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IEMA Receives $14 Million Grant for Emergency Response Communications Upgrade

The state of Illinois’ efforts to relocate existing emergency response communications systems in preparation for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) got a financial boost recently with a grant totaling more than $14 million from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). The award to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) was more than half of the $26.8 million FirstNet awarded to eight recipients nationwide.

The Band 14 Incumbent Spectrum Relocation Grant Program offered an opportunity for public safety organizations across the U.S. to compete for funding for relocating existing radios and systems from Band 14 in advance of the deployment and operation of the NPSBN. The state of Illinois public safety radio network, known as STARCOM21, operates on a portion of the spectrum that will be used in the FirstNet NPSBN. This is the first critical step in paving the way for a FirstNet nationwide buildout.

“Illinois has long been committed to ensuring two-way, mission-critical communications for our first responders,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “This grant will enable us to replace and update communications equipment needed to become part of a nationwide interoperable public safety communications system.”

FirstNet is an independent authority established by Congress in 2012 to oversee the building, deployment and operation of a nationwide public safety broadband network for local, state, regional, tribal and federal first responders and other public safety personnel.

IEMA has 12 months to complete the project proposed in its grant application, which includes replacing more than 1,000 vehicular repeater systems, replacing more than 1,000 STARCOM21 portable radios, training on the new equipment, retuning STARCOM21 infrastructure and reprogramming more than 4,500 radios. The affected entities include both state and local emergency response agencies working together under one grant to save time and taxpayer dollars.

Other recipients of the Band 14 grants included the Virginia State Police, Arkansas State Police, Massachusetts State Police, Honolulu County (Hawaii) Department of Defense, Marshall (Michigan) Fire Department, Stamford (Connecticut) Fire Department and Post Falls (Idaho) Police Department.