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A tornado ripped through south central Indiana, spreading devastation across Johnson County, Indiana. The fire and law enforcement agencies that responded could not talk to one another either because they were on one of the 18 incompatible communications systems in the county or were among the 30 plus responders sharing one channel and stepping all over each other. Communication chaos reigned. Control and calm was not restored for 96 hours.
A tornado rips through the same area. Its path parallels that of the 1996 tornado, only 1,000 feet to the east. The devastation that followed was even greater than in 1996. Total damage is estimated to exceed $7 million. This time, however, the four law enforcement and nine fire departments that responded shared a single trunked, voice communications system, implemented just 8 months earlier in conjunction with the Integrated Public Safety Commission (IPSC). IPSC is responsible for implementing Project Hoosier SAFE-T, an initiative to develop a statewide, interoperable, voice and data communication system for local, State, and Federal public safety agencies. The response to the tornado would be the first real-life test of the system. These 13 departments communicated with one another when needed, seamlessly. Control and calm for this disaster was restored in 7 hours. The new system handled 12,955 transmissions in 7 hours, almost 31 per minute and 4,000 in the peak 2-hour period. The nearly unanimous reports from various local government and public safety officials was that the new communications system performed extremely well and enabled the interagency communications that were critical to responding properly to the disaster.