The chairman of the Nevada Homeland Security Commission expressed concern Wednesday about the state’s lagging efforts to create a communication system that would allow all emergency agencies in the state to talk with each other.
“From my standpoint, we appear to have lost momentum from where we were going in ’06,” Chairman Dale Carrison said.
Carrison, University Medical Center’s emergency room director, said Nevada’s plan for the interoperability of radio communication has been called one of the best in the country, but it still awaits implementation.
Former Clark County Sheriff Jerry Keller, vice chairman of the commission, said radio interoperability was cited as a key issue after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, almost six years ago.
“This has got to be done posthaste,” Keller said.
He asked Robert Chisel, assistant director of administration for the Nevada Department of Transportation, to prepare a diagram for the commission’s next meeting to show what has been accomplished toward achieving interoperability in the state and when officials can expect the plan to be implemented. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 8.
Carrison said the commission needs to be informed about any problems preventing implementation of the plan so it can make recommendations to the governor to address them.
Las Vegas’ application for 2006 federal homeland security funding included the issue of interoperability on a list of the state’s vulnerabilities.
It stated, “We recognize that the primary consequence of not enhancing the interoperability will be continuing confusion and chaos, first responder safety issues and a lack of control structure for large incidents. These negative consequences have been illustrated in other jurisdictions by the 9/11 and the Hurricane Katrina incidents. … As our communication capability languishes, the terrorist threat specifically continues to grow in comparison to other threats such as those of natural disasters.”
Chisel said the estimated cost for implementing the state’s interoperability plan is $20 million. Last year the commission allotted more than $6 million for the plan.
Las Vegas police Lt. Tom Monahan made a presentation to the commission on the status of a plan to develop “fusion centers” in Reno and Las Vegas.
He said the federal government called the facilities “terrorism early warning centers” until last year.
Monahan said the centers focus on “data fusion,” or the exchange of information from different sources, including public safety and the private sector.
A main goal of the information-sharing process is to identify emerging terrorism-related threats and risks.
“Prevention is paramount,” Monahan said.
If authorities reach the point of reacting to a terrorist act, he said, “We’ve already lost.”