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Governor Announces Ground Breaking Communications Project


June 1, 2005 (05-121)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

News Contact: Steve Swartz, (785) 296-3585

Kansas Department of Transportation

Public Information Officer

Governor Announces Ground Breaking Communications Project

  

A ground-breaking project that will enhance the ability of first responders to exchange critical information during both crises and routine interactions has been announced by Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

The project, which will be in a 17-county area of Southeast Kansas, is the first step toward statewide deployment of an interoperable communications system. First responders frequently can’t talk directly with other emergency service agencies because their radio systems are not compatible. Upgrades to the communications system in Southeast Kansas will enable the region’s many first responders to directly communicate with one another.

“It is my hope this seamless communication will give emergency workers the time they need in the early minutes of a crisis to save lives and protect property,” Sebelius said during an afternoon news conference at Topeka Fire Station Number 5.

Joining the Governor at the conference was Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Deb Miller and Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. William Seck.

Southeast Kansas project was one of four initiatives the Governor announced that will improve the communication capabilities of both public and private entities. Other initiatives include:

  • Opening the state’s 800 megahertz communications towers, which are operated by KDOT, to first responders and governmental users
  • Leasing 800 megahertz radios and equipment to local first responders
  • Opening the KDOT towers to private businesses for the first time.

The measures were endorsed by the 2004 Legislature in House Bill 2756, which made interoperability a priority for Kansas’ ongoing Homeland Security efforts. Interoperability is the capability of first responders to have direct radio communication with one another.

<>The Highway Patrol and KDOT now operate on an 800 megahertz statewide system, however, most local emergency service agencies are unable to communicate with them because their equipment is incompatible.

“While these initiatives will lead to better communications during disasters and other crises, they also will make a difference every single day,” said Miller, who noted that most agencies routinely need to talk with their counterparts in other jurisdictions.

Although Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, director of Kansas Emergency Management and the Adjutant General, was visiting Kansas Army National Guardsmen in Kosovo and could not attend the press conference, he issued a statement noting that the 800 megahertz system was a major component of Kansas’ interoperability strategy.

“As this system matures, Kansas will be a leader in the nation in providing interoperability for emergencies,” Bunting said.

In the past, cost has prevented many agencies from upgrading their equipment to the more functional 800 megahertz system. The lease program will make that upgrade a possibility.

“This is making a state-of-the-art communications system affordable for local agencies,” said Rose Hill Police Chief Bob Sage, who said his agency will participate in the lease program. “The 800 megahertz system will save lives.”

Private businesses, for the first time, will have the option of leasing space on the state towers. This will allow the state to capture revenue that can be used to improve public communication. Access by non-public users will be allowed whenever feasible.

The Southeast Kansas project should be operational by July 2006. It will cost approximately $16 million, which will come from one-time Federal Safety Funds and Homeland Security funds, and the redirection of KDOT communication funds. All first responders in the project will have interoperability, regardless of the radio frequency on which they operate.

Counties included in the pilot are Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Coffey, Crawford, Elk, Franklin, Greenwood, Labette, Linn, Miami, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson and Woodson.

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