When a Hurricane Hits

Lessons from Katrina

Pushing policy
No solution is able to be implemented until there is an establishment of governance and policy, explains Wright.

To begin, an agency must define what it wants to do. "Define your outcomes first," he says. Second, can it be done? And then, how?

Systems were originally built "local," meaning for the immediate vicinity. Criminals have become very mobile, explains Wright, thus the ability for mobile communications is necessary.

As a trooper, all he carried was a Smith & Wesson 686, pair of handcuffs and two ammo dumps. "Batman was better equipped than I was," Wright jokes.

Communications consisted of him calling dispatch, who then called the police department on a telephone, dispatched an officer for assistance, who radioed to the police dispatcher, who phoned his dispatcher, who radioed him. "Does that seem foolish?" Wright comments. "How big does the decision-making loop get when we have to enter all these other people into the process?"

The same lesson still can be applied today. Though technology has changed, the loop is still large. Policy issues, as well as behavioral issues can be addressed and turned in a more proactive direction.

"You can create mission-critical, highly resilient, available networks with just proper design," he explains. "People are starting to get the message. Agencies are realizing they can still continue to buy what they need, leverage existing investments in equipment and infrastructure, and still be able to interoperate with others using a standards-based approach."

"The fact of it is, and I used to tell my department — the public believes you're already doing this," says Nelson. "And if you're not, they're going to ask why you didn't. Our first responsibility is to provide for the safety and security of our communities."

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