Local News
Eyewitness Sports
Medical Coverage
Call 12 For Action
Target 12 Investigators
More Details
What's On WPRI
What's On Fox
This Morning Weekend
2 Minute Test Drive
Experts Online
Online Store
Chopper 12
Station Info

 April 16, 2005
Is Rhode Island ready for a disaster or terrorist attack?
Email to a Friend Printer Friendly Version  
Jack White Investigates- Disaster Safety Concerns

Is the state ready for a disaster or terrorist attack? The Eyewitness News Investigators went digging into the state's homeland security records and we uncovered a problem that affects every one of us and those who respond in times of emergencies.


Rhode Island has made significant progress since The Station Nightclub fire two years ago. But there is still no reliable statewide radio system that allows all public safety agencies to adequately communicate with one another during a major disaster. Connecticut's got it, Massachusetts has it, and we'll bridge the gap.


The Homeland Security Manager for the state's emergency management

agency says what Rhode Island's border state's have is an 800 megahertz radio system that allows clear communication among all public safety agencies.


John Aucott, Emergency Management Agency, says �We�re chipping away at this. We're chipping away piecemeal, but we are trying to solve the problem with the funding we do get.�


The idea is for first responders and hospitals to adequately react to situations like this which is a simulation of the results of a terrorist attack. Rhode Island experienced a real disaster with the West Warwick Station fire. The tragedy exposed what police officials describe in grant applications as a "grossly inadequate" communication system. 


Eyewitness News gained access through a freedom of information request to hundreds of pages documents at the emergency management agency. We found that during the West Warwick fire police officers from outside West Warwick could not communicate with one another, firefighters were hampered by the lack of a common radio system, and hospitals were forced to turn to television news reports to monitor the situation.



Chief J. David Smith, Narragansett Police Dept., says �The Station Fire is an example of why it is critically important to have interoperability between all public safety agencies.�


How to do that?   Chief Smith, with the state's blessing, applied for and won a highly competitive $3-million dollar grant to create an 800 megahertz system that will allow all public safety agencies in Washington County from North Kingstown to Westerly to communicate with one another. The system will be tested soon and could be operating in the fall.    The Washington County system will be compatible with a communications system that is being implemented with homeland security money through the North Providence police department for 15 communities, including Providence, in northern Rhode Island. That means that two-thirds of the state will have a compatible 800 megahertz system. Newport County communities are looking into the system along with some communities in Kent County. It's a great example of a partnership  and what you can do with first responders, homeland security money and the state strategically coordinating this program to help solve the problem.


But there is another major problem ahead. Maj. Gen. Reginald Centracchio, Emergency Management Agency Director says ďż˝to have a fully integrated, fully operable system at the first responder level across the state is an extremely expensive proposition. We're talking about $70-$80 million dollars.ďż˝  As a further indication of progress, every hospital in the state now has an 800 megahertz communication system but the biggest battle of all remains funding and most of the money will have to come from here at the State House.


Local News
Two pedestrians struck, killed on Providence streets
Man arrested in Providence double homicide
Eyewitness News RSS Feeds
Try the very latest way to read Eyewitness News headlines. Never miss an important story!
Two local banks plan merger
Feddeman to resign from Romney�s staff
Police say cook robbed nearby bank during lunch break
Senate candidates quickly gathering money for 2006 campaign
Rhode Island National Guard head plans retirement
Chafee gears up for 2006 campaign
Town, environmental group settle canvassing lawsuit
National News  more» 
West Virginia governor vetoes bill to make English state's official language
Festive protesters press for debt relief
San Francisco Zoo auctions naming rights to grizzly bears
Amtrak scrambles to find trains to cover Acela Express schedule
Mega Millions jackpot rises -- 13 draws with no top winner
Mishap ends NASA robotic test craft mission early
W.Va. governor urges bipartisanship
Bush urges Congress to pass energy bill
Police: Two dogs killed their elderly owner
Accuser's mother tests judge's patience in Jackson trial
Send questions and comments about this website to the .
All content © Copyright 2003-2005 WorldNow, WPRI, WNAC and Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.