We're Not Ready; Are You?

A new emergency preparedness study released by the Department of Homeland Security reports that Cleveland is among the worst-prepared metropolitan areas in the nation, at least with regard to emergency communication systems. The study, released today, evaluated the interoperable communications capabilities in 75 metropolitan areas.

What's Cleveland's problem? Apparently Cuyahoga County lacks a countywide communications system, and there is insufficient compatibility among the communications systems utilized by first responders and other government agencies in the area. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer story,

Police and firefighters in the county's 59 communities talk on about 50 different radio systems. Some cities have separate radio systems for their police and fire departments.

The systems can be linked only by following complicated steps. As an alternative, safety forces pass messages through dispatchers when emergencies cross borders, risking delays and confusion.

Lack of communications interoperability is not an Ohio thing, however, as Columbus scored quite well.
Columbus was among a small group that finished with top scores in the Homeland Security Department's study of 75 metropolitan areas. Others were Washington, D.C.; San Diego; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Laramie County, Wyo.

Joining Cleveland at the bottom were Chicago; Baton Rouge, La.; Mandan, N.D.; and American Samoa.

Oren (mail):
And why exactly does Cleveland need an integrated communication system? That question doesn't seem to be addressed.
1.3.2007 5:10pm
Let's hope the terrorists don't read this. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would become a target for sure.
1.3.2007 5:23pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
Dennis Kucinich, upon completion of his atrophy-induced auto-enuchation, will be empowered by a secret talking crow to levitate Cuyahoga County safely out of any harm's way.

Vote elf.
1.3.2007 5:28pm
Just an Observer:

I am more worried about the security of A Christmas Story House
1.3.2007 5:31pm
Eric Anondson (mail):
Didn't Katrina in New Orleans demonstrate the need for integrated emergency communication systems in every metropolis?
1.3.2007 5:35pm
Not particularly bright (mail):
Eric, Katrina in New Orleans demonstrated the need to not build metropolitan areas below sea level.
1.3.2007 6:36pm
Jeff Shultz (mail):

Because disasters respect no borders and it might be nice if the first responders could talk to each other without tin cans and string. Eric has the right of it.
1.3.2007 6:37pm
AppSocRes (mail):
What is silly about the idea that police and fire departments in neighboring communities should be able to communicate with one another, even in the absence of an extreme emergency?
1.3.2007 6:47pm
andy (mail) (www): one is going to attack Cleveland...

Instead of giving the flyover states a bunch of money for terrorist defense, should use that money for community development programs or to cut taxes.
1.3.2007 7:25pm
bbeeman (mail):
We're suffering from the usual government tendency to over-complicate things, and our inability to set standards.

The trunked systems now used have great difficulty communicating between different manufacturer's systems (no standards), and are dependent on the proper functioning of the associated repeaters. Most systems fail to deal with the 'what if' when the trunked repeater sites are down.

I'm concerned that a lot of dollars are being spent to no useful end...a common problem when federal dollars are involved.
1.3.2007 8:44pm
Joel (www):
The "what if" is Amateur Radio. :-)
1.4.2007 12:25am
Mark F. (mail):
I'm sure terrorists are delighted that the government has just given them a list of the best targets in America. Is this retarded, or what?
1.4.2007 3:59pm
some guy:
In response to andy's statement that "no one is going to attack Cleveland" and that money should not be wasted on defense of "flyover states" --

Yes, the 9/11 crew went for NYC and DC, but didn't our domestic terrorists blow up a building in Oklahoma City? Sounds kinda like "flyover" country to me. But no, let's not worry about anything between the coasts.
1.4.2007 8:56pm
AppSocRes and others
Way back when, it was undesired that the fire departments would have to wait until the police were quiet to use the radios. Adjacent channels were heard clearly if close. Neighboring communities also counted to congestion.
The solution was to separate the frequencies. As much as possible.
While neighboring fire departments might have a small need to communicate with surrounding areas, this was limited to either short-range radios or unit to dispatcher to other dispatcher to other unit.
Maybe police units would have a (single per area) common frequency to use with city(s) and county sharing that single channel for the fairly rare emergencies like high speed pursuits and such, and usually the dispatchers had to tell the various units to change to that channel. And then they were out of communication to anyone using the "old" channel.
And the radio channels were clearer. A unit only had to discipline its own units to have access to the radio channel.
The police and fire units were almost never on the same band, let alone share spectrum. Hint, different bands used separate antennas and radio hardware or very expensive dual band units. Both fire departments and police units were able to lobby the FCC to allow very high power use to make sure that they didn't have "blind spots" in coverage, and that made the frequency allocations worse, (range is roughly equal to cube root of broadcast power) as nobody wanted to listen to outside units on "their" frequency. So the units slowly spread out over even more spectrum.
Today, the various governmental emergency response units have existing equipment, on different frequencies and bands, and FCC licenses for same.
Nobody wants to perform complete communications equipment changeovers, especially to digital gear that might allow for tighter spectrum use putting everybody on the same band.
Nobody wants to go back to sharing frequencies, except in those rare emergencies.
THe various units still want to talk to their dispatchers without having to wait for another town to quit using the frequency.
Nobody is buying new FCC licenses to put their fire and police units on the same frequency band and suffer the commensurate crosstalk of overpowered transmitters "bleeding" over into adjacent frequencies in use by other units.
They are still using overpowered units, so the range at which they can be heard in surrounding areas that might be allocated the same channel is as great as ever.
The Digital radios are still more cost than anyone wants to pay for since it will have to be a complete change of all gear in at least an entire layer to retain interunit communication capability. And replacing gear in layers will be more costly than the all-at-once type because some of the gear will have to be the dual band stuff mentioned earlier that is, by definition, must more costly but would allow for retaining, for a while, those parts not in the layer changed.
It might be easier to change bands while they are at it, and Nextel was approached by the FCC about giving up their spectrum, but they wanted other spectrum to replace it and other cell carriers are insisting "NO".

So here we sit. Still not having various units able to talk to each other in emergencies, and not having to listen to each other the rest of the time, like they wanted it in the first place.
1.5.2007 12:01am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
U.S. Deports Cleveland Imam

Damra, who served as imam at one of the Cleveland's largest mosques, was deported on Thursday, said Tim Counts, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
1.5.2007 11:13am