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Communications improved after 9/11

ORANGE — The 9/11 terrorist attacks led to a major improvement in communication capabilities for emergency responders, said Orange Fire Chief Dennis Annear at a memorial ceremony Wednesday.

“It’s important to memorialize and think about what the attack on us did that day,” said Annear to a crowd of about 50 uniformed firefighters and policemen and about 65 other attendees, who stood gathered in front of the Orange Municipal Airport.

The technology in the smart phones people carry, and the means first responders now have to communicate with each other, was accelerated after 9/11, he said.

“One of the reasons a lot of people died that day was a lack of communication,” said Annear. “The battalions were unable to communicate with each other. The police were unable to communicate with the fire department. No one was talking to the port authority.”

A much different scene unfolded after the Boston Marathon bombing this spring. Then, first responders were able to effectively communicate between departments and across different radio frequencies, he said.

A prime example of how far technology has improved can be seen at the Orange Municipal Airport this week, said Annear. To improve security and service at this week’s World War II event, the fire department requested a “mobile emergency operations trailer.”

It doesn’t appear to be much more than a trailer sitting in the parking lot, but it’s essentially a mobile office equipped with camera, radio, telephones and computers.

Three people — a dispatcher, a fire department incident commander and a representative from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency — will work out of the office for the next few days.

“Basically, it’s an office on wheels ... so that they can have a unified command post in the field,” said Steve Staffier, communications and interoperability manager for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. It’s paid for by a state grant, he said.

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