info 02.5.08

First Responder Communications Update

When we first wrote about the issue of First Responder Communications in December, 2005, we were deeply distressed by the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications lack of progress on this issue. The inability to communicate between the police and fire departments was a contributing factor in the death toll on September 11th and we were concerned that if the City didn't act, and act soon, the outcome would be sadly predictable.

In May 2006, we wrote a followup, detailing the City's new plans for a six-month test between two competing technologies. The next month, Mayor Bloomberg appointed Paul J. Cosgrave as DoITT Commissioner, replacing an Acting Commissioner. Since then, even if it's not as swift as we would have liked, there appears to have been real progress in what is by any measure a difficult technological challenge.

The City has committed $1 billion of local taxpayer money since the attacks to improving public safety voice and data communication networks. In September 2006, it contracted Northrop Grumman to build a high-speed data network for public safety at a projected cost of $500 million. The network, known as the New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN), is operational now in lower Manhattan where agencies continue testing. The network is designed to provide first responders with real-time video, rapid database lookup, graphics (maps, blueprints, mugshots), and to share the information immediately among multiple agencies. Still being worked out are automated meter reading, automatic vehicle location technologies, and wireless traffic signal control.

The plan is to launch NYCWiN citywide this summer. While the proof of the network's efficacy won't be known with absolute certainty until there is a crisis, we applaud the city's commitment to fixing that lethally outmoded system.

prince and mott streets

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