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6 Of 75 US Cities’ Emergency Communications Effective January 3, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Only six of 75 U.S. cities and other areas rate top grades for their emergency agencies’ ability to communicate during a disaster, according to a draft portion of a federal report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

The report, to be released Wednesday, gives the highest ratings to San Diego, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Washington, Columbus, Ohio; Sioux Falls, S.D., and Laramie County, Wyoming.

The lowest scores went to Chicago; Baton Rouge, La.; Cleveland; Mandan, N.D., and American Samoa.

The study, conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, comes five years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, revealed major problems in how well emergency agencies were able to talk to each other during a catastrophe. Many firefighters climbing the World Trade Center towers died when they were unable to hear police radio warnings to leave the crumbling buildings.

Just over a year ago, Hurricane Katrina underscored similar problems when radio transmissions were hindered because the storm’s winds toppled communications towers.

Democrats have said they will make improving emergency communications a top priority when they take control of Congress this week, though they have not said specifically what they will do, how much it will cost or how they will pay for it.

In the study, communities were judged in three categories: operating procedures in place, use of communications systems and how effectively local governments have coordinated in preparation for a disaster.

In New York now, the report said, first responders were found to have well-established systems to communicate among each other – but not the best possible.

Most of the areas surveyed included cities and their surrounding communities, based on the assumption that in a major crisis emergency personnel from all local jurisdictions would respond.

The areas with the six best scores were judged “advanced” in all three categories. The cities with the lowest grades had reached the early implementation stage for only one category.

Chicago, Cleveland and Baton Rouge, for example, were judged to have accomplished the early stage of governance coordination. Mandan, N.D., and the territory of American Samoa were both found to have gotten to the early stage of their actual usage of interoperable emergency communications.

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