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Alabama receives $13.5 million homeland security grant

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Story on al.com

http://blog.al.com/breaking/2008/04/alabama_receives_135_million_h.html

MONTGOMERY -- Alabama has received a grant of more than $13 million to improve communications for police, fire and other first responders.

Gov. Bob Riley said Monday the homeland security grant is the result of Alabama receiving federal approval of its advanced communications plan. Riley said Alabama is one of 20 states to receive federal approval so far.

Alabama's homeland security director, Jim Walker, said it took 18 months to develop the communications plan.

The federal grant will be used to establish a statewide communications system and make other improvements
 
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#4
Hmm, this may be good and bad. If they use this to go digital, would that mean the entire state would be going digital or just the Montgomery area? Or maybe just the big cities like Montgomery, Birmingham, and Hunstville?

I was thinking of upgrading to a BCT15, but if this makes AL go digital, I may as well spend a little more and get the 996T.
 
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#5
Maybe there are going to be some upgrades or additions to the 8 Alabama Interoperable Communications Vehicles that are already in service...

Statement
James M. Walker, Jr.
Director, Alabama Department of Homeland Security

House Committee on Homeland Security
Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight

“You Don't Know What You Don't Know: Has the
Department of Homeland Security Improved its Ability to
Maintain Situational Awareness Since Hurricane Katrina?”

June 20, 2007

Statement
James M. Walker, Jr.
Director, Alabama Department of Homeland Security

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for
the opportunity to appear before you today.

As Director of the Alabama Department of Homeland
Security, one of my responsibilities is to administer the State
Homeland Security Grant Program appropriated by Congress
and managed through the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security. Since its creation on June 18, 2003, the Alabama
Department of Homeland Security has administered four fiscal
years of federal homeland security grant dollars totaling $115
million ($34.5 million in FY03, $36.8 million in FY04, $28.1
million in FY05, and $15.6 million in FY06).

I would like to express my gratitude to the Congress, President
Bush, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the
homeland security grants we’ve received in Alabama. It is my
belief the receipt and responsible distribution of these grant
funds in Alabama has saved lives and effectively served our
citizens. Thank you for making these grants available.

With homeland security grant dollars and the visionary
leadership of Governor Bob Riley, Alabama has built 54
regional mutual aid teams to provide standardized prevention,
response, and recovery capabilities. We’ve improved
interoperable communications capabilities among public safety
disciplines. We’ve exponentially improved information
sharing and situational awareness within our criminal justice,
law enforcement, emergency management, and public safety
communities. We are able to provide specialized prevention
and response equipment to any law enforcement agency in the
state. We’ve conducted exercises and training events to test
our capabilities, and we’ve built teams of stakeholders in each
of our 67 counties so that everyone can contribute to making
our citizens safer.

The heart of our state homeland security program is having
the tactics, techniques, and procedures in place that will ensure
first responders and decision makers have the right
information and the right equipment available when they need
it. Advances in situational awareness and asset management
have experienced a sea change of improvements in Alabama
during the past four years.

Within our response and recovery community, the Alabama
Emergency Management Agency uses EMITS (Emergency
Management Information Tracking System), a Lotus Notesbased
software.

EMITS provides a platform local and state agencies use to
monitor operational information, make requests for personnel
and resources, and track the status of existing requests for
support. Situational awareness reports are forwarded to our
Regional Operations Center in Thomasville, Georgia, daily or
as requested. If we anticipate an incident cannot be met with
existing state resources, a FEMA liaison is dispatched to our
State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the federal
response. We believe it is imperative that the federal
government not deploy assets or resources without first
coordinating with the state.

The ability for public safety officials to reliably communicate
using radio networks is essential to gaining and maintaining a
clear situational picture. Alabama has enhanced interoperable
radio communications by upgrading existing systems and
utilizing a common bridging platform to connect disparate
radio systems across the state. Investing in one comprehensive
statewide radio system with a common platform was not an
affordable option for us. Instead, we leveraged technology by
installing frequency bridges in each of Alabama’s 67 counties.
This allows local agencies using different frequency bands to
communicate. During a large-scale event where local
interoperability can become overwhelmed, we have positioned
eight regional communications vehicles throughout Alabama.
In addition to having bridging technology, these vehicles have
satellite communication connectivity, Internet access, and
streaming video cameras.

In Alabama we have developed an effective situational
awareness framework in which to manage public/private
sector programs and operational data. The program is called
Virtual Alabama. It is an affordable visualization tool using
Google Earth technology that employs the power of a secure
Internet-based application to make a positive, immediate
difference to first responders. The advantage to our first
responder population is that Virtual Alabama is free for their
use, and inexpensive to the state. Local and state officials can
layer and tailor secure information about their jurisdictions
and feed it into a broader database that will give state and
federal decision makers valuable and timely information.
With existing state GIS (Geographic Information System) and
orthophotographic data, we are able to transform massive
amounts of useful information into a common operational
picture. Examples of real-time applications include emergency
evacuation routing, vehicle and asset tracking, critical
infrastructure mapping, plume modeling, real-time sensor
feeds, real-time streaming video, risk visualization, and postevent
imagery placed alongside pre-event imagery.
Virtual Alabama is less than a year old, yet we’ve already
incorporated data from more than half of Alabama’s 67
counties. To date, we have more than 1,085 subscribers using
Virtual Alabama, and hope to have all 67 counties
participating by the end of 2007.

Finally, Alabama has made remarkable strides toward
improving information sharing and situational awareness
within our criminal justice and public safety community.
We’ve wisely invested our LETPP (Law Enforcement
Terrorism Prevention Program) homeland security grant
funding to upgrade outdated 1980s-era flat file computer
architecture. Alabama’s hard-wired terminal architecture has
now been replaced with a real-time, 21st century Internet-based
system available to all 850 statewide law enforcement agencies,
law enforcement officials, and other emergency responders
throughout the state. This improved capability also includes a
homeland security reporting system for providing information
from the “cop on the beat” to our information fusion
capability. We can take NCIC (National Crime Information
Center) information and other criminal justice information
and transmit it electronically to law enforcement officers with
data terminals or any type of cell phone, Blackberry, or other
personal digital assistant device. Additionally, this service is
free of charge to local law enforcement and encourages their
participation in sharing, gathering, and disseminating
information.

In the weeks and months ahead, Alabama will continue to
develop and identify new requirements and systems to better
serve our citizens. However, we must be able to rely upon
federal assistance via the State Homeland Security Grant
Program to further our efforts. We’ve made great strides, but
important work remains.

Thank you again for the privilege of appearing before you. I
look forward to addressing any questions you may have.
... or something to even better serve the wonderful citizens of the great state of Alabama and somehow I'm not thinking of a few more Police agencies going "digital" to be what the Alabama Department of Homeland Security has in mind.
 
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#6
I would not get to excited about the state going digital with this grant money. Think about how much it would cost just for one city to go digital say with two or three sites. I would think it would be some where around 13 million or more. Imagin how much it would cost for the entire state. I would suspect that this money would probably be used to upgrade current systems or tie systems together.

Jeff
 

wwhitby

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Autauga County, Alabama
#8
By digging, I was able to find out more about this grant. I found a press release from the Governor's office that said:
The purpose of the grant is to acquire, deploy, and provide training for the use of an overarching, statewide interoperable communications system. The focus will be to develop systems that will serve Alabama for years to come.
Researching the grant, it was intended to assist with the purchase of 700Mhz radio equipment, however purchasing equipment for other bands is allowed, provided it has the capability to connect with the 700Mhz band.

One document states on page 22
This new initiative will allow all agencies to communicate via mutual aid channels over a common system. It will also enhance the Wide Area Interoperability System (WAIS) by networking shared gateways in the state. This system will allow for a coordinated response from mutual aid recourses throughout the state. It will also ensure communications between responders and local/state emergency perations centers.
Page 23 states
The Alabama Wide Area Interoperability System (WAIS) currently consists of eight (8) ACU-1000s (gateways) connected together over an IP Network. Each gateway can have up to twelve (12) local assets which can consist of radios, phones, cell phones or Network Extension Modules (NXM). The NXMs are the backbone of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connection between the ACU-1000s. Each NXM is a potential link into the WAIS system utilizing the WAIS Controller Software. Personnel can cross-connect assets attached to their local gateway (local interoperability) as well as cross-connect assets from other gateways (wide area interoperability). Network Hubs can be added to create additional links that optimize the use of network resources. This system is being expanded to the nine (9) largest metropolitan areas in Alabama now and will be installed in other areas of the state within the next three (3) years. This mode of
communication is a very effective method of connectivity between disparate frequency bands and creates an environment for interoperability.
Also, the February 2008 newsletter from the Montgomery Amateur Radio club has an article on page 4 about the status of emergency communications in Alabama. It states:
Future communications projects-

• A pre-programmed VHF and UHF radio cache that
can be handed out to the first responders as needed
at the disaster scene. This would be for temporary
use, with the ultimate plan being that all first
responders have these frequencies pre-programmed
into their radios.

• Installation of a network to connect the radio
gateways located in the counties to allow remote
access for patching and monitoring. This method
would provide wide area communications when
needed.

• Tower mounted trailers, with repeater capabilities,
for immediate replacement of damaged towers or
additional repeater service at the scene.

• Additional AEMA UHF repeater sites to provide better
statewide coverage.

• Installation of equipment (compatible with the
Mississippi and Florida systems) to provide continuous
communications along the I-10 evacuation route from
Jacksonville, FL through New Orleans.
Warren
 
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