“Tell me why I need FirstNet in ten words or less?” “It Will Save Lives!”
By Richard Mirgon, Public Safety Consultant
I was having a conversation the other day where an associate was telling me about a conversation with a state official and was asked “tell me why I need FirstNet in ten words or less?” I jumped in and said well I can do it in four words. He asked how. I said “It will save lives”. Now there are many who believe this is nothing more than hyperbole and we heard that a lot during the effort, but to those of us who are or have been first responders, it clearly is not. So, before I explain let me expand on my four-word answer. “It will save lives and the life it saves may be your own.”
Now as I noted above many believe that is unnecessary hyperbole and we heard that a lot in Washington D.C. during the fight to create FirstNet but here is the reality. We as first responders don’t do our jobs for the money – we do it for the rewards of supporting our country, community and family. We don’t get that ultimate job satisfaction when we put out a dumpster fire, take a cold burglary report or respond with an ambulance to find everyone has left the accident scene. We do, on the other hand, get satisfaction on those rare occasions when a person is saved from a burning building, an active shooter is stopped or the child who wasn’t breathing gets resuscitated by CPR. That is why we do these jobs. To save lives. FirstNet will change and improve how we do that.
When you consider all the future applications that will directly save lives – the options are limitless. Because of this the network will be built with the future in mind and to insure upgrade paths to 5G, 6G whatever the future holds. Those applications will allow for interactive floor plans, real-time facial recognition, live telemedicine with real-time ultrasounds just to name a few. So, as that fire fighter enters the burning structure and has an interactive floor plan and real-time sensors, the information he gets along with the warning may save his life. When the police officer is entering a crowd and facial recognition alerts them to a suspect who has committed violence on police officers, the life that is saved may be their own. This isn’t hyperbole. This is the world where first responders work in and where they take everyday risks to protect our communities.
This week all the FirstNet State Point of Contact’s (SPOC’s) meet in Dallas to get their first look into what the FirstNet / AT&T portal will look like for the delivery of state plans. As much as this is administrative, it is one of those key milestones in the buildout of the FirstNet Broadband Network. As we make progress on the state plans I wanted to take this opportunity to share those thoughts. Many of those who will be making the opt-in decisions about FirstNet are not first responders, yet they are integrally involved in the decision process. These people are smart, engaged, understand the technology and have been committed for a long time to this project. Yet, we cannot forget this is about providing first responders with the best tools available to save lives.
We also need to not be fooled by copy cats and those promising unicorns and leprechaun gold. There are wireless providers today who show marginal if any support for public safety. Many have left the 9-1-1 business and others don’t have trained public safety specialists. Some of those advocating other choices have never built a network of this magnitude. It is easy for anyone to provide a response to an RFP that promises the world, but who has no experience in delivering or financing such a project. Many of the states who have built robust land mobile radio networks will tell you that an LTE network built at a state level is too complicated and costly. This, from people who have been there, done that.
As a final thought to those who are engaged in state planning – Let’s remember that this program – FirstNet – is about protecting a nation. We constantly share resources and first responders across jurisdictions and even across state lines. The number of these events grow every year. The task at hand is to build a single interoperable nationwide public safety broadband network that saves lives. This isn’t about you, it’s about us.
Richard Mirgon is a Public Safety consultant focused on FirstNet. He is a Past President of APCO International and has over 35 years of public safety and first responder experience. For more information about the author please go to http://www.presidential-partners.com/the-partners/