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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York


Donovan Chairs Hearing to Assess First Responder Communications During Emergencies

October 13, 2017
Press Release
9/11 Commission cited communications between federal, state, and local first responders as a major problem; Donovan: During disasters, responders must be able to communicate on dedicated emergency frequencies

Washington, DC – October 13, 2017….Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, held a Congressional hearing examining the status of emergency communications networks. After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, first responders faced major obstacles in communicating with one another because networks were damaged or too crowded to allow for consistent contact.

Congressman Donovan said, “Unimpeded communication between first responders is fundamental to disaster response, when time is of the essence. Constant improvement in this area can mean the difference between life and death for disaster victims. We heard from security professionals on the status of emergency communication networks and implementation of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. I’ll be using what we learned to ensure first responders have the best technology available to do their jobs.”

Since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security has made progress in improving first responder communications capabilities. The Department’s Office of Emergency Communications has completed two National Emergency Communications Plans, and states and localities have invested billions of dollars in their communications networks.

Earlier this year, FirstNet – established five years ago by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act to implement a dedicated public safety broadband network – awarded a contract to AT&T to build out a nationwide network. These types of investments have already resulted in improvements, as first responder networks remained largely operable during the response to Superstorm Sandy, despite commercial network outages.

The hearing also focused on a requirement that first responder radio networks must migrate away from the T-Band spectrum in the coming years, which could pose challenges to major urban areas – including New York City – for which sufficient alternative spectrum might not exist. Donovan has been working on this issue with New York City and first responder organizations, and he plans to continue to meet with relevant officials to ensure communications needs are addressed.

Congressman Donovan concluded, “Emergency networks pose complicated technological challenges, but working together we can make sure first responders can communicate consistently and effectively when responding to disasters.”

Hearing Witnesses:

Rear Admiral Ronald Hewitt (USCG, Ret.)
Office of Emergency Communications
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Mr. Ed Parkinson
Government Affairs
First Responder Network Authority
Mr. Mark Goldstein
Physical Infrastructure Issues
U.S. Government Accountability Office