Government Technology

New York Statewide Wireless Interoperable Communications Network Refocused on Regional Systems



April 5, 2009 By

plan," said John Grebert, executive director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. "It could lead to the same types of communications problems that we saw back on September 11th--State agencies and some local or county entities not being able to talk to organizations that did not elect or arrange for access to the statewide system. What seems to be working better is for the state to participate in multi-county, regionally focused systems that will have the ability to communicate with one another during those times when it becomes necessary," he said.

"Two other reasons we should continue with this new regional approach: The major emergencies that have occurred around the state are far more regional in nature than they are statewide. Whether it's a plane crash in Eerie County, an ice storm in the Adirondacks or forest fires on Long Island these are all actual incidents that required a major commitment of resources. The public safety response was far more regional in nature. A regional radio network can handle these needs more directly with better local knowledge than a statewide system," he said.

Under this new model, the state would provide technical and financial assistance and the counties would build the systems, which the state would then be permitted to connect to. "In conjunction with the system of systems concept, we understand we need to maintain and upgrade aging state agency systems," Perry said. "We intend to support initiatives focused on maintenance and upgrade until a replacement vision is realized."

But not everyone was enthusiastic about the shift to a bottom-up approach. "The shift from a top-down to a bottom-up approach is certainly a very all-encompassing change which I think needs a lot of discussion. If we go to a bottom-up approach I believe and I'm afraid that the [volunteer emergency medical services community] will be lost in the shuffle." Yedidyah Langsam, a professor at Brooklyn College, said.

Mayberry-Stewart said the governance structure would contain both top-down oversight and bottom-up collaboration.

Governance is a major part of all of the homeland security programs now, Gallagher said. "Your governance has to be in place. If you do not have that, your applications are null and void from the beginning. That's why New York state has been fortunate to be chosen by the National Governors Association to be on that committee to form a template for the states," he said.

The state plans to use $50,000 it was awarded as part of being chosen by the NGA to conduct a symposium in June to discuss the issues of interoperability facing the states, counties and other local government jurisdictions. "It's not just radio communications from my perspective that we need to work on as a state, " Corbitt said, "There's also a data void."

Opportunities for Collaboration

Achieving communications and data interoperability across New York will be an arduous task, but not impossible, officials acknowledge. The meeting highlighted two examples of counties who have cooperated in setting up regional radio networks and the state and counties already have areas where they share resources. "For as long as I've been involved in law enforcement, criminal investigations have been conducted jointly by local, county and state police," Grebert said. "If you are local or a county police department with few specialized resources and you're faced with a complicated investigation of a serious crime, you're making a serious mistake if you don't request the assistance of the state police," he said. "The state police have become an excellent example of how a large state agency can make all their resources available to local agencies while asking for very little in return."

Meanwhile, Monroe and Onondaga counties have gone ahead and collaborated in building a regional radio network which officials see as a model for the


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