This section is an important step in the Commonwealth's journey to raise awareness of public safety among both government officials and citizens stressing the importance of a seamless, coordinated and integrated public safety communications network so that "...no life is lost because public safety personnel cannot communicate with one another."
The Kentucky Emergency Warning System's vision is to offer a statewide, integrated communications and information network with high speed, high capacity delivery of voice, data and video transmissions positioning the Commonwealth to better serve our citizens with advanced applications and future technologies such as:
- Next Generation E911
- Situational Awareness
- Command and Control
- Mobile Data Network
- Video surveillance and monitoring
- Amber and Golden alert services
- E-health services
- Weather alerts and information
Immediately after the terrible tornadoes in 1974 that left 73 Kentuckians dead, Governor Wendell Ford pushed his telephone buttons in rapid succession saying "Hello? Hello...? Hello...?!?!" in an effort to find out if anyone was attempting to call him regarding the natural disaster. There was nothing but silence in the Governor’s Mansion except for a police radio a few feet away (operating on a battery), broadcasting information from a trooper to his supervisor about a windstorm on I-64 that almost overturned his car -- he was abandoning it to immediately dive into a ditch. The commercialized phone services failed miserably while the police radio was able to operate and provide information regarding status updates on law enforcement, fire, and EMS activities, but only within a localized area. There was no statewide communication infrastructure to command and control public safety activities between the local and state agencies.
Governor Wendell Ford will never forget that terrible day in Kentucky’s history when the protection of its people, and the ability to adequately respond to a disaster situation, was compromised by reliance on commercialized voice communication systems. Governor Ford vowed that "Never again will Kentucky be in that position".
"Lest We Forget..."
Governor Julian Carroll and the 1976 Kentucky General Assembly did not forget and set out to build a state-wide public safety communications network that would be maintained and controlled by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and would be so named the Kentucky Emergency Warning System (KEWS). KEWS would be a robust all weather communications network that would be a highly survivable emergency communications network. The cost was approximately 22 million dollars using Microwave Technology to operate 1,200 Voice Channels to be used by public safety agencies.
Since its service was initiated in 1979, KEWS has evolved and expanded its communication services to serve not only the Commonwealth agencies such as the Kentucky State Police, Department of Military Affairs, Kentucky Educational Television, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Department of Natural Resources, Kentucky Emergency Management, and the University of Kentucky as well as Federal and Local agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigations, National Weather Service and numerous Local/County Emergency Medical Services.
The Commonwealth recently completed a $47 million multi-year project to upgrade the KEWS analog microwave infrastructure to a modern digital system, paramount for the critical day-to-day communication requirements of public safety agencies throughout the Commonwealth. The upgrade means federal, state, and local first responders have a common platform to integrate their current communication capabilities, while ensuring the Commonwealth is positioned for future emerging technologies in the public safety arena. The upgrade includes wireless infrastructure capabilities designed to allow public safety officials to access centralized databases such as Criminal History, Vehicle Registration, Mug shots, Fingerprints, and Geographical Information Systems from their cruisers and emergency vehicles. It provides a platform to allow for the collaboration and sharing of information/intelligence to gain situational awareness in real time during emergencies while also allowing the capability to transmit/receive command and control directives from the emergency operations center, thus leading to a more efficient and effective response.