Joined by hundreds of Kentucky's law enforcement, firefighter and emergency personnel in the State Capitol, Governor Ernie Fletcher, along with the director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (Ret.) Maj. Alecia Webb-Edgington, hosted a February 9th ceremony honoring the first observance of "First Responders' Day."

During the ceremony, the governor signed a proclamation declaring Feb. 9, 2006, as "First Responders' Day" in Kentucky and called for new legislation to provide an additional $6.5 million each year to 911 call centers throughout the state. The governor's proposed legislation would lower the cell phone tax on all users from $.70 to $.65 each month and provides a $100,000 incentive to each local community that combines their 911 call centers. The additional funding would be provided by redirecting funds that currently go to large cell phone service providers and by closing a tax loophole on prepaid cell phones.

"We are continually inspired by the heroic sacrifices of our first responders, who in times of crisis provide our communities with unity, focus and strength," said Governor Fletcher. "We will remain committed to providing them and their communities with the resources they need to stay prepared."

On Sept. 9, 2005, Governor Fletcher announced Kentucky had been selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as one of only two states to take part in an interoperability pilot project to be conducted by SAFECOM. Since September, representatives from SAFECOM and the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (KOHS) have hosted nine regional meetings with first responders from all disciplines to identify their greatest needs. Among the issues that concerned first responders most was the need to achieve complete interoperability for all responders across the state and to streamline and upgrade 911 dispatch services. Governor Fletcher's proposed legislation would immediately address many of the concerns raised regarding 911 dispatch services.

The governor also took another immediate step, this one to address the state's first responders' communications interoperability issues, by committing to appoint eight new members to the http://archives.techlines.ky.gov/sept2004/kwiec.htm>Kentucky Wireless Interoperability Executive Committee (KWIEC).

The KWIEC was created to address communications interoperability, a homeland security issue which is critical to the ability of public safety first responders to communicate with each other by radio. The committee advises and makes recommendations regarding strategic wireless initiatives to achieve public safety voice and data communications interoperability.

Additionally, the governor directed Commonwealth Office of Technology Commissioner Michael Inman to establish a sub-working group within the KWIEC to partner with SAFECOM and KOHS to complete the pilot project's ultimate goal - to create a plan that will allow Kentucky to complete its statewide public safety communications and interoperability infrastructure.

First Responders' Day was also honored today by a resolution in the State Senate.