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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
January 19, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General

 

Paul Loriquet
609-292-4791

 
 

New Jersey Demonstrates Capacity for Enhanced Inter-Agency Communications

Technological Solutions Connect Disparate Radio Systems


JERSEY CITY— New Jersey officials today demonstrated technological solutions they are using to enable personnel from different emergency agencies and first responder disciplines to communicate with each other using their existing radio equipment, Attorney General Peter C. Harvey announced.

At a press conference at Jersey City’s Emergency Operations Center on Summit Avenue, Attorney General Harvey, State Police Lt. Col. Lori Hennon-Bell and federal, state and municipal officials, observed first responders from federal, state, local and other agencies demonstrate “interoperable” radio communication. Led by Raymond Hayling II, the state’s Chief Public Safety Communications Officer, 12 different agencies were connected by tuning to assigned frequencies in their own band that are then connected through a central dispatching center. The 12 agencies represented federal, county, state and municipal governments and each operated on different radio frequencies among the 800 MHz, UHF and VHF spectrums. Prior to today’s public demonstration, the system was tested with more than 40 agencies, including New York City OEM, FBI, NY/NJ Port Authority and other New Jersey public safety agencies.

“One of the many lessons of 9/11 was that first responders — primarily at the command level — must be able to talk to each other. As the World Trade Center towers began to fall, an event witnessed from this very location, we know that police and firefighter commanders had numerous and debilitating problems communicating by radio with their own units and, most of all, with each other,” said Attorney General Harvey, who also chairs New Jersey’s Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, the State’s cabinet-level body that sets homeland security policy and oversees its implementation. “This is a great step forward for New Jersey.”

“I am pleased that New Jersey is on the cutting edge in providing enhanced inter-agency communications,” said Col. Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “As Director of the State Office of Emergency Management, I know how vital it is that commanders from different first-responder agencies, whether law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services technicians or others, be able to communicate with each other. Effective inter-agency communication is critical to effective response to — and management of — emergencies. It is also critical to ensuring responders’ safety.”

Harvey said that the technology demonstrated today had already provided successful interoperable communications in the Northeastern New Jersey Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) region this past summer during the Republican National Convention and during the period from August through November that the Homeland Security Alert System was elevated to orange status for the financial sector in Northern New Jersey based on threats against the Prudential building in Newark.

The inter-agency radio system had been developed as a priority of New Jersey’s UASI, which includes the cities of Jersey City and Newark, as well as Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic and Union counties. The UASI region has dedicated approximately $1 million in federal homeland security funds from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to facilitate enhanced inter-agency communications to this point.

Agencies that participated in today’s demonstration were: the United States Coast Guard; FBI; the New Jersey State Police (Troop B); NY/NJ Port Authority; the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s REMCS Unit; Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office; NJ Department of Transportation; Essex County Sheriff’s Department; Passaic County Sheriff’s Department; Jersey City Police Department; Jersey City Fire Department; Jersey City Emergency Medical Services; Newark Police Department; Paramus Police Department; Newark Fire Department; Nutley Fire Department/HazMat Unit.

Hayling said that New Jersey’s current technological solution relies on existing frequencies being “patched” together on existing equipment through a central dispatch point. He said that a northern New Jersey law enforcement agency has been designated as the UASI region’s “dispatch center” when inter-agency communications are required. Furthermore, Hayling noted that New Jersey’s technological solution differs from those based on “interconnect switches,” in which numerous radio systems are patched together through a separate piece of technology. Interconnect switches result in a “party line” connection, he said, in which many individuals and agencies may be indiscriminately linked. New Jersey’s solution, on the other hand, results in a targeted “private line,” helping to ensure that only the first responders key to any particular emergency are able to communicate. Hayling said that improvements to the system are ongoing.

In addition to the UASI region, two other regions of the state — designated by the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force — are already using Task Force distributed planning grants to implement similar enhanced inter-agency communications systems. These are the Delaware River Region (Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties) and the Central Region (Somerset, Middlesex, Mercer and Monmouth counties). Hayling said that the remaining Task Force designated regions (the Northwest Region — Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren counties and the Shore Region — Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties) would be coming online in the next few years.

In the long term, Attorney General Harvey said, the state ultimately expects to upgrade to a system that uses standardized radio equipment and frequencies. This will cost approximately $150 million to $200 million, he said.

According to Hayling, the system demonstrated today allowed Jersey City to meet the standards of RapidCom 9/30, a Department of Homeland Security initiative announced by President Bush in July 2004. RapidCom 9/30 required the demonstration of incident-level, interoperable emergency communications by September 30, 2004. It was designed to enable first responders in 10 cities identified by DHS as “high-threat urban areas” to communicate with each other in the event of a large emergency incident such as a terrorist attack. In addition to Jersey City, the nine other RapidCom 9/30 areas were: New York, NY; Chicago, IL; Washington, DC and the surrounding Capital Region; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Houston, TX; Miami, FL; and Boston, MA.

Attorney General Harvey noted that interoperability is a high priority for all public safety agencies nationwide. In spring 2002, the federal government established the SAFECOM program to help local, state and federal public safety agencies to improve public safety response through more effective and efficient interoperable wireless communications. The SAFECOM program is now located in the Department of Homeland Security.

At the state level, Harvey in December appointed Hayling as New Jersey’s first Chief Public Safety Communications Officer to coordinate interoperability issues statewide. In addition, the Public Safety Interoperable Communications Act, adopted into law in January 2004, established a State

Public Safety Interoperable Communications Coordinating Council (SPSICCC), a 16-person body made up of state cabinet members or their designees and representatives of the state’s first responder organizations. The SPSICC, which is administratively located in the Office of the Attorney General, is charged with developing a strategic plan for statewide interoperability. Hayling serves as its executive director.

Harvey also pointed out that the 9/11 Commission had strongly recommended enhanced inter-agency radio communications in its final report. As a result, in addition to consolidating intelligence functions under a National Intelligence Director, the 9/11 Commission Report Implementation Act of 2004, signed into law in December by President Bush, assigns a portion of the 700 MHz band now used for television broadcasting to public safety agencies.

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