Sebelius Forms Group to Improve Kansas Emergency Communication

The committee will work toward bringing other agencies online with radio equipment that will enable them to access the interoperable communications system.

by / December 21, 2007

A group charged with establishing a plan to implement statewide communications interoperability has been formed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The Kansas Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee, created by Executive Order 07-27, will develop the policies, procedures and guidelines of a statewide system designed to allow emergency service providers the ability to communicate with one another over a radio network.

"The inability of first responders to directly talk with other responding agencies through radio communications made rescue and recovery efforts even more difficult on Sept. 11, 2001," Sebelius said. "Kansas is not immune to what happened in our nation that day. This system will allow law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, and the National Guard to seamlessly communicate with one another and share information in disasters, emergencies and day-to-day operations."

Committee members, who met for the first time November 20, 2007, in Wichita, will address the challenges of communications interoperability and provide recommendations on allocating funds received through grants to launch the interoperability communications system.

Earlier this year the state received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to support a statewide interoperability initiative. Currently, the state is working on interoperability in the Northeast, Southeast and South Central parts of Kansas. The system will be expanded into other areas as funds become available.

The committee will work toward bringing other agencies online with radio equipment that will enable them to access the interoperable communications system.

"Forming a team of state, local, and volunteer recovery agencies optimizes our response and recovery efforts. We've seen that already this year in Western Kansas snowstorms, the Greensburg tornado, Southeast Kansas flooding and other events," said Interoperable Communications Coordinator Jason Moses. "One way to further optimize our coordinated response is through radio interoperability."

Moses, who began his new job July 16th, has 11 years experience in law enforcement and emergency response agencies. Most recently he was the Thomas County undersheriff. He also served as the Logan County undersheriff for eight years and two years as a part-time communications officer for the Oakley Police Department.

"Through the statewide communications planning process we're going to work at improving interoperability with newer technologies, as well as with technologies already being used throughout the state," Moses said.

Kent Koehler, Sedgwick County Division of Information and Operations, serves as chairman of the executive committee. Serving as vice chair is Lyon County Undersheriff Richard Old.

"The ability to talk with one another improves each responding agency's knowledge of how to best respond to the situation, and therefore enhances the safety of the public and our first responders," said Koehler. "Statewide interoperability increases the efficiency of responding agencies' resources, provides quicker response times, and eliminates communication delays among agencies, which ultimately provides safety for responders and our citizens."

Other members of the committee are:

  • Kansas Adjutant General Tod Bunting
  • Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Deb Miller
  • Colonel William Seck, Kansas Highway Patrol
  • Augusta Director of Public Safety Tyler Brewer
  • Colby Fire Department Chief Bob McLemore
  • Ellis County EMS Kerry McCue
  • Sumner County Emergency Managementâ??s James Reed