DC Fire & EMS Department looking at encryption of radio channels. Navy Yard shooting cited as example.



DC encryption fire department

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The man in charge of public safety for the Nation's Capital thinks the time has come to keep the public from listening to the radio channels of the DC Fire & EMS Department. The first with this story is Will Sommer who writes the Loose Lips column for the Washington City Paper. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander cited the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in September as one reason for this.

This became an issue two-years-ago after the DC Police Department encrypted its radio channels and the fire department shut down its Twitter feed. While that Twitter feed is back up and police department is very active on Twitter, neither agency kept the public or press informed through Twitter during the early stages of the Navy Yard incident. Here's more from Sommer:

Quander says the department is considering a solution that would leave some traffic open while encrypting calls. He cited dispatch calls to emergency as an example of traffic that could stay unencrypted.

While MPD encrypted its radios in 2011, the push to encrypt fire department radios came only after September's Navy Yard massacre, according to Quander. "It puts law enforcement, first responders, and the public in a very precarious position," he says.

Incidentally, if there's any publicly available evidence that Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis listened to emergency broadcasts during his rampage, LL hasn't been able to find it. Quander spokesman Keith St. Clair tells LL that he's not aware of any either, but says that emergency radio streaming on the Internet is "a potentially huge problem."

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