Creating a nationwide communications network for first responders has long been a priority, but even though lawmakers have made progress, such a tool could still be years away. Experts say that Congress will likely have to allocate approximately $10 billion more to create the emergency-specific airwaves, The New York Times reports.

Some of the recent progress was on display during Hurricane Sandy, when New York's police and firefighters were able to talk to each other on the same wavelength by using cell phone technology. While it worked reasonably well during Sandy, using a commercial service provider could be unreliable in other emergencies.

"They clearly saw the difference between the performance of commercial and public safety networks," Charles F. Dowd, a deputy chief who oversees the New York Police Department’s communications division, told the Times. "They knew the new system cannot be built to commercial standards. It has to be at a higher level of redundancy and survivability."

The need for a nationwide network has frequently come up since communications breakdowns led to confusion on September 11 and during Hurricane Katrina four years later.