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Westchester And Rockland First Responders Heavily Rely On Access To Special Radio Frequency During Slew Of Emergencies; Tragic 2015 Valhalla Train Derailment Exemplifies Necessity Of A Reliable Communication System For First Responders As Multiple Emergency Crews Responded To Scene

Special Signal Allows Westchester & Rockland 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 

Schumer: Looming Radio-megeddon Will Be A Disaster For Westchester & Rockland First Responders, Budgets & Public Safety—So We Have To Stop It

With a looming federal mandate that would upend emergency responder operations across Westchester and Rockland Counties, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stood with local first responders and announced a new push to save Westchester 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 region 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 Southern Hudson Valley first responders rely upon isn’t even ready for wide adoption, which is why Schumer and others are taking action.

“Westchester and Rockland 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 Westchester and Rockland 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 Senator 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. My colleagues and I 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.’”  

“I wrote the ‘Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act’ because I am committed to giving our police, fire, and EMS personnel the tools they need to keep us safe. Our first-responders rely heavily on the T-Band spectrum to communicate with each other in hazardous situations. I am working with my colleagues in the House to move this vital legislation, and I am pleased that Senator Schumer has joined me in heeding the call of our brave first-responders,” said Congressman Eliot Engel. 

“Our police, fire, and EMS officials put their lives on the line for our community every day,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-17), Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee. “They must be able to do their jobs efficiently and safely and to communicate and share information during emergencies, which is why T-band spectrum is so essential. I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 5085, the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2018, for this very reason. Reliable interoperability is as important now as it was in 2001, when I started working on this issue. I stand with my colleagues in the House and Senate and with our brave first responders in Westchester and Rockland counties.”

The Schumer-led Bill, Don’t 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 the life cycle of 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 broad support in the House under Rep. Engel, locally, is the way to solve this problem and not ‘break up’ the T-Band signal.

This past year alone, Schumer said Westchester 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 Westchester emergency response teams are below:

·         Armonk – November 3rd, 2018 – For the second time in four months, the Armonk Fire Department responded to a fire that engulfed multiple school buses in the bus yard lot.

·         Mount Vernon – October 30th, 2018 – A massive fire engulfed the upper floors of a three-story home requiring all hands on deck.

·         Irvington – October 22nd, 2018 – Irving High School was evacuated Monday due to a small fire that broke out in a nearby office.

·         Cortlandt – October 18th, 2018 – A chimney fire that broke out around midnight on October 18th required five fire departments to assemble in order to contain the blaze and, thankfully, no injuries were reported.

·         Eastchester – October 15th, 2018 – Nearly 50 firefighters were needed to battle a fire that broke out Monday morning and was fueled by a mound of clutter in a Garth Road apartment in Eastchester.

·         Peekskill – October 6th, 2018 – Peekskill, Montrose, Buchanan, Continental Village, and Mohegan Lake firefighters evacuated eleven people, including a man trapped on the roof of the building, after a fire burned on the second floor of a 2 ½ story duplex in Peekskill.

·         Yorktown – July 1st, 2018 – Frank Fonte, 53, died in a fire at 1789 Baldwin Road, despite the best efforts of Yorktown firefighters and 75 additional responders from Croton-on-Hudson, Bedford Hills, Millwood, Mohegan, Ossining and Somers.

·         Elmsford – June 1st, 2018 – The Red Cross and the Community Emergency Response Team responded to a fire in a multi-family building that left 35 people homeless.

·         Armonk – May 7th 2018 – 50-60 firefighters from seven departments extinguished a brush fire in a nature preserve in Armonk.

·         Croton on Hudson – May 7th, 2018 – Fifty firefighters from Croton-on-Hudson, Ossining, Yorktown Heights, Buchanan and Montrose battled a fire that claimed the lives of five foster cats.

Schumer chose Westchester County Department of Emergency Services to make the case for the keeping the T-band in place. The Department of Emergency Services is home to the county’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC). The ECC provides dispatch services to 52 fire and 31 EMS agencies and provides coordination of all fire and EMS agency mutual aid dispatches in the county. In 2017, the ECC handled 175,000 calls and recorded 2,020 hours of continuous talk time (over 84 days of continuous talk time) to county fire, EMS, and DOT.

The tragic 2015 Valhalla train accident is a prime example of why the T-band radio signal is vital to Westchester. When the Metro-North Train slammed into the SUV, it caused a massive explosion and a fire that trapped commuters. If it weren’t for the swift response from 20 emergency crews within Westchester, the accident could have been much more catastrophic.

44 fire agencies and 37 EMS agencies within Westchester County depend on the T-band system for daily communications. Those agencies are listed below:

Fire Agencies

EMS Agencies

Ardsley Fire

Mount Vernon EMS

Armonk Fire

Yorktown Medics

Bedford Hills Fire

Briarcliff Medic

Bedford Fire

Mt. Pleasant Medics

Briarcliff Fire

Pelham EMS

Chappaqua Fire

Westchester EMS

Croton Falls Fire

Northern Westchester Medics

Croton Fire

Ardsley EMS

Dobbs Ferry Fire

Armonk EMS

Elmsford Fire

Bedford EMS

Fairview Fire

Briarcliff EMS

Continental Village Fire

Chappaqua EMS

Goldens Bridge Fire

Croton EMS

Harrison Fire

Dobbs Ferry EMS

Hartsdale Fire

Elmsford EMS

Hastings Fire

Greenburgh EMS

Hawthorne Fire

Harrison EMS

Irvington Fire

Hastings EMS

Katonah Fire

Hawthorne EMS

Larchmont Fire

Irvington EMS

Town of Mamaroneck Fire

Katonah/Bedford EMS

Village of Mamaroneck Fire

Larch/Town of Mamaroneck EMS

Millwood Fire

Lewisboro EMS

Montrose Fire

Mamaroneck Village EMS

Mount Kisco Fire

Mount Kisco EMS

Mount Vernon Fire

North Salem EMS

Sleepy Hollow Fire

Sleepy Hollow EMS

North White Plains Fire

Ossining EMS


Pleasantville EMS

Pocantico Hills

Port Chester EMS

Purchase Fire

Pound Ridge EMS

Rye Fire

Scarsdale EMS

Somers Fire Department

Somers EMS

South Salem Fire

Tarrytown EMS

Tarrytown Fire

Valhalla EMS

Thornwood Fire

Vista EMS

Valhalla Fire

Yorktown EMS

West Harrison Fire


Yorktown Fire


Grasslands Fire


Montrose fire


Vista Fire


Montrose VA Fire




Schumer was joined by Ken Jenkins, Westchester Deputy County Executive, Michael Volk, Westchester Emergency Services Manager and local first responders.  

“We cannot cut off the communication of first responders and allow their safety, and the safety of our residents, to be put on the line over a radio system.  Politics should never get in the way of common sense.  I want to thank Senator Schumer and Congressman Engel for their work on stopping the looming federal law that would kill the “T-band” system,” said George Latimer, Westchester County Executive.

“As a former Detective Commander in the NYPD I understand the importance of the T-Band spectrum to first responders. They use it all day, every day and there is not currently any other system capable of performing this duty," said Rockland County Executive Ed Day. "It makes zero sense to force this change upon our first responders and could, in fact, create a dangerous situation for residents of the Hudson Valley. I thank Senator Schumer for his bi-partisan efforts to save the T-Band system."