Feedback: All public safety voices are important

The First Response Coalition (FRC) wishes to set the record straight regarding the article "Choosing sides in the spectrum debate" (March 20, 2007), which did not provide a complete picture of the coalition. The article featured the comments of Charlottesville, Va., Fire Chief Charles Werner, who criticized our involvement in the public safety communications debate.

Werner's comments in the article suggested that the coalition has no role to play and no credibility. The FRC is a respected national voice on first-responder issues, whose work has been endorsed by prominent policy-makers such as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.).

Major national media outlets, including CNN and Newsweek, have called upon the coalition for insight and analysis. We are asked to speak at conferences and events around the country because of our expertise and tireless advocacy on behalf of all first responders. Credibility is not an issue for the coalition.

Another comment in the article is that the First Response Coalition is not supported by national public safety organizations. In fact, the coalition is fortunate to have the endorsement of a number of national first-responder organizations, including the National Black Police Association, International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, National Association of Hispanic Firefighters and the National Institute for Urban Search and Rescue, to name but a few. We also enjoy the support of tens of thousands of concerned citizens who want to help our heroes receive the resources they need.

Finally, the article implied that the coalition was at fault for Cisco Systems Inc. citing our statements in the company's filings to the Federal Communications Commission. Anyone is free to use the coalition's numerous public documents, including reports on the communications readiness of first responders in hurricane-zone states and case studies of successful state interoperability efforts. The First Response Coalition is not responsible if a corporation decides our positions are valid and worthy of inclusion in a filing. This implication is unjustifiable at best.

The FRC makes no apologies for speaking about the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, highlighting the Homeland Security Department interoperability guidelines or suggesting that technology can play an important role in helping to solve the communications crisis.

There is no reason that any public interest organization should be precluded from participating in the national discussion about first-responder communications. It is a topic with consequences for every American citizen. All of us should encourage greater participation, not less.

The First Response Coalition stands by the contributions it has made, and will continue to make, to ensure that the men and women of the emergency services are provided with the resources they need to safely and effectively protect our communities.

Steven Jones

Executive Director

First Response Coalition

Washington, D.C.

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