CAPITAL REGION — Counties across the Capital Region and the state are getting fresh funding to develop a county-to-county inter-agency emergency radio communications system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
Amounts ranging from nearly $1.3 million to $430,000 are being awarded for the purchase of equipment to allow county emergency communications centers to talk easily with centers in other counties — part of a long-term state effort to create a unified statewide system. The grants can also be used to buy equipment that improves communications between dispatch centers and first responders in the field.
Disaster events like tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011 have shown the need for better communications across regions, and the state has been putting money into the effort for years.
In all Wednesday, $45 million was awarded for state interoperable communications equipment, and another $10 million was awarded to support operations of public safety answering centers.
“In an emergency, every second counts, and these funds will help ensure our first responders have access to the best and most up-to-date communications equipment, enabling them to get the information they need to quickly respond,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement. “These grants will bring us one step closer to a stronger, safer, more secure New York for all.”
The money is coming from the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. It is generated by a monthly emergency services fee paid by cellular communications users.
“Effective emergency communications are essential to a first responder’s mission,” DHSES Commissioner Roger L. Parrino Sr. said. “Utilizing the latest technology will allow dispatch centers to quickly and efficiently respond to calls for help.”
Purchases can range from new communication towers and relay equipment to 911 system improvements and new field radios.
Among local counties receiving funds:
- Albany will get $1,272,530 for equipment and $202,379 in operational support.
- Fulton will get $429,721 for equipment and $167,791 for operations.
- Montgomery, $463,291 for equipment and $142,029 for operations.
- Rensselaer, $736,407 for equipment and $193,615 for operations.
- Saratoga, $834,169 for equipment and $127,221 for operations.
- Schenectady, $518,618 for equipment and $177,760 for operations.
- Schoharie, $485,123 for equipment and $113,600 for operations.
The awards are based on amounts for which counties applied, with the operations money covering only a fraction of what it costs to run a county dispatch center that typically fields thousands of calls each year.
In Schenectady County, the money will be used for equipment like radio towers, repeaters and microwave technology, county spokesman Joe McQueen said.
Saratoga County Emergency Services Director Carl Zeilman said the funding to that county will be used for preventive maintenance and purchases like fiber optic connections and microwave equipment needed to sustain a single radio system that can be used jointly by police, fire and emergency medical organizations, and shared by federal, state and local emergency agencies.
“It’s paramount that we have interoperability between our state, federal and local agencies,” Zeilman said, going on to praise the state for leaving spending decisions to the counties. “The counties really know what’s best in their communities and how to operate the interoperable system and develop plans for connectedness.”