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D.C. Considering Encrypting Fire Department's Radio Communications

D.C. firefighters and emergency responders may soon follow the lead of police and encrpyt their radio communications.
Andrew W. Sieber (http://www.flickr.com/photos/smartjunco/186893581/)
D.C. firefighters and emergency responders may soon follow the lead of police and encrpyt their radio communications.

D.C. Fire and EMS is considering encrypting its radio broadcasts starting in 2014, said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander this morning.

Quander said that he was debating the move in the wake of September's Navy Yard shootings, though he did not specify how the response to that incident was affected by open radio broadcasts, which can be streamed online or using phone-based apps.

A spokesman with the fire department said he was unaware of any plans, but Keith St. Clair, Quander's spokesman, said that the encryption of radios would be among the recommendations in the Navy Yard After-Action report, which has yet to be published.

"FEMS radio traffic related to the Navy Yard shootings was being broadcast live on the Internet," said St. Clair. "That sort of access to tactical information could result in an even more dangerous situation for emergency responders and the public."

St. Clair did say that the decision isn't final, and that Quander would consider leaving basic radio broadcasts open while encrypting tactical channels.

In 2011 the Metropolitan Police Department encrypted its radios. In testimony that year, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that the move was made to limit "broadcasting information that would endanger the safety and privacy of victims, witnesses, officers, and the public at large."

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