On Friday, NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in his weekly radio address, discussed technology enhancements for the city's first responders. In the five years since Sept. 11, 2001, said Bloomberg, the city has dedicated itself to learning from that day to be better prepared should disaster strike again. "We've improved command structures, upgraded equipment, and refined emergency and evacuation plans to be carried out in the event of a natural disaster, a public health epidemic, or another terrorist attack," he said. "And every step of the way, we've used technology to improve communication within and among our emergency service agencies.
"Last week," continued Bloomberg, "we took another major step forward by selecting a contractor to build a Citywide Mobile Wireless Network for first responders. It will greatly enhance coordination among police officers, firefighters, and emergency management workers, and will provide them with a wealth of essential information while they are responding to an incident. For example, police officers will be able to instantly download identifying data like fingerprints and mug shots that will allow them to detain and apprehend suspects at the scene.
"Over the next five years, the city will invest nearly $500 million dollars in the creation and maintenance of this network. It will take about 20 months to build a system that is fully operational, but we expect to see the first functions activated in Lower Manhattan as early as this January.
"The creation of a dedicated wireless network is just one of the many ways we've used new technology to make our city even safer. Last year, the NYPD took the use of crime-fighting information technology to an entirely new level with the launch of the Real Time Crime Center - an operational center staffed around the clock by officers who can quickly access information about crime scenes and potential suspects, and immediately send it by fax, e-mail, or telephone to detectives responding to a crime.
"Another good example is the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's syndromic surveillance system. It tracks thousands of daily health events, like emergency room visits and sales of medication, creating an early detection system for potential disease outbreaks, so that we can then alert the doctors and hospitals on the frontlines of health care.
"And just a few months ago, the Fire Department put technology to great use through the expansion of our Automatic Vehicle Location program. Now, every FDNY ambulance is equipped with a Global Positioning Satellite system that allows us to identify the location of emergency vehicles at any given moment, so we can get them to the scene even more quickly. This technology has had an immediate and dramatic effect, reducing ambulance response times by as much as 22 seconds over the past two months. We've also begun equipping fire engines with GPS technology, and have already installed systems in the vast majority of our trucks.
"On 9/11, our first responders inspired the world with their bravery," said Bloomberg. "Since that day, we've made it our goal to ensure that they have the tools they need to respond quickly and safely to emergencies of every kind. The new technologies we've employed over the past five years are helping us to achieve that goal. And over the next five years, the Citywide Mobile Wireless Network will continue to improve our ability to protect both our first responders and the people they risk their lives to help."