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April 7, 2008

Governor Blagojevich announces statewide emergency communications plan approved by U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Comprehensive plan to ensure first responders can communicate during disasters

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that Illinois’ comprehensive plan for ensuring that first responders throughout the state can communicate with each other during emergencies has been approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  The state’s plan sets out a statewide communications strategy that focuses on establishing a single platform so all public agencies can communicate emergency information during a local, regional or statewide disaster.  The key to the plan is that it builds upon existing statewide public safety communications systems that are used on a daily basis by local and state law enforcement, fire service and other first responders.  
“Our statewide emergency communications plan puts a system in place to ensure our state’s public safety agencies can effectively and efficiently communicate with other agencies when responding to an emergency,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “Most importantly, the plan provides for interoperable communications among our public safety agencies, which was an important recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.  I am proud of the progress Illinois has made in achieving interoperable emergency communications and I look forward to the exciting expansion of this capability throughout the public safety spectrum in the years to come.”
Illinois’ Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP) establishes the goals, objectives and strategic initiatives needed to achieve the state’s emergency communications vision.  It was developed by a consortium of federal, state and local public safety practitioners working through the Illinois Terrorism Task Force’s (ITTF) Communications Committee and the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee.  Partnering in this effort were representatives from the Illinois State Police, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Illinois Emergency Services Management Agency, the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System, the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System and the Communications Committee from the Chicago/Cook County Urban Area Working Group.
This cross section of public safety practitioners ensured the interests and needs of the various emergency response organizations were addressed in the development of the plan.
Illinois submitted the SCIP to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in December 2007 for review and approval.  The plan was subjected to a joint peer review facilitated by the DHS Office of Emergency Communications, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Grant Program Directorate.  More than 100 public sector employees, including federal, state, local and tribal representation, with expertise in emergency operations, interoperable communications, public safety, or grants management participated in the process.  Input from the review process was used by DHS to make final approval decisions.
Illinois’ plan approval notification included a final feedback document with consolidated input from the peer review.  Reviewers noted that Illinois’ plan was well written and, “it is obvious that the State of Illinois has done a great deal of work to ensure interoperability throughout the State.” 
Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), said the ability to communicate across organizational lines during an emergency is critical.  “Effective emergency response simply is not possible unless response organizations can communicate with each other,” he said.  “Here in Illinois, we’ve devoted countless hours developing a solid plan and invested wisely in that plan to build a strong statewide communications platform, which was recognized during the federal review.”
A key component of Illinois’ interoperability strategy is STARCOM 21, a statewide 700/800 MHz interoperable voice radio system designed to provide radio communications, services and interoperability to federal, state, county and local public safety practitioners.  The system allows public safety and public service agencies throughout Illinois to effectively and cost-efficiently operate on a common network.  To date, the state has distributed more than 2,800 STARCOM 21 radios to public safety agencies.
In addition, as part of Gov. Blagojevich’s campus security initiatives announced last April after the shootings on the Virginia Tech campus, more than 300 STARCOM 21 radios have been distributed to 70 college campuses around the state.
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