DHS, DOC Announce $968 Million in First Responder Grants

Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recently announced $968 million in Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grants to help state and local first responders improve public safety communications and coordination during a natural or man-made disaster. The PSIC grant program will assist public safety agencies in the acquisition, deployment, and training of interoperable communications systems to enhance interoperable communications of voice, data, and/or video signals. Also released were the grant guidance and application kits. Applications are due by August 18, 2007, and grants will be awarded by September 30, 2007, as required by the Call Home Act of 2006.

Congress authorized $1 billion to establish the PSIC program as a one-time, formula-based, matching grant program in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The program will fast track awards to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. "When disaster strikes, first responders must have the tools to communicate," Gutierrez said. "Under this streamlined program, states will be given grants to use technology that will make our cities and states safer."

Chertoff said, "Achieving interoperable communications is a major priority for our department and should be a priority for every community across our nation. These grants will help states and cities purchase equipment, conduct training and exercises, and develop effective interoperable communications plans to get this important job done."

First responders from different jurisdictions and agencies use disparate communication technologies that impede critical communication among firefighters, police, and other emergency personnel during a disaster. Such differences can pose problems and impede the critical work of the nation's first responders. The DOC National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working with public safety agencies to achieve meaningful improvements in communicating during an emergency, and fill gaps identified in the Statewide Communications Interoperability Plans. To address these goals, states and territories must consider advanced technological solutions that enhance capabilities for responding to all hazards when selecting projects for PSIC funding. In particular, applicants should consider solutions that use the airwaves efficiently, are cost-effective, and enhance communications in areas at high risk for natural disasters. These options should continue to improve interoperable communication efforts in high-threat urban and metropolitan areas. Grant-funded projects must be completed by the end of fiscal year 2010.

PSIC funds were allocated using the PSIC Allocation Formula, which is based on the DHS method to identify threats, vulnerabilities and consequences. The grant program also is consistent with existing guidance from the SAFECOM Program Office within the DHS Office for Interoperability and Compatibility. Additional information can be found at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/psic or http://www.dhs.gov/xgovt/grants/index.shtm.

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