DHS wants wireless tech for responders

The Homeland Security Department seeks ideas to develop technology that will allow more than 44,000 public safety agencies nationwide communicate with each other in an emergency.

In a request for information released this week, Safecom program officials said they are looking for ways to create interoperable and wireless communications networks for public safety officers that include state and local agencies and more than 100 federal ones. Safecom is working with federal communications officials and public safety officials to develop better technologies for communications systems. But in its call for information, it is now looking for help from both the vendor and academic communities.

"Inadequate and unreliable wireless communications are serious issues plaguing public safety," the RFI said. "In many instances, agencies lack the technology necessary to perform their mission-critical duties. Such agencies are unable to share critical voice or data information in routine day-to-day operations ... and in large-scale events such as acts of terrorism and natural disasters."

Communication was a major problem for public safety officers when terrorists attacked the Pentagon and World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and first responders could not get in touch with each other.

Safecom, a national public safety wireless interoperability initiative, is designed to enhance communications among first responders. It is one of the 24 cross-agency e-government initiatives highlighted by the Bush administration and became part of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate earlier this year.

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