Newark - U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today announced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded New Jersey more than $1.4 million in federal funds to improve its emergency communications.

This funding is part of the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP), a new federal program to help states plan and train to respond to natural disasters and acts of terrorism. New Jersey will receive $1,443,315 for the first year of the IECGP, which was authorized after the implementation of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.

"When our first responders ran into the World Trade Center on September 11, they expected their radios and communications equipment to work. But that equipment wasn't up to the job and it made it harder for our first responders to protect themselves and others," Sen. Lautenberg said. "This funding will help provide our first responders with efficient, effective communications during emergencies to better protect our communities."

Sen. Menendez said, "One of the many lessons we learned from the September 11th attacks is how vitally important it is for police, firefighters and medical responders to be able communicate with each other in emergencies. Even now, seven years after that deficiency was exposed, there is still more work to do. These funds are important to help make sure that the heroes who help save lives at the very least have functioning equipment."

The 9/11 Commission Report found that communications were so poor on September 11 that firefighters and police officers in different parts of the World Trade Center could not communicate with each other or with NYC's Emergency Management Headquarters in 7 World Trade Center. One problem was that their communications systems were not "interoperable." The IECGP was created to help fix these problems so public safety agencies will be able to talk and exchange data across jurisdictions using radio communications systems

The IECGP, which is funded by the FY 2008 DHS Appropriations Act, allocates funding based on risk. Both Sens. Lautenberg and Menendez have fought hard to compel the Bush Administration to provide New Jersey with more homeland security grants based on risk.