Maryland announced this week that the state government plans to create a single communications system for all of the state’s first responders, as noted in a recent article in The Examiner. Ensuring effective emergency communications remains an important issue on the nation’s homeland security to do list.

A Heritage paper I wrote last year with Richard Weitz about improving emergency communications discussed the need and necessary measures for improved communication among emergency responders. In its final report, the 9/11 Commission stated that “the inability to communicate was a critical element at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, crash sites, where multiple agencies and multiple jurisdictions.” Cross jurisdictional communication is key to preparedness and response.

Our paper also discussed the importance of federalism in such a program of improved communication. The states themselves know best what measures they need and resources they have to achieve them, so who better to build preparedness than the states themselves. The best role for the federal government and federal funding is one in which they empower local action. Maryland’s efforts highlight the importance of states stepping up to the lead in homeland security.