Last 9/11 Commission Rec Becomes Reality

911 dispatchers will be able to talk to one another in a major disaster thanks to a new law and a recommendation from the 9-11 commission.

By Damian Trujillo and Lori Preuitt
|  Monday, Apr 23, 2012  |  Updated 6:29 PM PDT
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Images of Sorrow: New York's 9/11 Ceremony at Ground Zero

Damian Trujillo

This 911 dispatcher in San Jose will make good use of the billions of dollars spent on a new communications upgrade.

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 The final recommendation of the 9-11 commission in 2004 was fulfilled today in San Jose.

Congress approved a National Emergency Broadband Spectrum which will enable first responders to be able to communicate with each other on one frequency. The law was officially unveiled Monday in San Jose at a politically star studded press conference hosted by the San Jose police department. 
 
Lack of communication hampered rescue efforts in the deadly battle in the Oakland Hill Firestorm in 1991.  A decade later it also hampered operations at the Twin Towers in New York City.  
 
The new legislation is supposed to put an end to that by using Silicon Valley technology which will allow 911 operators to talk to emergency officials using smart pads and smart phones.
 
Congress signed off on a new $7 billion communication system that will give 911 operators their own channel for emergency communications.  It also has the secures significant funding for Next Generation 9-1-1 technology. 
 
Joey McDonald is a 911 dispatcher who knows she is one call away from an emergency. She says when a big call arrives she hopes she'll be able to talk to all first responders from areas both inside and outside the city limits. 
    
"It's very vital if we were to have a significant event when we're having our own mutual aid. It's very important to be able to talk to one another," McDonald said.
 
In New York City on 9-11 emergency crews couldn't talk to each other because different districts used different and outdated communication systems.
 
"These are powerful reminders of what we had not done to let our first responders communicate seamlessly during an emergency. Now we can say we got the job done," Congresswoman Anna Eshoo said.
 
The nation’s first responders from local to federal levels will soon have the critical interoperable airwaves needed to effectively communicate in the event of an emergency, according to Eshoo. 
 
Eshoo said the new law, which was signed by the Pres. Barack Obama in February, also provides $115 million in grants to state and local public safety entities to support implementation and operation of 9-1-1 services.
 
The new system will enable the delivery of text messages, pictures, and video to 9-1-1 call centers across the country.
 
The technology is new to emergency officials, but it is alto like most of us in Silicon Valley already do on a daily basis. Instead of sending a photo or text to a friend, 911 dispatchers will send or receive texts, photos or videos to or from crews on the scene of an emergency.  
 

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