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Iowa Boosts Its Emergency Communication Technology

Flickr / Andrew Higgins

A new law signed Wednesday allows Iowa to finance a statewide communication system of high tech radios for first responders.

Commissioner Roxann Ryan of the Iowa Department of Public Safety says Iowa is currently one of only a handful of states without an interoperable communication system. First responders elsewhere in the country have found the high tech radios especially helpful during natural disasters, when cell phones towers are damaged or networks are overloaded.

"These are really computers, and not just radios," says Ryan. "It's not a walkie-talkie kind of thing. People are going to be carrying little computers with them that they can use for their radio communications."

It became apparent that there was a need for firefighters, law enforcement, and medics from different departments to communication during disasters during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"This is going to be something that's going to be a very effective tool for law enforcement, and firefighters, and first responders," says Gov. Terry Branstad. "We're very excited about it."

The first county to connect to the system is Dallas County, located in central Iowa. In about two years, roughly 96 percent of the state’s population will be covered with the new communication technology.

The entire system is projected to cost $58 million dollars.