In summer 2006, a fire broke out in the Cleveland National Forest, the southernmost national forest in California. Even with 1,000 firefighters on the scene, the county heard virtually no complaints about communications issues. By coincidence, DHS representatives were in town that same week to assess the communications situation.

Looking ahead, regional planners said they hope to maintain communications integrity as the area moves toward Project 25 (P25), a new suite of standards for digital radio communications that aims to help jurisdictions and agencies talk to one another more effectively.

The region will need to move approximately 29,000 radios to P25 before the new standard comes into play in 2012.

"Between now and then," Lane said, "we need to come up with a road map and a way forward."

As many government technologists know, technology is not the biggest hurdle.

Radio replacements will cost $100,000 and while a potential $1 billion nationwide grant from the DHS may support that effort, the budget still is going to be tight.

"There certainly is going to be a challenge in funding an upgrade of this magnitude," Lane said.

Adam Stone  |  Contributing Writer