U.S. Senators Handed Emergency Satellite Phones

More than half of the Senate membership has been given satellite phones that are to be used for any emergency communication.

According to a recent report in CBS News, the phones were offered to every member of the Senate, and more than 50 have accepted them. This is all part of new security measures that were implemented by the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, who assumed the position not long after the Capitol riot on January 6 of 2021.

Administrative staff of the Senate have suggested to the senators that they keep these satellite phones close to them when they travel.

Last month, Karen Gibson, the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms, testified before the Appropriations Committee that this new form of communication was being deployed “to ensure a redundant and secure means of communication during a disruptive event.”

The phones serve as a backstop security measure in case any emergency “takes out communications” infrastructure in any part of the country. The satellite phones and the airtime they require will be paid for by federal funding.

According to an advisory issued by the Department of Homeland Security, satellite phones can be used as a great tool to coordinate and respond to government services any time there’s either a natural disaster or a “man-made” disaster that could potentially wipe out normal means of communication.

In addition to the satellite phones, Gibson has created a new “demonstration space” office that’s located in the Russell Senate Office Building’s basement to be used as a place where senators and their staff members can see exhibitions and demonstrations of different new security upgrades the state office is implementing.

The room will offer exhibitions of safety glass, devices that are used to screen mail and “duress buttons,” all of which are used to try to reduce any risk of a future attack.

When she testified to the Senate panel back in April, Gibson said:

“Our team provided initial physical security enhancements for 31 offices and improved existing security for 52 others in 2022. Maintaining security systems in good working order is a priority, and to support this effort, our team conducted over 622 service calls to maintain, repair, and/or test and inspect state office physical security systems in 2022.”

Training known as “stop the bleed” has also been offered to administrators of the Senate so that they can be better equipped to respond to any potential medical emergencies or to aid victims of any attack.

Over in the House, William McFarland, the lower chamber’s Sergeant at Arms, said there has been “robust participation” in a new program that will help members of the House ensure their homes are secure. 

Administrators of the House were working with local police departments to provide protection to Congress members who host events in their home states, McFarland said, in addition to providing extra security at their personal homes.

Late last year, a spending bill was passed that provides additional funding for this type of security measures directed at home towns of Congress members.