House bill aims to maintain, restore first-responder interoperability

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.)
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) | Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) introduced a bill on Friday that would mandate statewide interoperable communication (SWIC).

With the elimination of the Department of Homeland Security's Interoperable Emergency Communication Grant Program and the further devaluing of other grants in the department, states have begun to eliminate their SWIC systems.

“The inability of first-responders to effectively communicate with one another during emergencies is a very real problem that undermines the safety of our communities,” Payne said. “This legislation protects the gains made toward achieving interoperability and ensures emergency personnel are able to successfully coordinate activities that save lives.”

Prior to the grants' elimination, many states used this program to set up and maintain these communication lines. This bill requires that states have a SWIC system in place or to have a comparable system in place. Each governor would designate an individual who would be responsible for the management and development of a state's efforts toward interoperability and the creation of a statewide plan.

Previously, this bill was introduced near the end of the legislative session in 2014. It then was sent to the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communication. Due to its introduction being late within the session, no action was taken on the bill.

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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