Reported by: Amanda Warford
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s not just media groups that worry what will happen when emergency radios go silent. Some local disaster response groups believe their clients will suffer as well.
Asher Lohman, of Coastal Reconstruction Group, says his disaster reponse team can’t respond to emergencies if they don’t know about them.
“Getting there quickly is the name of the game. We come in and we address the situation, stop the bleeding, tarp roofs and put together a scope of work.”
Coastal Resconstruction serves more than 250 commercial and 7,000 residential clients in Duval County. When natural disasters occur, they’re on hand to help, but they only know about disasters because they monitor activity on the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s radios.
“Whout the radios we would be waiting for a call, or have to find out later after the event’s happened which can add to the confusion and destruction of the property.”
But soon, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department will encrypt frequencies, making activity nearly impossible to hear by media and recovery teams alike.
Tom Francis says JFRD is a rescue department, and information like addresses and patient vitals that are broadcast over those channels are subject to federal HIPPA laws. He says encryption is part of a Department of Homeland Security system upgrade that has been in the works since HIPPA passed in 1996.
Francis says it is not a decision associated with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office removal of police radios from newsrooms that was annouced last week. While Francis says he understands safety concerns that disaster teams and the public may have, he says a new JFRD plan for emergency communication is forming, although still in the early stages.
Encryption of JFRD radio activity is set to begin in four to six weeks.
(Original Source: http://www.actionnewsjax.com/content/actionlocal/story/JFRD-to-encrypt-radio-frequencies-Disaster-groups/blQhj5XX3Ey4UPMGDxmPDQ.cspx)