Rhode Island emergency officials making the state radio interoperable
| 07.17.2006 | 04:35:16 | Views: 2577 | ID:
July 17 '06: Emergency response and management officials in Rhode Island told the Providence Journal changes in the state's communications system are a step-by-step process on the road to interoperable communication. Currently, "There's a spider web of communications systems throughout the state for public safety and government officials." However, in several areas, interoperable radio technology, a new Emergency Operations Center, laptops to help connect to the internet and coordination with amateur radio operators "to relay messages for state and local officials" are making inroads in the state's emergency response preparedness.
In South County, RI, emergency officials have been using 800 MHz radios which provide an interoperable frequency for multiple responder agencies. The system "puts all of its users onto the same frequencies, but has enough bandwidth to allow 'talk groups' so those using the system are not talking over each other. For instance, one group could be set up for first responders, another for chiefs and another for other top stateleaders managing a crisis."Coordinating all that information and discussion is the new EOC in Rhode Island. The Harvard Government Innovators Network reported in June that the new emergency management center "has 19 work stations with phones and laptops loaded with emergency-management software that the center would use to contact local directors in all 39 cities and towns. Three 65-inch plasma screens, plus two 42-inch screens in either corner, face the room." The center was built using federal homeland security money. The upgrade and construction cost about $232,000 while planned upgrades will total $750,000, the Harvard publication reported. Currently, about two-thirds of Rhode Island are covered by the 800 MHz radio network. The antennae are placed close together and on structures not towers, which can fall during severe weather. By next year, state officials said, the whole state will be covered under the same interoperable radio network. The next step, officials said, was to get the radios to all the responders.
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