FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Gering, Neb.) Gov. Dave Heineman today was joined by state officials in launching the first phase of a statewide radio network for emergency response personnel that will be the vehicle for providing interoperable communication to first responders across Nebraska in the coming year.
The Governor activated Phase I of the state’s radio network during an event held at Scotts Bluff National Monument. The network uses radio towers and upgraded communications equipment at the Nebraska State Patrol’s Troop E dispatch center, along with radios installed in first responder vehicles to provide an enhanced radio network for the state’s public safety officials in the Nebraska Panhandle. Over the next year, the network will be expanded to include public safety personnel in the central and eastern regions of the state.
“This is a major milestone for Nebraska and I want to congratulate everyone involved on their work to make this first step a reality,” Gov. Heineman said. “Achieving interoperable communication is one of our top priorities when it comes to emergency preparedness and response. This is a perfect example of the collaboration that makes Nebraska a national leader in emergency preparedness. It is Nebraska at its best.”
The statewide radio network is being developed through a partnership between state government and the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD). While the state was working to develop a dynamic, sustainable way for first responders and state officials to communicate, NPPD was considering options for upgrading its radio network used by utility crews. Rather than build two separate radio systems, state and NPPD officials entered into an agreement to share the costs of developing the state radio network.
NPPD President and CEO Ron Asche said, “This system will enhance NPPD’s ability to respond to customers’ needs, while increasing the safety and reliability of our field personnel. By sharing a statewide radio system with the state, NPPD will save customers money and increase our ability to communicate with other state-based agencies during emergencies.”
Known as the Nebraska Wireless Interoperable Network (N-WIN), the network is being installed in four phases that provide expanded communication capabilities for state agencies as each section is completed. Activation for Phases II and III covering central Nebraska is projected for February and July 2010. The final phase in eastern Nebraska is expected to launch by the end of 2010. When complete, the radio network will give state agencies, NPPD and some federal personnel in Nebraska the ability to communicate as needed.
The state network will also serve as a backbone connecting Nebraska’s eight regional communications networks and provide statewide interoperability in an emergency. The regional networks are operated under cooperative agreements at the local and county level and have been activated in recent years, starting in 2006.
Statewide interoperability will include enhanced communication for local and county law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel, NPPD utility crews, county emergency managers, and state public safety agencies, in addition to U.S. Department of Interior offices in Nebraska and some emergency personnel in South Dakota and Wyoming.
The state network includes: the Nebraska State Patrol, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the Nebraska Departments of Agriculture, Correctional Services and Roads. Other partners include the Office of the Chief Information Officer, which provides support for the statewide radio network, and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, which provided access to radio towers across the state. The network is being built by Motorola, Inc.
Gene Delaney, President of Enterprise Mobility Solutions for Motorola, said, “Motorola is committed to providing the State of Nebraska with the most advanced, interoperable public safety communications system that will help first responders communicate on a daily basis, as well as in the event of a major emergency. Motorola has been working with public safety agencies throughout Nebraska for many years and we look forward to developing this key communications project that will greatly benefit the safety and security of the state and its citizens well into the future.”
In 2008, Gov. Heineman signed executive orders creating N-WIN and the Nebraska Council of Regions (NCOR), which comprises representatives of Nebraska’s eight regional communications networks. Both entities report to the Lt. Governor, who serves as Nebraska’s Director of Homeland Security, and the Governor’s Homeland Security Policy Group.
Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy said, “I want to thank everyone involved in launching this first section of our statewide radio network. We’ve seen over the years that clear communication is an essential part of responding to any emergency. When complete, this project will ensure that first responders from border to border can talk to one another. It will also make Nebraska a model for other states looking to achieve a sustainable interoperable communications system.”
Funding to develop the statewide radio backbone comes from $9 million in state general funds appropriated by the Legislature, $1.7 million from the state’s share of federal Homeland Security grant funding, and $6.6 million in funding from NPPD. Each agency is responsible for purchasing radios and communications equipment as part of their operating budgets.
Col. Bryan Tuma, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said, “Implementation of a statewide radio network will greatly enhance officer safety and improve the efficiency of our officers.”