Maryland Announces New Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan

700MHz communications system will provide much needed communications not only for state agencies, but also for local jurisdictions.

by / July 11, 2008

Photo: Baltimore skyline

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley yesterday announced the development of the Maryland State Communications Interoperability Program, and signed an Executive Order that establishes a statewide communications interoperability plan, which will enable emergency first responders, public safety officials and all law enforcement agencies to communicate reliably, rapidly and instantaneously thus enhancing public safety across the state.

At an event outside the State Highway Administration, O'Malley made this announcement joined by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence Sheridan and other state and local first responders from throughout Maryland. The new statewide 700MHz communications system will provide much needed communications not only for state agencies, but also for local jurisdictions. Construction of the new system will take place in phases over the next five to eight years.

"Implementing an advanced statewide interoperable communications system is a top priority in securing our homeland," O'Malley said. "Ensuring the dependability of radio connectivity between all public safety agencies, including first responders is vital for the protection of our citizens and to Maryland's emergency personnel."

A statewide communications interoperability governance structure comprised of state, local and legislative representatives will be chaired by the superintendent of the Maryland State Police. "Communications interoperability is a necessary investment into the lives of those who work on a daily basis to keep Marylanders safe," said Colonel Terrence B. Sheridan, superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

"This new technology is a critical step forward to ensuring that we can work together in real time as partners on a regional level," said Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari. "Whether clearing an accident on the Bay Bridge or responding to flooding from a hurricane, this new system will allow us to talk to one another from local law enforcement at the municipal and county level to multiple agencies at the state level."

This year, the governor will move ahead with a three-point solution to provide statewide communications interoperability for Maryland's first responders:

  • First, O'Malley will direct the appropriate agency to issue a request for proposals for the new systems. The winning vendor will have to propose on both the phase one costs as well as the ultimate buildout cost, which will provide a clearer understanding of the total funding that will be required.
  • Second, the executive order, signed by O'Malley yesterday, establishes a project management office to oversee the construction of the statewide 700 MHz communications system, a statewide computer-aided dispatch/records management system for statewide law enforcement and public safety usage, and a project to connect disparate closed circuit television systems across the state in order to improve public safety.
  • Third, the solution will utilize a Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grant in the amount of $22.9 million dollars to help fund critical state and local communications interoperability projects. This includes the construction of 12 towers, two fiber-optic connectivity projects, five regional interoperability projects as well as providing for connectivity to all jurisdictional 9-1-1 centers and hospitals.

The Maryland Department of Transportation, the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Maryland State Police will fund the initial phases of this statewide multiyear project. The design of the system is to be phase constructed by region and will provide communications initially to those agencies and jurisdictions.