Unless police, firefighters and other emergency responders end turf wars and talk to each other during disasters, billions of dollars spent on high-tech communication systems will go to waste, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Monday.
Chertoff said the value of the technology provided through federal grants has been diminished by local and state disagreements over control of the equipment.
“What these various turf issues mean â€” or these lack of priority issues mean â€” is that first responders, even if they’re given the tools, don’t have the availability to use these tools to share vital information,” Chertoff said. “And therefore lives and property are put at risk.”
Chertoff said his department has provided $2.1 billion over the last three years to buy the equipment and train emergency responders to use it. “I’ve actually seen this stuff work,” he told a communications conference.
I wrote about this issue back in December, noting that while the issue of interoperable communications for first responders was important, there needed to be careful thought given to the issue of resource allocation in comparision with other homeland security needs. Based on Chertoff’s speech, I think the Department is taking an appropriately balanced approach to this issue – devoting substantial resources to it, but in a way that acknowledges that not every municipality in the nation needs an expensive state-of-the-art solution.