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2005-03-29

Rant regarding clueless journalist

With all due respect, the National Journal piece "Spectrum Wars" which Dan Gilmour sent to BoingBoing, and which was titled at BoingBoing 'How HDTV killed firefighters, birthed the Broadcast Flag, and screwed America' is (stating things politely) over the top; or, as Col. Sherman T. Potter, USAMC would say, "MULEFEATHERS!"
'Adding to the mounting pressure on broadcasters is the fact that police and fire departments cannot communicate effectively in emergencies.'

That is NOT due to the lack of spectrum made available to them. Forex: The NYPD did an excellent job of communicating on 9-11; the NYFD did not. Same hardware, same software, but very different wetware. It's been well documented that the problem is not missing bandwidth, but systems which are not interoperable.

The NYFD was a 'walled garden', the 'AOL' of emergency communications, and did not interoperate well. Brave men and women led by ignorant, incompetent and don't-care-I-got-my-pension management. Wrapping this issue in the bloody flag of 9-11 is extremely poor taste.

Yesterday's tsunami underscores this. Before the Big Drown three months ago, the leadership of the Pacific Rim nations of SE Asia could not give a hoot about the tsunami data Uncle Sucker and Nippon could give them to save the lives of their folks, data we've made freely availble since 1946. Yes, 1946. This time, they Found a Clue, and actually decided to listen to us when there was another tsunami-inducing quake.

There are oodles of interagency frequencies available at any time to communicate in the US, (e.g., NPSPAC, among others, rarely used) but the problem is those frequencies requires the dispatchers and first responders to USE THEIR BRAINS. That is *not* a criticism of the front line folks, those up on the pointy end of things, but it savagely critiques the training and procedures provided to them.

Crisis makes stress. Stress keeps you from innovating, of finding new ways to solve problems. In crisis, therefore, first responders need to have been trained IN ADVANCE, in situations which at least approximate what they're facing, how to use the interagency frequencies.

Managers need to demand this training. Leadership needs to demand interband repeaters and bridges, not only towerside but mobile repeaters and bridges on-scene, so Fred Firefighter can talk to Charlene Constable and Eddie EMT *without thinking about changing channels*.

We don't need to shuffle bandwidth to provide the emergency services what they need. We need the leadership to better manage what they have. Simply giving them bandwidth has not yet solved the problem, and giving them more will not solve it any better.

You fight the way you train; piss-poor preparation presages pitiful performance.

Go ask a firefighter. Go ask a cop. Go ask an EMT.
Go ask someone who knows something, not a journalist.

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