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Sen. Gillibrand: Pols to blame for outdated EMS radios

Radios

Radios Photo Credit: Office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

The radios that failed first responders during the 9/11 terrorist attacks still aren’t up-to-date 10 years later — and politicians are to blame, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told amNewYork Thursday.

“The solution to this national security problem hasn’t languished due to the lack of technological know-how, it’s languished due to the lack of political will by Congress,” said Gillibrand (D-NY), a co-sponsor of a bill that would create interoperability of communications devices between local, state, and federal emergency workers. “A 16-year-old kid with a smart phone has more advanced technology and communication capability than a police force or a firefighter carrying a radio and that has to change.”

Gillibrand called the lack of a nationwide, wireless network for first responders a “huge problem,” pointing out that emergency workers need the equipment across the country, for anything from a natural disaster — like the recent earthquake and tropical storm that reached New York — or a terrorist attack.

While she had been pushing to get the bill approved by the tragedy’s 10th anniversary, she now hopes to get the feat accomplished by the end of the year, saying that political momentum needed is now “on our side.”

First responders said they were fed up with political bureaucracy that has held the bill up for so long, and warned that lives are at risk every day it’s not put into law.

“The first responders did their job on 9/11 and for 10 years, the politicians haven’t done there’s,” said Jim Riches, a retired deputy fire chief who lost his firefighter son in the attacks. “They should be down there in Washington passing this bill, not up at Ground Zero for a photo op,” he said of President Barack Obama and other politicians who will be at Sunday’s memorial service.

“We’re going in there blind. Without information, you can’t operate in a fire because you don’t know what’s going on,” Riches said, adding, “We’re headed for another disaster eventually.”

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