Feds arrange responder priorities

Federal officials have begun an ambitious effort with representatives of state and local governments, police, fire, emergency management and public health associations to compile a comprehensive list of first responder priorities.

Officials will examine numerous reports, studies and surveys conducted during the past several years regarding the needs of first responders and consolidate the findings into one document.

The intent is to better help officials focus their efforts and resources for research and technology, said Richard Jacques, a senior program manager with the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice, which is responsible for evaluating technologies designed to enhance emergency personnel's responses to critical incidents.

"We want to basically have a consolidated document that identifies needs and requirements in order of priority that can be agreed to by these associations and organizations," Jacques said.

Those priorities will most likely include developing interoperable radio communications systems. The critical need for such systems became apparent during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center when the inability of firefighters and police from different jurisdictions to communicate with one another hampered rescue efforts.

Jacques hopes the groups will produce a final report within a month or two. That information will also be provided to the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit organization formed after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Kevin Shanley, a senior policy analyst with the National Governors Association's Homeland Security and Technology Division, said the organizations' representatives are already compiling a large number of documents, and he expects to be involved throughout the process.

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