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Virginia improves emergency communication in years after 9/11


"Eight years after staring into the smoking inferno of the Pentagon,
Virginia State Police Superintendent W. Steven Flaherty still is trying to
solve one of the biggest problems faced that day -- rescuers who couldn't
talk to one another. [...] While Virginia was first among the states to
adopt a strategic plan to address the problem, the state still is
struggling to finish a radio system that state police and 20 other state
agencies will use to talk to one another and, eventually, local first
responders. 'It is a police officer safety issue,' Flaherty said of
problems that have plagued the Statewide Agencies Radio System, or STARS,
a five-year, $360 million project that is 15 months behind schedule and
struggling to remain within its budget. [...] At one point, state police
ordered Motorola Corp., which had gotten the primary contract, to stop
installing radios in patrol cars. 'Clearly, the troopers were skeptical,'
said Col. Wayne M. Huggins, executive director of the Virginia State
Police Association and a former state police superintendent, who led a
commission created by then-Gov. Jim Gilmore to examine the state's
preparedness after the 2001 attacks. A new statewide radio system was a
top priority of the commission, though an inflated $600 million price tag
made it a tough sell. [...] Improving the interoperability of emergency
communications has been a top priority of Virginia since the Sept. 11
attacks. Emergency communications have accounted for about one-third of
$268 million in federal homeland-security grants the state has received
since 2003. (That total does not include about $330 million spent in
Northern Virginia and the rest of the Washington region, or spending on
bioterrorism and hospital readiness.)"

(Richmond Times-Dispatch; 11Sep09;
Micheal Martz)