, blueprints, databases — will be made possible by NYCWiN.

On the interoperability of first responder radios — less improvement. In an emergency, the city has created a special channel for agency heads to communicate. That's a good step, but it falls short of true interoperability at the ground level. Some of the September 11th communication breakdowns — which cost lives — do not seem any less likely.

Still, we're heartened that the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, the agency responsible for overseeing these wide-ranging improvements, has finally stepped up. Keep going.

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