Feds give $11M to Mississippi to fix post-9/11 radio problems

Published 4:41 pm Thursday, July 19, 2007

The state of Mississippi will receive $10.9 million to fix communications problems between police and fire departments six years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and two years after Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, both R-Miss., said the Mississippi Department of Public Safety will spend the money in areas where first responders need compatible voice, data and video communications systems to be used during disaster response.

The money is part of $968 million awarded nationwide Wednesday.

“It is essential that our firefighters, paramedics, police, and officials from MEMA and FEMA have equipment that will provide for seamless and uninterrupted communication,” Cochran said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Gov. Haley Barbour announced that the state and Motorola Inc. had signed a contract for the wireless company to provide a statewide emergency communications network to be used during catastrophes.

Motorola was selected last November by Mississippi’s Wireless Communication Commission after a competitive bidding process.

Motorola officials said the company would ship thousands of the radios within 24 hours of a disaster and dispatch tower crews when needed to assist in an emergency.

Motorola said it will design and implement the system in three phases, beginning with the southern region. When completed, the network will include 135 radio tower sites statewide.

Cochran said the ability of emergency agencies to communicate among one another is crucial in disasters.

Lott said Mississippians who experienced Hurricane Katrina understand how important first responder communications can be before, during and after a disaster.

“Our state and local communities are already acting to upgrade and prepare emergency communications systems for the next disaster, and I’m confident this federal initiative will compliment and help expedite those efforts,” Lott said.