The state of Mississippi recently tested a new $162 million wireless emergency communications network in what will be the first of a three-phase statewide wireless network, dubbed the Mississippi Wireless Integrated Network (MSWIN).
Last Friday, Miss. Governor Haley Barbour demonstrated the network’s interoperable capabilities from the state’s emergency operations center at the National Guard Headquarters in Gulfport. Within minutes, Gov. Barbour used MSWIN to connect with agents of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, on duty in the Gulf of Mexico; the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi Department of Public Safety about 160 miles to the north in Jackson; and the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center about 40 miles to the east in Pascagoula.
Using the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Barbour invoked memories of obliterated communications systems, spanning from the Gulf Coast to far north of Jackson, in explaining the importance of the new system. “First responders were unable to talk to each other except face-to-face,” Gov. Barbour recounted. But by understanding the failings of the past, Mississippi is determined to develop the network across the entire state.
“[W]e are developing a reliable, sustainable new system designed to vastly improve the ability of law enforcement and emergency personnel to share information during natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and other emergencies,” Gov.Barbour said.
The state is working with public and private sector partners to deploy and test the network, including the state Wireless Communications Commission and the MSWIN contract holder, Motorola. Phase I completes the build out from the Coast to Jacksonville, covering the lower third of the state with 44 tower sites.
“With the completion of Phase 1, MSWIN is already providing the state of Mississippi with a state-of-the-art interoperable communication system that is helping first responders communicate on a daily basis and keeping them prepared for a large-scale emergency,” Bob Wartmann, Motorola vice president of State and Local Government Business, said in a statement. “Motorola looks forward to continuing to work with the state of Mississippi to complete this important communications project that will help increase the safety and security of the people of Mississippi.”
The first phase of the project used mobile hand-held radios, operating on the 700 MHz band. But Motorola also worked with subcontractors like Pioneer Energy Products, LLC (Pepro) to deploy a Master Site on Wheels (SOW) staged in Jackson. The strategy calls for three such mobile SOWS that can be dispatched anywhere in the state to establish or enhance radio communications in emergencies.
The project is roughly eighteen months ahead of schedule and on budget, according to Bill Roach, executive officer of the Wireless Communication Commission. And a recent pilot program, involving 30 agencies, in five counties, over 30 days, received high marks. Phase II will include 52 sites, spanning central Mississippi, with Phase III covering the upper third of the state with 47 towers.
“The bottom line is MSWIN will save lives and provide critical communications to state agencies and local first responders,” concluded Gov. Barbour.