Maryland patching safety nets
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Nov 19, 2001
Addressing the lack of interoperability among firefighters, police and emergency
medical personnel, the Maryland state government is planning to install
voice and data communications systems that would help such personnel talk
with one other across jurisdictions.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who announced the pilot project
Nov. 16, said a $400,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Crime and Control
and Prevention would pay for them.
"The most critical issue from an operations perspective as critical
incidents occur is the need to communicate," said Rob Weinhold, director
of public and governmental affairs for the Governor's Office of Crime Control
and Prevention (www.goccp.org). "Without effective
communication, the critical incidents won't be managed efficiently and public
safety is adversely affected."
Historically, he said public safety agencies and other first responders
had been limited in their ability to work together in terms of communication
"at scenes like natural disaster, search and rescue operations or...a terrorist
incident. "In essence, what would happen is the agencies would be on different
frequencies, and there was no way to patch them together so there was no
continuity in timely and accurate information," he said.
The voice system, which will be implemented in nine months, will provide
coverage in most of central Maryland, he said, in an area stretching from
the Eastern Shore to west of Frederick County and from the Washington, D.C.,
border to the Pennsylvania border.
The system is a patching network where up to five jurisdictions for
example, local, federal and military agencies could be patched together
with one another so there is "fluid communication," Weinhold said.
He said deployment of the ACU-1000 cross-band radio connector devices
will begin this month and go through several phases, including design, installation,
training and then evaluation for performance. In case of a critical event
during the interim, the state police have a mobile command post to facilitate
voice interoperability, but it would be limited in scope, Weinhold said.
The wireless data system, provided Aether Systems Inc., will be implemented
in 90 days. Weinhold said 100 of the company's PocketBlue handheld computers
containing wireless modems will be distributed. Users will be able to access
the Maryland Interagency Law Enforcement System database as well as the
FBI's National Crime Information Center database. The system also will enable
users to send messages within and outside their own agencies as well as
record suspicious persons or vehicles and circumstances.