NYPD’s Dowd: Sandy ‘came in like a tsunami’
The Worst of Conditions
Indeed, the FCC reported that about 25% of cellular sites were rendered inoperable, with most of the failures being attributed to a lack of power when the commercial electric system went down. That type of downtime cannot be tolerated in a public-safety system, Dowd said.
“Public-safety systems have to work under the worst of conditions, when you need them most,” he said. “Clearly, that Monday night was when we needed them most. The public-safety systems stayed up, and the commercial networks ultimately went down. So, the idea that we could just use commercial networks — as we’ve always said — is just not viable.
“That said, there are ways to address this long term to help incorporate even commercial sites into the network, so that they survive. But this has to be done in a way that it provides a public-safety grade of service.”
This was a message that Dowd shared with members of the FirstNet board that visited New York last week. The visit had been scheduled before Sandy hit, and there was some consideration to cancel the trip. By making the trip, the FirstNet board members were able to see first-responder communications systems being used under the stress of a disaster-recovery effort, Dowd said.
“I think some of them felt bad about coming in, but then we just contacted them and said, ‘Come on in. This is the perfect opportunity for you to really experience things and learn,'” Dowd said. “We had them here for a couple of days. We took them out to some of the affected areas, and they got to see that firsthand. They got to talk to first responders, so it was very educational for them — and for us, quite frankly, learning from them.
“I feel comfortable that they certainly want to learn what all the implications are. There’s a lot to take in here. They learned a lot. I think there’s more [to learn], and I think they’re committed to learning. I think they’re committed to understanding what the actual public-safety need is — I’m convinced of that, based on two days of being with them.”