NYC Fights and NYC WiNs!

Though many vulnerabilities were exposed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, none received more attention than the lack of an interoperable communications system linking New York City's (NYC's) first responders to incident command...

Communicating the details

Now, about a year from full implementation, it looks as if the project will not only meet, but exceed expectations — and on time.

"The Citywide Mobile Wireless Network will be a dedicated network that will ensure public safety personnel have the tools they need at their fingertips to fight crime and help New Yorkers in emergencies," says Bloomberg. He adds the network also will improve efficiency and productivity in non-emergency situations by streamlining communications and improving service.

Chelson notes he feels confident and secure in the knowledge that milestones are being met and the system will be delivered on time. A fully operational pilot program is already active in NYC's Lower Manhattan district, and has attracted attention from other law enforcement agencies worldwide, he adds.

"This city-wide system will revolutionize the way in which first responders manage an incident," he explains. "No other city in the world has this capability, and in fact, other agencies from around the world frequently visit our pilot program to assess its capabilities."

A 9/11 Commission report regarding communications mandated that communications systems be implemented to include:

  • full backup if one sector fails;
  • the ability for an incident commander to see the "big picture" from a remote location; and
  • the capability to include other agencies necessary for incident command at a moment's notice.
  • It appears the project will accomplish all three of these goals. According to Chelson, in NYC's communications network there will be a "stash" of equipment for emergency use at strategic locations, insuring federal and state agencies arriving on the scene of an incident will be able to plug into the network. "There will be modems ready to go, so that, for instance, an FBI agent can instantly access the network, as well as information databases from his own agency from a remote location," he points out.

There may be times when an event takes place over several square miles and requires the incident commander to assess many different situations. In a large-scale disaster like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is necessary to move information quickly and securely to locations such as the mayor's office, emergency operations centers and hospitals. Additionally, it may be necessary to move information to agencies in Albany, New York, and Washington, D.C.

When the completed network goes "live" in March 2008, there will be coverage in all five boroughs of the city, notes Chelson. "At that time the officer on the street, an ambulance, a fire truck or police car (traveling up to 70 mph), the commander in a mobile incident command center, etc. will be able to access data as if they were at their desk," he says. "The power of broadband and the use of industry standards will change how agencies can coordinate, interoperate and manage incidents in the future."

In Lower Manhattan, the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Fire Department of New York (FDNY) are testing the pilot program's applications, using the equipment and experiencing its capabilities.

A full-scale test of the pilot system was conducted in June 2006. This test included subjecting the network to high broadband traffic, multi-agency input and output, on- and off-site monitoring, and wireless call box use.

"The system performed as we hoped and expected," says Chelson.

Sbordone agrees. "NYCWiN (as it has become known) is now operational throughout Lower Manhattan south of Canal Street, river-to-river, with the testing of multiple agency applications underway," he says. "These applications include license plate recognition cameras, intelligent transportation equipment, and AVL technologies. The network will be built out citywide over the next year, to be completed in the spring of 2008."

A cooperative effort?

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