Lauren Frayer

A Better Communications System for Emergency Workers

[Commentary] Katrina overwhelmed the nation's complex communications system, raising serious questions about whether federal and local governments need new powers to organize a rapid response by the wireless, wire, cable, satellite, and broadcast industries. Moreover, it seems clear that first responders ought to have a resilient, mobile wireless data network that they can share. Fixing this is not difficult. There are some concrete steps the United States can and should take. The important thing to understand is that we know how to do this. The pieces to put together a national emergency response system are well understood. They include WiFi networks, dedicated spectrum for emergency responders, and standard off-the-shelf technology that enables emergency responders to receive pages, talk to each other, do simple text messaging, transmit photographs, and retrieve maps. The basic task is straightforward: every single emergency responder in the United States should be equipped with a simple Emergency Transponder (ET) that can receive pages and allow at least voice and text communications with other workers. We think such a device could be built for as little as $150. It would be a trivial task for the government to offer a rebate on the 3.2 million needed devices.

Big Media + Big Bucks = Big Easy Boost

Amid ever more shocking images and mounting casualties, big media corporations on Wednesday announced millions of dollars in aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina, which has transformed the historic and heavily populated city of New Orleans into a virtual underwater hell and decimated areas of Mississippi and Alabama.
Walt Disney unveiled corporate contributions of $2.5 million: a $1 million donation to the American Red Cross for immediate relief efforts; $1 million for rebuilding efforts targeted at children's charities; and $500,000 for volunteer centers. Viacom is planning a $1 million cash donation to the American Red Cross and a worldwide employee matching gift program directed to the agency. Its divisions CBS, BET, UPN, MTV Networks, Infinity Radio and outdoor will develop special programming and offer ad space and airtime for public service announcements from the Red Cross and other agencies.
Local TV and radio stations will do the same in their communities. Time Warner, the world's biggest media company, said it will start by matching
$1 million in employee contributions made to the American Red Cross.