Mississippi to get $70M for emergency communication

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The State of Mississippi will get $70 million to improve emergency communications capabilities among the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, law enforcement and other first responders, Gov. Haley Barbour announced Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded the grant as part of the second round of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"Our first responders need the ability to transmit data quickly such as patient's vital signs or medical data in an emergency situation," Gov. Barbour said. "This grant will help us upgrade our system's technology so MEMA, law enforcement, fire departments and medical personnel can respond quickly and save lives."

The funds will upgrade the current Mississippi Wireless Information Network, which allows public safety agencies statewide to contact each other through radio systems clearly and quickly.

The grant will enable first responders to transmit data wirelessly as needed. The program will serve 90 hospitals, 340 ambulances and up to 9,900 public safety workers in Mississippi.

The MSWIN system, which provides interoperable communication for emergency responders, was created after Hurricane Katrina exposed a critical need for agencies to communicate efficiently. The MSWIN system allows users to speak through a secure digital radio system operating under the Mississippi Wireless Communication Commission.

The MSWIN system was established with $157 million in federal funds and $57 million in state bond funds. It is currently fully operational in the southern third of the state and is scheduled to be complete throughout the entire state of Mississippi by December of 2011.

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