Five states receive funds for wireless interoperability

Five States Receive Support for Wireless Interoperability Efforts

WASHINGTON — To help states improve and update their emergency response communications, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center), in partnership with the SAFECOM program, the communications program of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC), has awarded five grants to support governors and other state and local policymakers in developing statewide interoperability plans. Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana and Washington have been selected to receive $50,000 each for wireless communications planning projects to be completed by July 2007.

Wireless interoperability allows different jurisdictions and levels of government to exchange information when and where it is needed, even when disparate communications and information systems are involved. Unfortunately, many jurisdictions cannot exchange information seamlessly during day-to-day response or in a crisis situation.

After-action reports from Hurricane Katrina highlighted the continued lack of communications interoperability at the state and local levels, and a recent survey of state homeland security advisors confirms the critical need for substantial improvement in interoperability. In many cases, communications between response teams that include fire, police and other public safety agencies is impaired by incompatible communications equipment and/or systems.

The grants are part of a 12-month policy academy conducted with support from the SAFECOM program, in which statewide teams of policymakers participate in an in-state policy workshop, two policy academy meetings and receive customized technical assistance. In addition to working within their own teams, states will have the opportunity to work closely with peers from other states and a “faculty” of government officials, researchers and other experts. The academy will focus on helping states improve their policy and governance structures to better coordinate the fragmented planning that has plagued many efforts for achieving statewide interoperability.

“Public safety communications serve as a vital thread to effective emergency response,” said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center. “This policy academy will provide states the resources they need to develop statewide interoperability plans that improve emergency communications.”

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