I wrote an article about some lessons from Utah's experience building an interoperable 800MHz voice network for public safety before the Olympics at ZDNet's Government IT blog:
One of the problems that Katrina has put into bold relief is the cascading effect of communication snafus on quickly responding to disasters. First responder communications were hampered by systems that were down and systems that couldn't talk to each other. I heard one story of a radio repairman sent into fix some of the police radios who wasn't let through the roadblock because the State troopers couldn't get on the radio to verify his identity.
Congress is now calling for upgrading first responder communications. This isn't a new problem. When I was Utah CIO we dealt with these issues all the time. Because of the Salt Lake Olympics, Utah was blessed with Federal money to upgrade some of its public safety radio systems. The new system ran on the 800MHz, one of the bands the FCC has set aside for new public safety networks. Still there were problems beyond the financial ones...From First reponder interoperability | ZDNet Government Blog | ZDNet.com
Referenced Thu Sep 15 2005 15:00:46 GMT-0600 (MDT)
In the end, this problem comes down to governance and governance requires the willpower to force people to cooperate. The Olympics was the event that pushed Utah over the hump. I imagine Lousiana and Mississippi will find it easier to do now. Who knows what it will take in other places.