Communications weakness exposed by 9/11 - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Communications weakness exposed by 9/11

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Ten years after the 9/11 attacks First responders in south Georgia and around the country are better prepared to respond to a major emergency. Agencies learned some tough lessons on 9/11 when first responders had trouble communicating with each other.

But that led to some important improvements that could help protect you during a disaster.

Albany was years ahead of the 9/11 disaster.  Floods in 1994 and 1998 and the 1996 Olympics already taught our region important lessons about a lack of communications, but the disaster 10 years ago keeps pushing them to improve.

When terrorists attacked on September 11th, 2001 it expanded the scope of responsibilities for fire fighters and other first responders.

"Years ago when we thought about what would happen in our community everything was pretty much confined to your geographic lines of county lines and so with the attack at 9/11, the hurricanes, we became a regional or national response organization," said Albany Fire Chief James Carswell.

In the last ten years there have been Presidential mandates for more NIMS, or National Incident Management Systems, training which would establish an incident command in the event of a disaster and orders for all first responders to use plain talk.

"We used to talk strictly in 10 codes and that was great because everyone in your own organization knew what the 10 codes represented but a sister agency might not have the same 10 codes so there was a mandate nationwide to go to plain talk," said Carswell.

Albany now has the Cadillac of radio systems, an 800 mega-hertz digital system that continues to receive updates and allows communications as far south as north Florida.

"We have partnered with Thomasville and Crisp County, and what that has done it allows a Sheriff to go pick up someone in north Florida and actually have un-interrupted communications between here and all the way down to Florida," said Deputy EMA Director Jim Vaught.

Every 911 Center in 23 south Georgia counties that make up GEMA region 2 now has a motor bridge system that makes every radio compatible.

" It allows radios that are not normally compatible, and 800 MHz, a VHF, radio to be able to communicate because what it will do is it will take through the 911 center computer system will take those two radios and through a software program bring them together so they can communicate on site within their county," said Vaught.

The Albany Police Department's 'Bat Mobile' is a portable unit that does the same thing, so it could be sent to more remote regions, allowing first responders to communicate and ultimately help save lives.   

Chief Carswell also pointed out there are funds allocated in SPLOST VI to update the Albany-Dougherty 911 Center. Some of the equipment in the center is 30 years old.

Albany also has an agreement with the Marine Base to use their communications center if the 911 center goes down.

The CODE RED system also now allows first responders to get critical information to the public more quickly.

 

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