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Focus on first responders


Last updated 9/8/2018 at 1:41pm

California’s recent fires remind residents of the importance of direct, rapid and coordinated response during emergencies. The safety of first responders can be seriously impacted by outdated communications systems. As a member of the Select Committee on Natural Disaster Response, Recovery and Rebuilding, I am working with my colleagues in the legislature to make sure first responders have the latest communications technology available.

The importance of interagency communication in a natural disaster is a matter of life and death as residents realized in the Lilac Fire last fall. Serving on the Escondido City Council during the tragic Cedar and Witch fires in 2003 and 2007, the city invested more than $7 million to upgrade the public safety communications to the 800 megahertz system, eliminating dropout areas and helping interagency communications.

In addition, the current communications system for 911 is based on 1970s technology developed during the era of landline telephones. Eighty percent of 911 calls now come from wireless devices – this decades old infrastructure is well beyond its life expectancy.

I support creating a modern, statewide 800 megahertz system for first responder communications and adopting Next Generation 911 technology. With a multilayered, digital communications system, the state will ensure that emergency responders are able to seamlessly communicate with each other and to respond appropriately. For example, if fiber optic lines are burned or 911 dispatchers are forced to evacuate, as occurred during recent wildfires, calls will still be routed so that emergency help can be dispatched rapidly.

Working with other legislators to bring a modern, life-saving communications tools to firefighters, police, sheriffs, highway patrol and citizens is a critical priority. California’s diverse landscape, with its many rural areas and aging emergency communications infrastructure, creates a challenging environment for the state’s dedicated first responders.


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