TOTOWA – Working to help equip Passaic County first responders in a difficult county budget climate, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. today joined Passaic County Prosecutor James Avigliano to deliver $267,900 in federal funding specifically earmarked for the Passaic County Prosecutor’s emergency communications network. Senator Robert Menendez, who was unable to attend today’s announcement, also played a critical role in securing the funds.
“September 11 reminded us all how important reliable and efficient communications systems are for our first responders,” stated Senator Lautenberg. “These funds will help build a better network for police, firefighters and other emergency personnel to communicate more easily and respond more quickly to emergencies. By getting our first responders to the scene more quickly, this information sharing will improve public safety and save lives.”
“We often weigh the importance of federal funding in terms of dollars and cents, but this money will be measured in the number of lives that will be saved,” stated Pascrell, New Jersey’s only member of Congress with a position the Homeland Security Committee. “The September 11th Commissioners knew what they were talking about when they recommended Congress advance funding for interoperable communications in high-risk urban areas. I am proud to have led Congress in providing federal resources for interoperable technology and I’m encouraged by the vision demonstrated by Mr. Avigliano to pursue this state-of-the-art emergency communications network.”
“I want to thank Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Congressman Pascrell for their efforts in securing funding for Passaic County’s Information Sharing and Interoperable Communications project,” stated Passaic County Prosecutor James Avigliano. “This funding will allow Passaic County to take a significant step towards the development of a state of the art system that will put our first responders on the cutting edge of communications technology. As we know from events in the past, failure of adequate communication among first responders can have catastrophic results. This will be a significant step towards ensuring that first responders in Passaic County will be best prepared to deal with the many dangerous situations that these brave individuals face on a daily basis.”
Presently, local law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies communicate on different frequencies with gaps and dead zones within the county. This funding will allow the purchase and installation of technology that will be the first step towards allowing all first responders to communicate in the most effective and efficient way without dead zones and interruption.
The funding will be used to procure and install switches, servers and software that will allow the integration of existing communications systems in Passaic County enabling police officers, firefighters and EMS technicians in Passaic County to communicate with each other in a way never before possible.
Passaic County is in the process of constructing a state-of-the-art private fiber optic cable network with virtually unlimited bandwidth. The system will connect the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department and every local and state university police department in Passaic County to the private fiber optic cable network. First responders will be able to communicate and share information via radio, phone, and laptop computer without “dead zones” or interruptions.
The system will also provide first responders with the capability to erect disaster relief sites anywhere on the network, set up real time Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) surveillance of critical infrastructure sites, and provide video conferencing anywhere on the network. Intelligence and information from the Prosecutor’s Office Intelligence Unit will also be available to first responders through this network. It is also anticipated that this private fiber optic network will be connected to the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations and Intelligence Center, giving the County and all of its agencies access to intelligence from the State Police and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. Lastly, the proximity of the private fiber optic network to neighboring counties will allow connectivity to those counties that will enhance regional information sharing and communication capabilities.
The 9/11 Commission Report found that communications were so poor on September 11th that firefighters and police officers in different parts of the World Trade Center could not communicate with each other and with NYC’s Emergency Management Headquarters in 7 World Trade Center. One problem was that their communications systems were not interoperable.
Rep. Pascrell was the co-author of the “21st Century Emergency Communications Act of 2006,” a law which created for the first time an Office of Emergency Communications within the Department of Homeland Security and mandated a National Strategy on Emergency Communications to create a unified set of rules and regulations to help states and local governments coordinate interoperable communications plans. Furthermore, Lautenberg and Pascrell were successful in finally creating a stand alone grant program for interoperability, which was funded last year at $50 million.