Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and House Majority Leader Brad Dee (R-Ogden) are joining forces to get emergency communications on the same frequency, so to speak, across Utah.
McAdams says a top priority for any government should be to keep people safe, but that's jeopardized when agencies can't talk to each other. He says He's committed to getting Salt Lake County on board with a unified emergency response, and welcomes Dee's help to make that a reality.
"The days of the Salt Lake Valley being a sea of farmland with urban islands is over," says McAdams. "We are a thriving metro area and it's time for public safety to reflect that."
To that end, McAdams says the Salt Lake County Council has committed $1.4 million to get disparate emergency response systems working on a unified software platform.
So why does the state need to get involved? Because 9-1-1 systems are funded by E911 fees that come to local municipalities through the state. Dee wants to offer incentives for different local governments to share those fees and work together.
"We are so concerned across the state when it comes to 9-1-1 and being able to call for help," said Dee. "It's time to come together and rally around this."
Dee says the progress Salt Lake County has made so far, getting a number of cities to come to the table and buy in on the program, is "a miracle."
"I hope someday we will have a single system throughout the state where an officer from Logan can talk to an officer from St. George immediately. We need a system where an officer who may be involved in a high-speed chase will know that law enforcement from a different agency that may be 40 miles down the road can hear him."
McAdams says getting lawmakers on board will help move the process forward by reducing bureaucracy and territorial fights.
"It's the equivalent of putting all of us in a room and shutting the door," he says. "If someone wants to leave, they're welcome to, but they're not taking state money with them."
McAdams knows making this switch will have some upfront costs, but increased efficiency will save taxpayers in the long run.