LITTLE ROCK—Governor Asa Hutchinson announced today that he will request the legislature to release $10 million from his Rainy Day Fund for significant and much needed upgrades to the statewide interoperable communications system for emergency and public safety services, also known as the Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN).
This funding will go towards replacing aging radio equipment at 20 AWIN sites, aging console equipment at nine dispatch locations as well as upgrades to the system operating software. These upgrades will bring AWIN to the current state of technology and will allow the system to take advantage of future technologies.
“AWIN has proven invaluable during the aftermath of disasters such as the Vilonia tornadoes and the flash flood tragedy at the Albert Pike Recreational Area by giving law enforcement, fire, rescue and medical teams the ability to communicate when local services had been wiped out and cell phones would not work,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “It is our obligation as a state to adequately invest in this system so that, when the call for help comes in, the response can be swift and effective.”
The AWIN upgrade will benefit the state’s public safety community by doubling the number of available channels. Not only will this help to maintain this critical first responder communications system, which is used every day by local law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical responders, but this will enhance the ability to coordinate communications among a large number of responders across multiple jurisdictions in the event of a wide scale disaster. Each AWIN site will have the ability to both transmit and receive. The upgraded system will allow dispatch operators to concurrently manage multiple calls.
“Arkansas is fortunate to have a radio system that is capable of tying together multitudes of emergency resources, but like any other piece of equipment, AWIN needs to be properly maintained to ensure the line of communication will always be there,” said Col. Bill Bryant, commander of the Arkansas State Police.
“The AWIN infrastructure upgrades being proposed by Governor Hutchinson are extremely important in allowing state of the art radio communications from any point in Arkansas,” said Texarkana Police Chief Bob Harrison. “This will be beneficial to Texarkana and other agencies throughout Southwest Arkansas and the entire state.”
AWIN is a division of the Arkansas Department of Information Systems (DIS). The network provides thousands of law enforcement, fire, first responders and other emergency services at the city, county, state and federal levels, the ability to coordinate communications with other agencies and jurisdictions.
“AWIN is a strategic state asset that averaged almost 242,000 calls per day in 2015,” said Mark Myers, DIS director. “This upgrade will help maintain effective communication across the system which is critical when seconds count and the property and lives of Arkansans are at stake.”
AWIN consists of over 100 tower sites throughout the state. The system is monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days per year to ensure that it is constantly available to the almost 30,000 radios authorized for use on the system.
If funding from the Rainy Day Fund is approved by the legislature, the AWIN upgrade is expected to begin approximately April 1, 2016, and will take approximately one year to complete. The AWIN upgrade will reinforce the foundation of the current system and prepare our state for the next generation emergency management communications system, which is anticipated to launch within the next five to seven years.