FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told Senate commerce Committee members Thursday that first responders need to be assured sufficient spectrum for a mobile, interoperable, communications system.
Martin told Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) that he thought it was critical that emergency workers get as much spectrum as they need.
He also proposed a new integrated emergency alert system that includes national, state, and local participation and incorporates various media, including the Internet and satellite.
Martin also pushed for so-called "smart radios" that actively seek out available spectrum.
The current emergency alert system can be triggered either by the President or local or state official, but was not used by either in Hurricane Katrina, which troubled some legislators when the FCC's Homeland Security point man pointed that out two weeks ago in yet another Katrina-related hearing.
Martin was testifying at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Thursday morning on communications, or the lack of them, during Katrina.
The Hill and federal agencies have been heavily focused on Katrina-related inquiries. The Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on communications interoperability next week.
The issue of how well first responders could or couldn't communicate has come to the fore, thanks to the combination of Katrina and at least three bills related to setting a hard date for the return of broadcasters analog spectrum and the switch to digital.
Pushing the issue have been Tom Kean, former 9/11 commissioner chairman, and McCain, both of whom argue that communications problems identified post-9/11 have been too long in resolving, blaming broadcasters for the pace of giving back spectrum.
At the hearing, McCain repeated that criticism, citing Kean statements that lives had been lost and pointing out his many attempts to get action on his own bill for reclaiming analog spectrum.