9/11 Commission Chairman: First-Responder Communication Still Lacking

Progress made, but New Jersey/New York region remains at risk, Kean says


 
 

Herb Jackson, Washington Correspondent, Herald News | | Friday, September 9, 2011


The United States has made progress to protect against another terrorist attack, but the New Jersey/New York region remains at risk, former 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean Sr. said on Thursday.

Intelligence is being shared and air travelers are being tracked, but the first responders don't have the communications tools -- particularly common radio frequencies -- they need, Kean said.

In an interview before he spoke on a panel at the Newseum in Washington about progress made and challenges remaining since 9/11, Kean said many of the commission's recommendations have been implemented and have made the country safer.

"We think the coordination of information is better. It's one of the things that helped us kill bin Laden," said Kean, a former New Jersey governor.

He also said terror watch lists are making a difference.

"Certainly when you go into the homeland security center and you see they've got there listed every single passenger getting on any plane, anywhere in the world, for the United States and they're checking them off list, that's good," Kean said.

But he said the nation and its allies still have not paid enough attention to controlling nuclear material, which is not the most likely but is the most potentially dangerous vulnerability.

And he said some recommendations he and vice chairman Lee Hamilton thought would be easy to implement remain unfinished, including dedicating part of the broadcast spectrum to first responders.

"People died on 9/11 when policemen couldn't talk to firemen inside the towers. People died in Katrina when people in helicopters couldn't talk to people in boats. And if there was an emergency tomorrow, people would die again," Kean said during the panel discussion.

Hamilton, a former longtime congressman from Indiana who joined Kean on Thursday's panel, agreed.

"It's an outrage, pure and simple. It's an outrage that 10 years later, we haven't solved this," he said.

Independent Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said federal funding has improved radio communications, especially in the most at-risk areas.

But debate continues in Congress about dedicating a broadband spectrum that could be used for video and data sharing in emergencies.

The communications industry and some in Congress who see a potential revenue source prefer that the spectrum be auctioned to the private sector, with provisions that it be turned over to public services in an emergency.

During the interview, Kean said Congress should be careful if it decides to cut back on funding to states and localities to improve terrorism prevention and disaster response capabilities.

"I would say, and not just because I'm from New Jersey, that it would be stupid to cut funds to New Jersey or New York or Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles because these are obvious targets and we've got to prioritize," he said.

He agreed with those who say Congress should not just be providing money to states and cities that cut back on their own spending, but he said the money has never been truly prioritized to go where it is most needed.

"Some of those same congressman [who want to make cuts] are still trying to protect money in their districts, in some of the places in the country that are under no threat whatsoever," he said.

In the end, though, he said the most important factor in improving security is keeping the public involved and reporting things that are suspicious.

"As long as the public understands that it's not going to be the FBI that's going to spot these things first, it's going to be one of us. As long as people are alert and don't get complacent, I think the system's going to work," he said.

E-mail: jackson@northjersey.com Blog: northjersey.com/herbjackson
September 9, 2011



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, September 11

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Simulation-Based Assessment Facilitates Learning & Enhances Clinical Judgment

Simulation is an educational tool that can be used to develop and refine clinical skills of the student in a controlled environment before they progress to becoming practicing clinicians.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

REMSA Programs Helps Reduce Hospital Visits

Community paramedic effort goes into service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

City Official Challenges San Francisco Fire Chief

Ambulance response times among problems noted by city supervisor.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Crash

Victoria ambulance collides with civilian vehicle.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Colorado Medics Ditch Pants for Kilts

“Real men do wear kilts.”
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

CO Leak at Illinois School

Girard incident sends over 130 to hospitals.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Hands On September 2014

Who gets thumbs up this month?
More >


Multimedia Thumb

NYC Sept. 11 Anniversary

View images from the ceremony at Ground Zero.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >