Radio interoperability : addressing the real reasons we don't communicate well during emergencies
Timmons, Ronald P.
Hutchins, Susan G.
Barton, Laura A.
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Concerns about inadequate radio communications at the scene of disasters predate 9/11, and have been a focal point of homeland security funding since 2001. Under the umbrella term "interoperability," grant funding is facilitating the recent deployment of equipment to allow field personnel to patch radio systems together, with the expectation of immediate improvement of emergency scene communications dysfunction. This thesis argues that there are numerous causal factors for inadequate disaster communications. Communications impediments include insufficient radio infrastructure, behavioral reactions by people in stressful situations, intergovernmental relations, inadequate procedures and training, and general lethargy over the need to institute special operating policies differing from routine practices. The sole reliance upon technological solutions, without proportionate training and practice greatly reduces the effectiveness of radio patching equipment. Quite opposite from the intended effect, patching equipment, in the hands of those only minimally acclimated to radio system architecture, is likely to trigger unintended consequences of chaotic system overload (by combining two or more busy channels) and sector vulnerability (by combining unsecured general public systems with previously isolated public safety systems). Our goal is to provide a thought-provoking examination of the entire realm of emergency scene communications issues and practical recommendations beyond superficial technological solutions.
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