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Schools worry over poor local communications

Only six cities have fully adequate emergency communications systems, DHS finds. So how will responders handle school emergencies?
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

A recent report on the state of U.S. emergency communications systems reveals that many cities are woefully unprepared, leaving many school officials worried about the future, reports eSchool News

The Homeland Security Department has found only six U.S. cities have adopted fully adequate emergency communications systems. Fifty-two percent of cities have no plans or only informal or partial plans to make interagency communications possible.

The best prepared cities when it comes emergency communications are the Washington, D.C., area; San Diego; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Columbus, Ohio; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Laramie County, Wyo.

The lowest scores go to Chicago; Cleveland; Baton Rouge, La.; Mandan, N.D.; and American Samoa. In an overview, the report says all 75 areas surveyed have policies in place for helping their emergency workers communicate. But it also finds that "formalized governance (leadership and planning) across regions has lagged."

Democrats, who take the majority in Congress this year, will, no doubt, have some proposal to remedy the situation but have not yet explained their plans.

"Five years after 9/11, we continue to turn a deaf ear to gaps in interoperable communications"--the term used for emergency agencies' abilities to talk to each other, said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "If it didn't have such potentially devastating consequences, it would be laughable."

The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications doubted the report's methodology and findings.

"We strongly disagree with the results of this study and feel that the parameters of the study were inconsistent and limited," the office said in a statement. "In some instances, the scorecard evaluated urban areas or regions that contain a small number of independent jurisdictions and compared them with urban areas or regions containing significantly higher numbers of independent jurisdictions--an apples-to-oranges comparison across the board."
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