Interoperable Communications: A Public Safety Priority

Over the course of his years in office, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley has made homeland security one of his top priorities, and within that priority, ensuring interoperable communications for public safety has been his number one goal. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security describe the first goal of the 12 Core Goals in Homeland Security:

Interoperable Communications—First responders in every region in Maryland should have access to a fully digital, trunked radio system which all response partners can access in order to transmit and receive voice and data. . .

In his speech on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, the Governor describes how interoperable communications were a downfall of the 9-11 response, stating,

First responders in every region of Maryland should possess modern, interoperable radios–as well as robust computer-aided dispatch. In other words, we want the radio our police officers and firefighters carry to work every day to be able to communicate with fellow officers and firefighters in other jurisdictions, and in other departments. Tragically, on September 11th, this didn’t happen. While police were ordering their personnel out of the towers, the fire department was still ordering their personnel into the towers. . . [in Maryland] we are . . . building a statewide interoperable communications network, which will connect everyone on a statewide basis.

The Governor also described the importance of the new system for large jurisdictions coordinating disaster response in Maryland’s metropolitan areas and for smaller jurisdictions, such as Kent County, Maryland saying,

. . .[T]he first phase . . . will cover critical infrastructure like the Bay Bridge, the Port, BWI Airport, and the ICC. And it will also give us the opportunity to help local jurisdictions, like Kent County on the other side of the Bridge, to replace outdated systems and to use the statewide infrastructure, not only for interoperability in large-scale emergencies, but for daily, basic operability as well.

The Governor now has the opportunity to complete this capstone project, providing significant improvement to public safety statewide, and helping raise the standard of emergency communications throughout our smaller jurisdictions.  A representative governance body that manages and oversee the system’s completion and maintenance will secure county-state partnership key to the system’s success.  Legislation to create a governance body is one of MACo’s 2014 initiatives.

In a recent conversation with MACo’s Board of Directors, Jeanne Hitchcock, Chief Legislative Officer & Secretary of Appointments for the Maryland Office of Governor assured MACo’s Board that if a governance body is created, the counties would have representation and noted that on topics in homeland security, “The Governor is committed.”

For more information, see our previous posts, Video: Maryland FiRST “Game Changer”, Practitioner Steering Committee Discusses Maryland FiRST, Public Safety Communications: What is Maryland FiRST?.