House meets to discuss nation's emergency communications capabilities

A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee recently held a hearing to discuss the state of emergency communication capabilities among the nation's disaster response units.

The House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications met on the day after the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to examine the progress that has been made since in the area of emergency communications.

Telecommunications company executives, experts and public officials from several agencies gave testimony at the hearing, including David Turetsky, the chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission.

Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) opened the hearing by noting that among the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission was the need for the United States to adopt operable and interoperable communications technology at the federal, state and local levels.

Bilrakis applauded the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications for working with state and local officials to implement the National Emergency Communications plan, but warned that any reorganization to existing offices could unintentionally erode the nation's communication capabilities.

"While we acknowledge the progress we have made, we must also acknowledge that more work remains," Bilrakis said, "We need only look at the impact of the derecho earlier this summer on 9-1-1 call centers in Virginia."