October 02, 2001 11:00 pm

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden knows a communications glitch occurred following the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon Sept. 11, and wants to prevent that from happening again.

The senator from Oregon said people struggled to communicate on phones and on computers immediately after the planes struck the buildings in New York City and the military headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Wyden thinks he has a solution. He is working to set up what he calls a National Emergency Technology Guard, which would take action should another disaster strike. The senator is inviting representatives from high-tech companies such as AOL, Apple, Dell, IBM, Microsoft and Intel to meet with him soon to discuss how his NET Guard could be put together.

In our leading technology companies in this nation, there are the brains and the equipment to put in place this NET Guard that could be deployed across the country when we face tragedies like we saw in New York City, Wyden said.

The senator knows how important communications are when disaster strikes, and it makes him nervous to see how quickly people could be cut off from each other when events unfold.

He pointed out that after the terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon some wireless systems were overloaded or crashed. Internet access was cut off in some cases and telephone service was severed around the World Trade Center.

Wyden does not believe his NET Guard would be enormously expensive for the government to implement. The program would consist of volunteers who would come together immediately following a disaster if the communications infrastructure is damaged or comes to a halt. Personnel would come from existing pools at medium and large companies.

All Americans are praying that a disaster such as what occurred Sept. 11 will never happen again. But Sen. Wyden is right in recognizing that communications are critically important following a life-disrupting event, whether it is initiated by terrorists or from a natural occurrence such as an earthquake

Its only right that the senator bring together a number of people with expertise in technology and communications to plan what can be done to keep people talking in the wake of another disaster.

Pass it along

Got an idea on how to improve post-disaster communications? Send it along to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who will be working with a panel to develop a National Emergency Technology Guard.

Wyden can be contacted at 516 Hart Building, Washington, D.C. 20510; phone 202-224-5244; fax 202-228-2717. His Northeast Oregon represen- tative is Wayne Kinney, 962-7691, or e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it