Southern Governors call for public safety communications network including utilities


Haley Barbour,
Southern Governers
Washington, DC, U.S.A.— (METERING.COM) — May 22, 2007 – The Southern Governors’ Association (SGA) has called for an investigation into the establishment of a national, interoperable public safety communications network that incorporates utilities.

The Association suggests that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should convene a dialog with state, local, federal and private sector stakeholders to determine whether sufficient spectrum is available to support the development of interoperable emergency communications nationwide, and to make recommendations for overcoming other obstacles to achieving a national communications network.

Characteristics of the network, which should cover 99 percent of the population in each state, regardless of the population density, include the provision of broadband data services, nationwide roaming and interoperability for local, state and federal public safety agencies and other emergency services such as utilities, access to the public switched telephone network, and back up push-to-talk, one-to-one and one-to-many radio capability.

Among the recommendations are that priority designation should be provided for utilities and others in the public safety community on existing spectrum below 1 GHz in times of emergency, and that there should be a review of regulations that discourage utilities from building shared systems to support public safety communications.

 “Our effectiveness in responding to large disasters – regardless of whether they are natural or manmade – will continue to be determined largely by our ability to share information quickly under the worst of circumstances,” said governors Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Joe Manchin of West Virginia in a letter to the DHS, the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. “The development of a nationally interoperable public safety communications network that supports both voice and data will only improve our effectiveness in emergency response situations and should be considered a priority.”

The Southern Governors’ Association comprises governors representing 16 Southern states and two territories. Interest by the SGA in a nationally interoperable public safety communications network was sparked by the events of September 11, 2001, and rose to the forefront during the 2005 hurricane season when a series of Category 3 storms – Katrina, Rita and Wilma – devastated much of the Gulf Coast.