North Dakota Emergency Medical Services Association
CONSTRUCTION ON SIRN PROJECT ADVANCING
Deadline Nearing for User Survey on Radios
By Donnell Preskey Hushka, North Dakota Association of Counties
Construction is moving along swiftly on the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network, otherwise known as SIRN. The project is on pace to be in place for some first responders and dispatch centers to utilize the new radio network by the end of the year. The 2019 Legislature authorized the SIRN project, and construction launched shortly after. It is a massive project that is expected to take five years to build out. When complete it will be an extensive enhancement to public safety radio communications in North Dakota. The new network will allow for local and cross-jurisdictional interoperability, which will allow agencies to communicate regardless of their location. SIRN also is constructed to address lack of coverage and communication gaps that have been identified as key issues by first responders across the state.
Motorola provided a construction update to the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) at the August meeting, indicating a great deal of progress with more progress to come in the near future. The project is scheduled to be constructed in phases, as indicated on the project status graphic. With towers and public safety answering points (PSAPs) equipped for SIRN coming online, early adopters will soon be using SIRN, including Bismarck/Mandan, Grand Forks, Minot, Williston and Williams County. The entire project is expected to be complete by 2024.
The 66thLegislative Assembly provided a cost share of $1500 per radio for City/County Law Enforcement, Fire Fighters, and Emergency Medical Personnel. There is recognition that there are users who the legislature intended to be included in the radio reimbursement; but according to an Attorney General interpretation, several first responder agencies are not currently eligible. Those currently not eligible include federal, state and tribal agencies, fire districts, EMS districts, emergency managers, public works, schools, school busing, hospitals and emergency rooms. There is work being done on a bill draft to expand the eligibility to especially include those intended to be included, like fire districts and EMS districts. It is the SIEC’s intention to have a bill ready for lawmakers’ consideration in the 2021 Legislative Session.
For an agency to be reimbursed for a qualified radio, they must complete the SIRN Radio Reimbursement Questionnaire/Survey. Even if an agency is not currently eligible for the SIRN Radio Reimbursement, it is very important to log their responses to this survey. This survey will inform decision makers on the amount of radios in the state for funding purposes. The survey deadline is October 31st, 2020. Eligible agencies must purchase an approved radio that will be compatible with the ND SIRN system at completion of the project. Purchases must be made between April 28, 2019 and May 2024.
There are approximately 900 public safety entities in North Dakota. The officers, fire fighters, EMS personnel and dispatchers utilize an estimated 20,000 devices. The first responder community recognizes that no single North Dakota entity could construct, operate and maintain a statewide communications system with the coverage, capacity, capabilities and reliability of SIRN.
The SIEC has developed many resources to help explain the project and its progress. Those resources, including a recording of a recent webinar which provides an update on SIRN, can be found on the SIRN 20/20 webpage, SIRN2020.nd.gov.