Emergency teams get new tech

Federal emergency workers in the field will get their own communications systems.

The Department of Health and Human Services is equipping vans of the Secretary's Emergency Response Teams with laptop computers and satellite communications, said KC Decker, a program analyst in the department's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness.

"The footprint they would take to the locale would be very small," Decker said, speaking at the GovSec conference in Washington. "It would basically have all the communications equipment you can carry."

The teams, which would be deployed in case of an emergency or terrorist attack, would be able to use the devices in their vans to communicate with department headquarters without interfering with other communications systems.

Decker said HHS' Response Technology Team is in the process of equipping these vans, and it is unclear when they will be operational.

The teams are centrally-based groups of experts from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration. Each team has about eight to 10 members, Decker said, and can be deployed across the country within 24 to 48 hours of an incident. The concept is part of the Federal Response Plan.

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