Office of Justice Assistance Awards $4.2 Million to Local Communities for Replacement of Outdated Radios
More than 350 local emergency response agencies have been awarded a total of $4.2 million in federal funding to purchase nearly 3,600 new radios with enhanced mutual aid channel capacity (see list of grant recipients). Shared “mutual aid” channels enable reliable communications between several emergency response agencies at critical times—like large-scale disasters and incidents that cross jurisdictional lines.
These equipment grants—funded by federal Homeland Security monies—will further the state’s short-term goal to ensure all public safety agencies have access to common mutual aid channels during an emergency or crisis. Radios purchased with these funds must have a minimum of 48 channels and be capable of accessing at least 20 statewide mutual aid channels; additional capacity is for local channels. Some police, fire, and rescue agencies are replacing radios that operated as few as one channel. Replacement of outdated radio equipment is not only essential to improve communication interoperability between agencies, but is an important step towards implementing Wisconsin’s statewide interoperability strategy.
New radio equipment part of statewide communications strategy
With additional programming, radios purchased with these funds will be compatible with the state’s Wisconsin Interoperable System for Communications or WISCOM. Earlier this year, OJA awarded the Department of Transportation a $16.3 million one-time federal Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grant and federal Homeland Security grant monies to hire a contractor to build the initial phase of the WISCOM system. This system will provide 95% mobile coverage in the state. When completed, the WISCOM system will function as a statewide communications “backbone”. As local communities replace their aging communications systems, new equipment will interface with the WISCOM backbone increasing local capacity and statewide interoperability while realizing initial and long-term cost savings.