Statewide radio interoperability carries hefty price tag

State emergency managers estimate it will cost $7 billion to achieve statewide interoperable communications for first responders, according to a new survey published by the National Emergency Management Association.

The group also believes it will cost $1.5 billion to build, retrofit and upgrade emergency operations centers nationwide, which includes expenditures for equipment, software and personnel. These are nerve centers where emergency managers, police, fire and medical supervisors gather to coordinate their activities in responding to a disaster. Nearly $400 million is needed for urgent improvements to state operations centers, and $1.1 billion for local operations centers, the report said.

The survey is the basis for the 2006 Biennial Report issued by the association highlighting major concerns and trends in the field. It is a professional group representing state emergency managers, who plan and direct state response to disasters and major incidents. The survey collected information from state emergency managers in 46 states.

State emergency managers have taken on significant homeland security duties since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the report said. In 32 states, the state emergency managers are also in charge of implementing the National Response Plan, National Incident Management System and National Preparedness Goal.

The report said state emergency management spending totaled $1.2 billion in fiscal 2005, with 43 percent going for response, 25 percent for preparedness, 21 percent for recovery and 10 percent for mitigation. Historically, such spending tends to be lopsided from year to year, reflecting increases during a period of major disasters.

Six states have achieved certification from the association's Emergency Management Accreditation Program, while New York, Utah and Massachusetts have received conditional accreditations. Managers in 26 states said their states would be seeking the certification within three years.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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