DHS will test multiband radios

The Homeland Security Department will soon begin testing newly engineered multiband radios for first responders in New York City and other locations as part of its efforts to improve emergency communications, officials said.


Historically, firefighters, police and other first responders have used radios that operate on only one frequency or on different bands. The new radios, which will operate across different bands and in both digital and analog modes, will make it possible for them to communicate in cases where they need to work together.


DHS’ Office for Interoperability and Compatibility, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and responder groups developed the requirements for the radios, which are being produced by several manufacturers.


The prototypes will be tested this year and in 2009, David Boyd, director of DHS’ Command, Control and Interoperability Division, and Chris Essid, director of the DHS Office of Emergency Communications, told the House Communications, Preparedness and Response Subcommittee Sept. 16.

The pilot program testing will involve radio operation across multiple systems, such as analog, conventional, digital and Project 25 systems, as well as across multiple agencies that  include federal, state, local, tribal and military.

In addition, the office of emergency communications is establishing an Emergency Communications Preparedness Center to improve coordination of programs related to its mission across the federal government. The center expects to have an operating charter later this year and to submit a strategic assessment to Congress on progress made and challenges ahead in interoperability.

The emergency communications office is creating Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Groups to coordinate multistate efforts to improve the survivability and interoperability of communication systems.


Starting in January, the emergency communications office intends to hire 10 regional coordinators who will work in FEMA’s regional offices, Essid said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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