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The Edge of Violence


Lawmakers Want Probe of Navy Faulty First Responder Radios

September 23rd 2013

Sandy Hook Shooting

Democratic lawmakers are calling on federal regulators to investigate reports that first responder radios failed during last week's shooting at Washington's Navy Yard.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) sent a letter on Monday to the heads of the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, urging them to work with other federal and local officials to investigate the problems. "It is imperative that we understand what happened to these communications systems and why," they wrote.

They also urged the officials to ensure that FirstNet, a planned nationwide wireless network for first responders, avoids similar communications breakdowns. It was reported last week that numerous firefighters and police officers were unable to communicate using their radios as they responded to the shooting. Some equipment stopped working as officers ventured into the building, and at least one officer was forced to rely on his cellphone.

In a separate statement, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said the radio problems are "another reminder that we’ve got to modernize the way our first responders communicate."

"Once launched, the communications network FirstNet is building will support federal, state, and local first responders so they can communicate seamlessly across an interoperable broadband network,” Rockefeller said.

Congress authorized the $7 billion public safety network last year as part of tax cut extension legislation. The network, which is still being designed, is intended to prevent the kinds of widespread communications problems that hampered the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

Brendan Sasso writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.

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