Joined by hundreds of Kentucky's law enforcement, firefighter and emergency personnel in the state Capitol, Gov. Ernie Fletcher and (Ret.) Maj. Alecia Webb-Edgington, director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, hosted a Feb. 9 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. He also called for new legislation to provide an additional $6.5 million each year to 911 call centers throughout the commonwealth. The governor's proposed legislation would lower the cell phone tax from $.70 to $.65 per month and provide 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 Gov. Fletcher. "We will remain committed to providing them and their communities with the resources they need to stay prepared."
On Sept. 9, 2005, Gov. 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 most concerned first responders were the needs to achieve complete interoperability for all responders across the commonwealth and to streamline and upgrade 911 dispatch services. Gov. 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 commonwealth's first responders' communications interoperability issues, by committing to appoint eight new members to the Kentucky Wireless Interoperability Executive Committee (KWIEC).
The KWIEC was created to address communications interoperability, a homeland security issue that 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 -- creation of a plan that will allow Kentucky to complete its statewide public safety communications and interoperability infrastructure.
First Responders' Day was also honored by a resolution in the State Senate.
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