Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Train of Thought

In keeping with today's apparant railway-related theme, let me comment on the Dept. of Justice's decision not to fund the technology needed to allow Philly first responders' communication equipment to work underground.

Think Progress put it this way:

Philadelphia is trying to improve its first responder capabilities, but the government isn’t helping out. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has decided that Pocatello, Idaho (population 51,466), needs emergency communications equipment more than Philadelphia (population 1,517,550) does.

COPS denied Philadelphia $6 million to upgrade its first responder equipment so that police officers, firefighters, and paramedics could use their radio equipment underground and in tunnels, which the current equipment will not do.

Albert followed up with his own commentary.

I am in some of those tunnels on a fairly regular basis and would really like to see first responders have the upgrade. They can currently borrow SEPTA equipment that does work underground but if they are down there in an emergency situation, trying to keep track of one, not to mention two, walkie talkies is going to be tough. The other option is to set up a "shouting line" to carry information along. If we all remember playing the gossip game as a kid, we can imagine who effective that would be, especially in case of a fire or crash or something else noisy.

However, I question the use of the word "deny." In most government funded programs a certain amount of money is set aside; no one is guaranteed funding (unless your senator or congressperson is on the right committee and can call in some favors). So it wasn't denied; it wasn't funded. I wish it had been.

However, there has been some insinuation that the smaller cities that were funded, in states like Iowa, Idaho, and New Mexico, for example, don't need such equipment. To that I respond with two words: Oklahoma City.

I think the best thing to do is gather more information, make a more convincing case, and try to get the equipment in the next funding round, or from another agency.


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albert said...

I wanted to make clear that I didn't want to insinuate that smaller cities didn't need the equipment. I think that equipping the fifth largest city should be more of a priority.

OKC's metropolitan area is about 1.25 million, that's no small area. Pocatello, ID [50K]; Bismarck, ND [53K]; Davenport, IA [98K]; Las Cruces, NM [74K] are all much much smaller and I just don't view them as cities that need the funding more than we do.

I think that this follows the pattern of lack of preparedness that we've seen since this administration took office.

Where else can the City look for more funding if not from the DoJ?

AboveAvgJane said...


I agree that the nation's fifth largest city does need adequate emergency equipment. However, I went to college in the midwest, and know all too well the terrorist targets that are hidden away there. One of the first protests I went to was near the site of missile silos tucked away in farm fields. I'm not sure if they are still there but it was an unsettling thought driving through the countryside, to think of all the firepower resting quietly underground, waiting for a red button to flash somewhere. McDonnell Douglas has (had?) a large presence in St. Louis, SAC is near Omaha. There's a lot of radioactive waste quietly deposited in the southwest. All of those places need some protection, too.

If the government came come up with money for all the nutty things it does, seemingly whenever it wants for whatever it wants, I find it hard to believe that the money needed for this couldn't be found elsewhere if the right someones looked hard enough. If Sen. Santorum thought coming up with that money would win him SEPA, what do you want to bet we'd see one of those "big check" ceremonies going on right about now? If Mayor Street and Gov. Rendell both made it a major priority and went so far as to appear with Pres. Bush and get all gushy about him and we might have the money. If a D is elected next time and PA is a swing state that pushes him (her?) over the edge electorally, I think there is a good chance we'll see it.

Anonymous said...

Jane - I'm simply amazed that it's been, what, ten years since the Oklahoma City bombing and four years after the World Trade Center and Pentagon disaster and Philly (and hundreds of other areas in the U.S.) still don't have the necessary technology...scary.


AboveAvgJane said...


Great to hear from you!

I agree with you that the lack of improvement is scary.