DHS seeks comment on Safecom survey

Federal Register notice

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The Homeland Security Department wants to know what the public thinks about interoperable emergency communications among state and local public safety departments.

Known as the Safecom Interoperability Baseline Survey, DHS is collecting comments to measure the state of interoperability among state and local agencies. In a Federal Register notice, DHS set a Feb. 17, 2006, deadline for public comment.

Safecom was established after the 2001 terrorist attacks to oversee all initiatives and projects pertaining to public safety communications and interoperability. The survey will help DHS figure out specific projects to improve emergency communications, which fell apart after the terrorist attacks and the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Lois Clark McCoy, spokeswoman for the National Institute for Urban Search and Rescue, a California-based think tank, said her organization is urging DHS to make Safecom an open system that would be available to anyone during an emergency.

“No one wants the salaries and home addresses of people available when it comes to the transfer of time-sensitive information,” she said. “But sometimes too much security can mean that the message doesn’t get through. We have always said that the most accurate information delivered after the battle is lost is worthless. It is the same in an emergency, a catastrophic attack, terrorism or a fire.”

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