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LI First Responders From --Nassau To Suffolk-- Have Relied On Access To Special Radio Frequency During Slew Of Emergencies This Year, Alone; Recent Babylon Inferno Required 8 Emergency Crews To Come Together To Control Blaze

Special Signal Allows LI Firefighters, Cops & EMS To Communicate Day-To-Day, Even When Cell Towers, Electricity Or Internet Are Down; T-Band Even Functions Deep Underground In Tunnels Or Inside Concrete Buildings; But Fed Law Demands LI First Responders Move to an Untested, Expensive New System – Costing Untold Millions – That Does Not Even Exist Yet

Schumer: Looming Radio-megeddon Will Be A Disaster For LI Responders & Public Safety—So We Have To Stop It

With a looming federal mandate that would upend emergency responder operations across Long Island—from Nassau to Suffolk—U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stood with local first responders and announced a new push to save LI first responder radio now in jeopardy. Schumer explained that this radio signal in jeopardy is called ‘T-band,’ and that it has been in operation across the Island for decades, and that a looming federal mandate stands to upend its signal and system, meaning real danger for local public safety. Even worse, the system once designated to replace the T-band radio spectrum system LI first responders rely upon isn’t even ready for wide adoption, which is why Schumer and others are taking action.

“Long Island first responders rely on a lot of things to do their jobs, and one of the most critical is their communication system, which relies on a T-band radio spectrum to connect various departments and officials. These radio waves that move Long Island first responders to the scene of a major fire, crime or a medical distress call cannot be allowed to be chopped up for private use,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “That is why, today, standing with so many of our responders, I pledge to keep the radio system you use every day in your hands.  Along with colleagues across the aisle, we have dropped a Bill in the Senate that mirrors another in the House to keep the T-band intact until such time that technology has fully caught up with the real-time needs of your departments. You need a communication system that works when seconds count, so today, we are telling the Federal government: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’  

Schumer stood with local elected officials, first responders at the scene of a recent Babylon inferno that required 8 different Long Island emergency departments to respond. Schumer used this backdrop to make the case for keeping the radio system fully functioning and untouched by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Schumer further detailed the radio signal problem and unveiled a new push he is making in the Senate to save it. The Senator announced brand new federal legislation that has strong bi-partisan support.

The Schumer-led Bill, Dont Break Up the T-Band Act of 2018 repeals a buried provision in a 2012 law that actually directs the FCC to auction this radio spectrum for use by the private sector in 2021. Back in 2012, it was assumed that a better technology to replace the T-Band would be in place, but that is not the case, and it is why Congress now must work to undo the measure that would allow the FCC to imminently take the T-band from the hands of first responders across the country and place it into a private auction, where it would be utilized instantly for its spectrum capabilities.

According to the Congressional Research Service, public safety agencies have been using the T-Band since the 1970s and agencies conduct upgrades to these public safety communication systems regularly, using federal, state, and local funding.

According to the research, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) conducted a study in 2013, and asked T-Band operators how much it would cost to replace their T-Band systems. The respondents answered that $2.9 billion had been invested in equipment like radios, antennas, base stations and core network components designed to operate on the T-Band. Congressional Research Services says that, now, 6 years after the law was passed requiring the give-back of the T-Band spectrum to the FCC, many of the 925 licensees across the country still operate on the T-Band signal and have been unable to make improvements to their systems that can replace the nimble and well-working spectrum radio signal.

Further, as some agencies approach the end of life cycle on their equipment, they are now in a conundrum: deciding to migrate to other regional or statewide systems, in anticipation of the relocation or waiting to see whether Congress will reverse the decision requiring them to give back the T-Band spectrum. So, Schumer says there is confusion across the country because of what the FCC is planning to do with the auction. Schumer says that is why his legislation, which has bipartisan support in the House under Rep. Zeldin and King, locally, is the way to solve this problem and not ‘break up’ the T-Band signal.

This past year alone, Schumer said Long Island first responders have relied on the T-band system for a slew of emergencies that required critical radio communications and interoperability. A few of the emergencies that highlight the communication demands across LI volunteer departments are below:

  • East Hills (Nassau) – 8/1/18 – 10 fire departments responded to a raging house fire on Flamingo Road North.  There was a scare at one point during the fire when some of the firefighters were unaccounted for and were believed to be trapped inside the burning house.
  • Port Jefferson Station (Suffolk) – 7/14/18 – A fire broke out at the Meadow Club catering hall on Route 112.  Flames were seen shooting from the roof of the structure.
  • Manorville (Suffolk) – 7/4/18 – A fire completely gutted the garage of a Manorville home on the evening of July 4th.
  • Central Islip (Suffolk) – 6/22/18 – 6 fire departments responded to a raging fire at a home on Hawthorne Avenue in Central Islip, the fire spread throughout the home.
  • Ronkonkoma (Suffolk) – 6/18/18 – A 60 year old man was killed in a Ronkonkoma house fire on May Court.
  • Brightwaters (Suffolk) – 6/17/18 – Firefighters responded to a home in Brightwaters on Richland Boulevard which had caught on fire.  A cat was rescued from the home and given oxygen.
  • Woodbury (Nassau) – 6/13/18 – 10 fire departments responded to a fire just south of the Woodbury Country Club.
  • Syosset (Nassau) – 5/20/18 – A fire at the North Ritz Club catering hall on Jericho Turnpike in Syosset.  No one was hurt but the hall was significantly damaged.
  • Stewart Manor (Suffolk) – 5/3/18 – Three people were injured including a firefighter after a house caught fire in Stewart Manor. The house was completely destroyed, the two residents were treated for smoke inhalation and the responder was treated for minor injuries.
  • Huntington Station (Suffolk County) –4/20/18—A hostage negotiation team, emergency services, SWAT, and Suffolk County cops all responded to a hostage situation in a Huntington Station home.
  • Suffolk County – 3/25/18 – One of the biggest drug trafficking networks in Suffolk County. Officers raided four different locations

Schumer chose the scene of a Babylon inferno to make the case for keeping the T-band in place. He was joined by local elected officials, LI firefighters, cops, & EMS at the scene of the recent inferno, where 8 departments used the in-jeopardy first responder radio signal system to quickly respond.

“We are standing at the scene of an inferno that not only demanded immediate ‘over and out’ capability, but we are at the scene of an emergency that without the T-Band could have resulted in first responder loss of life—and that is why Congress and the FCC must get the signal and keep Long Island’s—and the nation’s—first responder radio signal answering the call. We must avoid a radio-megeddon that would be a disaster for Long Island first responders and public safety,” Schumer said.