Wireless program takes to Web

Public Safety WINS

The Public Safety Wireless Network program, a federal initiative to promote and educate state and local public safety officials about communications interoperability, has unveiled an online version of its national strategy.

The interactive Web site — Public Safety WINS, for Wireless Interoperability National Strategy — is the latest adaptation of the program, which previously has been released on video and CD-ROM. It enables public safety officials to view policy and technical solutions and other resources related to managing interoperability challenges.

The site includes a section showing the "state of interoperability" for state and federal agencies that have public safety wireless missions. For states, it presents an interoperability index rating of each one's level of maturity in six areas: shared systems development, coordination and partnerships, funding, spectrum, standards and technology, and security. The section on federal agencies includes a description of their wireless programs and important contact information.

Within the past two years, the lack of communications interoperability among first responders has been elevated to a level never seen before. That's due largely to the communication problems encountered by New York City firefighters and police officers during their response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.

Since then, work on solving the problem has increased, but many public safety officials said that without substantial federal funding many statewide, regional and local initiatives to upgrade communications equipment will lose momentum.

Recently, an unprecedented coalition of national associations representing a wide array of state and local officials published an interoperability guide, and it also plans to lobby congressional officials for more funding.

The Public Safety Wireless Network is a joint initiative between the Treasury and Justice departments. It was started in 1996 after a federally appointed committee issued a report recommending that more spectrum channels be reallocated for public safety use.

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