After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the city discovered there were some shortcomings in the communication networks of first responders. Ten years later, Council Members Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), chair of the Public Safety Committee, and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, held a Council oversight hearing to determine how the city improved.
“Our city—particularly our subway system, tunnels and landmarked high-rises—remain top targets for terrorists,” Crowley said. “The Mayor’s administration needs to make sure that our emergency responders are able to effectively communicate in these high risk target areas.”
Crowley said she was concerned about a lack of radio coverage in the city’s subways and high-rise buildings. Further, Crowley questioned why the NYPD has yet to update its radios to “Ultra-High Frequency” bands to help eliminate disturbances in communications.
Crowley is also concerned about reports that showed difficulties in communicating between high-rise buildings and remote command centers. The FDNY still faces problems when attempting to establish a line of command between firefighters and command centers in buildings taller than 75 feet.
Vallone criticized the city Wireless Information Network (NYCWiN) launched in 2006 to provide state-of-the-art information to first responders. He says it has not met some of its basic goals such as allowing police officers to access photos of suspects from patrol cars or the ability for the FDNY to download building floor plans when responding to a fire.
“Our city has made significant progress in first responder communication since September 11,” Vallone said. We are much safer, and have clear goals for future improvement. However, new challenges continue to surface and older problems ranging from communication in subway tunnels to the lack of a backup 911 center still exist.”