"If one of those types of attacks were to occur anywhere in the United States, nowhere else has the assets we have that are well-trained and ready. But those are the ones you hope never happen. No matter how good we are, there is no good outcome."-Cathy L. Lanier, chief of police, Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, D.C.
Law enforcement agencies are benefiting from mesh network technologies developed originally for military use. Private industry is modifying versions of these types of communications systems to allow police and other public workers to share vital information more quickly and reliably than through cellular communications. The benefits are evident. While cellular communications rely on a central tower to relay messages that can become backlogged in emergency situations, mesh networks avoid this inherent problem by employing multiple routers set up around an area that allow messages to find alternative wireless paths to recipients.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is using a bottom-up technique to protect the nation by working with local first responders to develop standards and a way for jurisdictions to communicate with one another. Under the Safecom initiative, the department is helping states develop strategic plans to improve statewide interoperable communications.
The U.S. Justice Department is facing problems similar to those of the U.S. Defense Department as it tries to enable communications interoperability among civilian public safety organizations. It must ensure that any of thousands of different communications systems can interoperate during times of crisis, but those systems often have been procured independently without any applied standards.