Gov. McMaster announces new communication system for first responders

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- Governor Henry McMaster is working to make communication better for first responders across the state.

On Thursday, he held a press conference announcing that South Carolina would be joining 27 other states in opting in to a nationwide communication system called FirstNet.

“A major threat can come anywhere at any time,” Governor Henry McMaster said. “We would not be able to communicate effectively and instantly without fear of interruption.”

Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller was one of several law enforcement heads that attended the press conference. He says he thinks it’s a good idea that South Carolina opted into the system.

“Being able to talk to one another, being able to go from one area of the state to another and be able to communicate with one another on data channels is going to be important for public safety,” Chief Miller said.

Miller says departments often run mutual aid like when he sent officers down to Myrtle Beach to help with Bike Week.

“The radio system doesn’t work there, the walkie talkie system doesn’t work there, but ultimately that will work there,” Miller said.

He says it will also help if there’s an emergency during big events such as Fall for Greenville or concerts at BonSecours Wellness Arena.

“Right now, we’re just ‘pick a number, you’re in line’, but under the system, we’re supposed to preempt everybody and move through,” Miller said.

The federal government created the program after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. It will be a $46 billion effort over the next 25 years.

AT&T will cover most of the cost, but states will still have to pay to use the system and for the phones.

“The cost is very comparable to what we’re paying for services that don’t give us that preemption, that dedication,” Miller said.

However, there still could be some challenges including reaching rural areas while the system is being built and expanding.

Chief Miller says he’s scheduling a meeting in a couple weeks to talk about getting phones to try and test.

Governors have until December 28th to opt in or to design their own communications system.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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