Nassau, Suffolk earn emergency-comm funds

Safety first: Albany is pouring fresh funding into statewide emergency-communications efforts.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Nassau and Suffolk counties will receive millions in state funds to improve emergency communications between law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other first responders.

All told, more than $55 million in state grant funding is heading to New York City and counties around the state for the purpose of enhancing emergency communications, both within the individual jurisdictions and between jurisdictions in case of a large-scale crisis.

The money will be used to implement next-generation 911 technology and otherwise enhance emergency-response systems, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Population-dense New York City, naturally, receives the lion’s share in this sixth round of funding through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant, which is administered by the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. The Big Apple snags more than $5.32 million to enhance its emergency-communications protocols.

On the county level, Suffolk receives one of the largest stipends this round: $1,069,314, trailing only Monroe ($1.72 million) and Erie ($1.07 million) counties.

Nassau nets $899,859, placing it in the upper-middle of a county pack bookended by Monroe and upstate Schuyler County ($381,179).

Nassau and Suffolk received similar awards in last year’s SICG funding round.

Roger Parrino Sr.: Communication is key.

The funding – which combines $45 million through the SICG and an additional $10 million through Albany’s Public Safety Answering Points Operations Grant, also administered by the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services – will “enable local governments to expand their ability to communicate, exchange valuable data and streamline information to enhance collaboration and assist first responders,” according to Cuomo’s office.

Noting that “in an emergency, every second counts,” the governor said the SICG’s sixth funding round “will bring us one step closer to a stronger, safer and more secure New York.”

“These funds will help ensure our first responders have access to the best and most up-to-date communications equipment, enabling them to get the information they need to quickly respond,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

The SICG has now awarded more than $300 million to 57 counties and New York City. It doles out stipends according to a formula based on, and funded by, state cellular surcharge revenues – meaning the awards are, in essence, determined by a region’s population size.

They’re also based on region-specific applications, through which the counties (and New York City) submit plans for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades. Winning proposals include projects such as the installation of new radio towers and antennas, the implementation of Next Generation 911 tech, the consolidation of regional emergency-dispatch centers and the creation of new communications channels between public-safety radio operators.

Roger Parrino Sr., commissioner of the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, hailed the latest round of funding as a critical improvement and said his office would “continue to help local governments invest in the latest technology so they can help our citizens in an emergency.”

“Effective emergency communications are essential to a first responder’s mission,” Parrino said in a statement. “Utilizing the latest technology will allow dispatch centers to quickly and efficiently respond to calls for help.”