Nearly $1 Billion in Grants Earmarked For Fire Fighter, Police and Other First Responder Communication

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and U.S. Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff have launched $968 million in Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grants to help state and local first responders improve public safety communications and coordination during a natural or man-made disasters.

The PSIC grant program will assist public safety agencies in the acquisition, deployment and training of interoperable communications systems to enhance interoperable communications of voice, data or video signals. Applications are due Aug. 18, and grants will be awarded by Sept. 30, as required by the Call Home Act of 2006.

The U.S. Congress authorized $1 billion to establish the PSIC program as a one-time, formula-based, matching grant program in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The program will fast track awards to all 50 states, the District of Columbia,and U.S. territories.

“When disaster strikes, first responders must have the tools to communicate,” said Gutierrez. “Under this streamlined program, states will be given grants to use technology that will make our cities and states safer.”

Pointing out that achieving interoperable communications is a major priority for DHS, Chertoff said, “These grants will help states and cities purchase equipment, conduct training and exercises and develop effective interoperable communications plans to get this important job done.”

First responders from different jurisdictions and agencies use disparate communication technologies that impede critical communication among fire fighters, police, and other emergency personnel during a disaster. Such differences can pose problems and impede the critical work of the nation’s first responders.

The Dept. of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working with public safety agencies to achieve meaningful improvements in communicating during an emergency, and fill gaps identified in the statewide communications interoperability plans. To address these goals, states and territories must consider advanced technological solutions that enhance capabilities for responding to all hazards when selecting projects for PSIC funding. In particular, applicants should consider solutions that use the nation’s airwaves efficiently, are cost-effective and enhance communications in areas at high risk for natural disasters. These options should continue to improve interoperable communication efforts in high-threat urban and metropolitan areas. Grant-funded projects must be completed by the end of fiscal year 2010.

Additional information, including grant applications, can be found at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/psic or http://www.dhs.gov/xgovt/grants/index.shtm.

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