Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Only four big U.S. cities ready for crisis: NYC is NOT one of them

Only four big U.S. cities ready for crisis: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than five years after the September 11 attacks, only four big U.S. cities have emergency communications allowing police, fire and medical officials to coordinate fully during a crisis, a federal report said.

The Department of Homeland Security report, due to be released officially on Wednesday, listed Washington, D.C.; San Diego, California; the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota; and Columbus, Ohio, as the major urban areas that achieved "most advanced" status.

The study awarded the same status to the smaller metropolitan areas of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Laramie, Wyoming.

Portions of the report obtained by Reuters said federal officials surveyed the emergency communications systems of 75 urban and metropolitan areas.

New York City, which was hardest hit by the 2001 attacks that killed 3,000 people, did not appear among those with the most advanced systems. Neither did Chicago, another city seen as a potential target.

The report ranked Chicago in the early stages of communications development and cited political divisions between the city and surrounding Cook County as the reason.

The inability of police and fire officials to communicate during the September 11 attacks was blamed for the deaths of New York City firefighters despite a police warning when the World Trade Center towers began to collapse.

The September 11 commission, which investigated the attacks, recommended "interoperability" of the communications systems of urban emergency services.

The new Homeland Security report said 75 urban and metropolitan areas have policies governing interoperability. But it said leadership and planning have lagged and emergency services in some areas were still in need of regular training.

Homeland Security awarded most-advanced status to areas that have standard procedures for interoperable communications, proven familiarity with the equipment during emergencies and a strategic plan for meeting further communications goals.