WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) the Ranking Member on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology applauded the House of Representatives for passing his “21st Century Emergency Communications Act of 2006.” The legislation, co-authored by Congressman Pascrell and Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA-08) was approved with overwhelming support in the House by a vote of 414-2.
“I applaud Congress for supporting my efforts to provide the first responder community with groundwork for a true emergency communications system. When the 9/11 Commission released its final report, it found that the inability of first responders to effectively communicate with each other and their commanders resulted in the loss of life. But the 9/11 Commission, in this regard at least, identified a problem that has been in existence for decades. With this legislation, we finally tackle one of the greatest hazards that confront our first responders. It is a comprehensive approach to disaster response communications that will truly assist our men and women on the frontlines. Establishing a new Office of Emergency Communications and providing more resources, guidelines and outreach to states and localities will no doubt bring forth positive, long-overdue results. ”
Congressman Pascrell has taken a bi-partisan approach in his campaign to lay the groundwork for greater interoperability. Ranking Member Pascrell and Rep. Dave Reichert, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science, and Technology, have conducted four hearings on the state of emergency communications, including field hearings in New Jersey and in the State of Washington, before they jointly drafted legislation from the testimony they heard.
”I am proud to be part of the bipartisan leadership that guided this legislation through the House of Representatives. I will continue to work to ensure the United States Senate also works to advance this critical homeland security initiative.”
The 21st Century Emergency Communications Act of 2006 will:
• Elevate the Department of Homeland Security’s interoperability focus by establishing a new Office of Emergency Communications headed by an Assistant Secretary. It consolidates the SAFECOM Program and other Department of Homeland Security responsibilities relating to interoperability under this office.
• Facilitate the development of standards for interoperable emergency communications and prohibits homeland security funding from being spent on equipment that does not comply with the standards and statewide interoperable communications plans.
• Require the Department to conduct periodic assessments to determine emergency communications needs, current capabilities and identify the gap between the two and issue a National Emergency Communications Report to include recommendations on how the U.S. can accelerate the deployment of interoperable communications nationwide.