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The blue-ribbon Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform has recommended that all new, local emergency communications systems be compatible with the Project Hoosier SAFE-T. The recommendation is one of 27 in the report which aims to make local government in Indiana more understandable, efficient, effective and accountable. Gov. Mitch Daniels has hailed the report for providing "clarity and boldness and courageous recommendations."
The Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform, led by former Governor Joseph E. Kernan and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, was created by Governor Daniels last summer to provide recommendations for a leaner local government structure. The full report, released today, can be accessed at http://indianalocalgovreform.iu.edu/.
Recommendation #6, which contains the language regarding Project Hoosier SAFE-T, is excerpted below:
Recommendation #6: Consolidate emergency public safety dispatch by county or multi-county region. Require that new, local emergency communications systems be compatible with the Project Hoosier SAFE-T statewide 800 MHz communications system.
Public safety dispatch is a critical component of effective public safety services. Local emergency public dispatch services are fragmented among municipal and county departments. Not surprisingly, citizens and policymakers often mention that such services are ripe for consolidation and the accompanying enhanced service, economies of scale and cost savings. Significant benefits can be gained by consolidating this critical service. Dispatch technologies that utilize geographic information systems should resolve many of the limitations that previously may have warranted separate systems.
Historically, public safety agencies have been unable to communicate with each other during significant events such as tornadoes. Over the last several years, state government has implemented Project Hoosier SAFE-T to establish an 800 MHz communications system to correct this significant public safety liability. The Integrated Public Safety Commission reports that the system’s state infrastructure is 95 percent complete.
More than 800 local public safety agencies use the SAFE-T system, including 64 sheriff’s departments, 290 municipal police departments, 52 local emergency management providers and 399 fire departments. The remaining local units remain on legacy VHF and UHF systems either by choice or economic necessity. In some of these cases, units have radios programmed to use SAFE-T’s mutual aid channel to provide communications during critical incidents. The system has 35,000 registered radios. An additional 20,000 radios are needed to provide statewide service.
Effective state and local communications systems are critical to enhancing homeland security and all other public safety functions. We recommend consolidating public safety dispatch into a countywide system, encouraging consolidation into multi-county units when prudent and requiring the use of an 800 MHz system. The responsibility for consolidation should be assigned to the county oversight body for inclusion in the public safety planning recommended above.
We further recommend the establishment of grant funding to offset the significant technology costs that may accrue in converting and merging current systems. We recommend that units be allowed to repair existing systems, but be prohibited from purchasing new communications systems that are not compatible with these objectives. We encourage local units to access all resources available to participate fully in Project Hoosier SAFE-T. We propose that this recommendation be implemented immediately.