DHS Releases Interoperability Scorecard for 75 Metro Areas (1/3)
Wednesday, January 03, 2007 | Comments

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released assessments of interoperable communications capabilities in 75 urban and metropolitan areas nationwide. Only six of the 75 studied areas received high grades for their interoperability efforts. While the scorecard findings will not directly impact homeland security grant funding, DHS said it expects eligible communities will use the scorecard to target their investment justifications and improve interoperable communications capabilities. Since 2003, DHS said it has awarded $2.9 billion in funding to enhance state and local interoperable communications efforts. The reviews focused on three main areas developed by the DHS interoperability program Safecom: governance (leadership and strategic planning), standard operating procedures (plans and procedures), and usage (use of equipment). The findings identify gaps and areas for improvement, including:


* Policies for interoperable communications are now in place in all 75 urban and metropolitan areas. 


* Regular testing and exercises are needed to effectively link disparate systems and facilitate communications among multijurisdictional responders (including state and federal). 


* Cooperation among first responders in the field is strong, but formalized governance (leadership and strategic planning) across regions is not as advanced. 


The scorecards illustrate the current capability for each area and provide recommendations for improvement. The reviews were conducted by five panels of subject matter experts composed of state and local public-safety and communications technology experts, in addition to representatives from the DHS Wireless Management Office and Safecom. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said the department is committed to making interoperable communications a priority in every major urban area, and DHS will continue to push for closing these gaps by the end of 2008. The report's best ratings went to WashingtonD.C.San Diego; Minneapolis-St. Paul; ColumbusOhioSioux FallsS.D.; and Laramie CountyWyo. The lowest scores went to Chicago, Cleveland; Baton RougeLa.MandanN.D.; and American Samoa. The report shows that while some cities may be making some progress on public-safety communications interoperability, many have a long way to go, said Steven Jones, executive director of the First Response Coalition (FRC). "The FRC urges President Bush to immediately follow the release of this report with the establishment of a national strategy and target date within the next decade to achieve interoperable first-responder communications so they can better protect our communities," said Jones.

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