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Rockefeller Holds Hearing on Public Safety Bill That Would Aid First Responders

​WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, held a hearing this morning on building a nationwide network for West Virginia and our nation’s first responders. Rockefeller also touted the broad support his bill – the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act – has received from police, fire and EMS organizations around the state and country. Building the network will not add to the deficit. In fact, the Wireless Association (CTIA) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced this week that incentive auctions will bring in more than $33 billion.

“Nearly ten years after 9-11, and through daily crimes, car accidents, fires, medical emergencies and natural disasters – West Virginia first responders are still waiting for, and greatly need, an interoperable communications system,” said Rockefeller. “My bill, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, would make sure that our public safety officials have that network– and would put the power of that technology directly into their hands where they can make smart and cost-effective decisions. I am happy that so many West Virginia fire, police and other first responder organizations support this bill – and believe that the best way to honor the bravery of our police, firefighters and first responders is to provide them with vital and necessary communications resources.”

Rockefeller’s bill has been picking up steam. It has been endorsed by national public safety and law enforcement associations, and recently gained the support of the Administration and both Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

The additional wireless network outlined in Rockefeller’s bill will allow public safety officials to remotely access criminal databases, distribute surveillance video feeds to on-scene personnel, and receive high speed file downloads, such as floor plans for burning buildings, wirelessly. The network will help keep our public safety officials safe and help save lives.

Here is what West Virginia first responders and stakeholders are saying about the bill:

“Dependable communications are a lifeline for first responders and, as we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it is imperative that we provide them the proper tools to perform their jobs safely and efficiently. The opportunities afforded to West Virginia’s first responders as a result of this bill are enormous and will enhance their abilities to do what they do best – and that is save lives. Senator Rockefeller has always been a true friend to public safety and his leadership in this effort further illustrates his commitment to helping the citizens of rural America receive quality care, and on behalf of the public safety community, I extend my sincerest appreciation.”

Jimmy Gianato, Director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

“This important legislation creates a win-win opportunity for not only our economy, but for the first responder community as well. Seamless, dependable, integrated communication is the most important safeguard to an effective response and the state of West Virginia continues to build its interoperable system to match the federal framework. This bill is critical to the support of communications infrastructure nationwide.”

Shawn Alderman, West Virginia’s Assistant Fire Marshal

“Thanks to Senator Rockefeller this could be a huge step in communication and interoperable networking in the mountain state. The sheriffs are one of many that will benefit from this initiative. Many think West Virginia is somehow ‘behind the times’ but this proves our state is stepping up to bat to make sure citizens are safer on a day to day basis.”

Rudi Raynes-Kidder, Executive Director, West Virginia Sheriffs' Association

“I commend Senator Rockefeller’s efforts to create legislation that would secure the public safety spectrum for first responders in this critical and uncertain time of post 9/11 America. This legislation will enhance our communications resources with 10-megahertz of spectrum – a huge benefit to our interoperable network capabilities. I fully support allocation of the ‘D-block’ to public safety and know first-hand of the dedication of Senator Rockefeller to public safety.”

Robert Matheny, Wheeling Police Chief

“We are blessed in Wood County, West Virginia to have very dedicated and skilled public safety agencies and 9-1-1 center. When asked, their main area of concern is always communications and more specifically interoperability. As President of the WV Enhanced 9-1-1 Council and the WV Chapter of Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, I appreciate Senator Rockefeller bringing this issue to the forefront and being a leader when it comes to public safety.”

Randy Lowe, Director of Wood County 9-1-1

“Senator Rockefeller's initiative is important to all counties in West Virginia but particularly critical for communications in rural counties. Counties are the first level of government for public safety and response to emergencies. Our elected county officials throughout the state appreciate the capabilities that the dedicated wireless spectrum will provide.”

Patti Hamilton, Executive Director, West Virginia Association of Counties

“The West Virginia Broadcasters Association is pleased that Senator Rockefeller recognizes how invaluable free over the air television is to West Virginians and the nation. The ability to keep citizens informed especially during times of emergencies is a must. We look forward to working with the Senator on this issue to make sure all participants are satisfied and putting the viewers first.”

Michele C. Crist, Executive Director, West Virginia Broadcasters Association

Contact: Briana Warner, 304-347-5504