Whitepaper Addresses Communications Challenges During Disasters

Eight years after the 9/11 Commission named interoperability as a serious problem for 9/11 first responders, and the Department of Homeland Security developed a communications plan for interoperability, there is still no inclusive national communications capability, according to a new white paper issued today by Mutualink, Inc.

While various approaches have been implemented, none of them allows for a comprehensive network that includes the universe of relevant public agencies and private enterprises. Additionally, there has been a disproportionately heavy focus on radio communication rather than additional forms of multimedia such as video and data.

In the new paper, Mutualink states, “Despite a decade of significant investments and concerted efforts, pervasive communications interoperability for emergency response has remained a bridge too far with, at best, small pockets of interoperable communications ability existing among a few select agencies. Emergency events such as the World Trade Center attacks, the Columbine School shootings, hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Aurora, CO, movie theater shootings and a host of other natural, accidental and man-made incidents expose and will continue to expose the persistent and prevailing lack of effective coordinated communications between first responders and other emergency support organizations that are critical to responding to, mitigating and recovering from disasters.

Perhaps we have been trying to solve the wrong problem, or maybe we have been trying to solve it the wrong way.” Recognizing that the challenges in attaining a national interoperable communication sharing capability are “massively complex,” the white paper outlines the needs and sets a path to an inclusive resolution to this longstanding issue. Among the key requirements are an environment that respects the sovereignty of the owners of the various types of communications media required during an emergency, such as radio, video, voice, text and data files, the security of the network this media is being shared across, and the cost-effectiveness of the implementation.

The paper may be downloaded at http://mutualink.net/PDF/Interop.pdf. Mutualink is used by public and private entities across the United States and abroad, including a consortium of 21 hospitals and health facilities in northern New Jersey, NATO Special Operations Forces, and Fusion Centers in California. The company’s advisory board includes Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and 43rd governor of Pennsylvania, General Barry McCaffrey (Ret.) and General Wesley K. Clark (Ret.).

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