By TJ Kennedy, FirstNet President
Today, I was honored to be with our FirstNet board and senior leadership from the U.S. public safety community in our nation’s capital for what FirstNet Board Chair Sue Swenson called “a milestone moment” for FirstNet and public safety as the Board unanimously passed a resolution authorizing FirstNet’s CEO, Mike Poth, to take all actions needed to make the network contract award.
FirstNet was created in 2012 to develop, build and operate the country’s first nationwide, broadband network dedicated to public safety – a network that will provide the capacity, priority and innovation our first responders need as we call on them in disasters and emergency. FirstNet has worked closely with public safety to listen to their experiences and objectives, so together, we will create a network that meet their needs now and for years to come.
Throughout the FirstNet effort, I have been honored to get to know public safety leaders across this country even better. I’m humbled by the dedication, innovation and downright doggedness they have shown in making sure that first responders have the best possible tools to do their jobs. I am proud of the entire FirstNet team, which has worked tirelessly to create a sustainable, mission-critical broadband solution with public safety — with an eye toward exceeding public safety mission requirements.
As a former state trooper, firefighter and paramedic myself, I was heartened today to hear public safety’s continued, strong and unified support for the vital next steps we will take to deploy the network together.
FirstNet Board Vice Chair Jeff Johnson, retired Chief of Tualatin Valley (Oregon) Fire and Rescue, remarked on the sheer tenacity it took to get the FirstNet effort to this point. “In retrospect, if we had known how impossible it was, we wouldn’t have tried it. But we’re a bunch of hard-headed public safety people who wouldn’t take no for an answer. We didn’t quit, because when the purpose of public safety is at heart, you can’t stop. FirstNet will bring a world-class network of public safety, by public safety for public safety…the likes of which public safety has never seen.”
FirstNet Board member and Community Paramedicine Chief of North East Mobile Health Services Chief Kevin McGinnis noted that, “[although] it’s been a long road to where we are today…FirstNet is going to change the way EMS is practiced in the field forever. It going to save lives, make the health care system work better – it’s truly going to be a game-changer. I’m looking forward to the next five years. This is one of the best things that could happen for public safety – ever.”
FirstNet Board member, retired Salt Lake City Police Chief and First Vice President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association Chris Burbank said: “The interest of public safety is very much alive and well in the hands of this board. Time and time again, they have looked out for our well-being – and I sincerely appreciate it.”
FirstNet would not have come to fruition without the dedication and stalwart support of a champion for better public safety communication, Chief Harlin McEwen, FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Council Chair and honorary IACP president. I thank Harlin for the dedication of his time, as well as his passion for making FirstNet happen for all first responders.
In his remarks today, Harlin noted that, “For some in this room, this has been a 20-year journey,” recalling the Public Safety Spectrum Trust and D-Block initiatives, as well as the support of several administrations and of legislators on both sides of the aisle. “Public safety and industry have done yeoman’s work to get us where we are today,” he said. “FirstNet needed steady public safety advice, and we’ve been able to give that. So many people in this room that brought us to where we are today, now what we want to do is watch this network get built.”
Representing the largest police departments in the country in the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association (MCCA), President and Montgomery County Police Department (MD) Chief Tom Manger extended his full support for FirstNet as we embark upon the implementation phase of the Network. “Not only will we be your biggest customer, but we will be your biggest advocate,” said Chief Manger.
IAFC President and Chairman Chief John Sinclair spoke about public safety’s deep need for FirstNet, and pledged his continued support. “Fire chiefs and public safety know the [FirstNet] network is urgently needed. IAFC and public safety are united in the desire to see FirstNet succeed. We will continue to fight for public safety’s access to the network – a network we need to keep us safe,” he said. “The first job of every fire chief is the protection of their people. Firefighters die because of a lack of situational awareness. FirstNet is going to be helpful for everyone on scene – with interoperability and when we’re working with our law enforcement and EMS colleagues – as we look at facing down emergencies in all types of communities, from most urban to most rural.”
Chief Rich Carrizzo, IAFC treasurer and Fire Chief of Southern Platte Fire Protection District, called the vote, “a truly historic moment,” noting that FirstNet is, “a unified effort of all public safety standing solidly together as partners. As one of those who will benefit, FirstNet could not be coming at a better time. Most of us will never see anything of this magnitude again in our careers – so thank you.”
“Public safety has become much more reliant on apps and data, but the limiting factor has been the lack of a public-safety-grade network,” added Chief Mike Duyck, of Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. He spoke of the amazing potential of FirstNet to save lives, work more efficiently and improve public safety outcomes. “FirstNet will allow us to utilize the precious resources we have to create better outcomes for those we serve. True ingenuity and innovation will come when you put [FirstNet’s] capacity and capability in the hands of public safety professionals.”
FirstNet CEO Mike Poth, a former law enforcement officer who served in the Tempe, Arizona Police Department and as a Police Captain in Corvallis, Oregon, promised a swift move to award the FirstNet network contract so all of us at FirstNet can get started building public safety’s network. “This network will be a game-changer, with the capacity, public-safety features and innovation first responders need to save lives,” he said. “I will work with DOI to complete the acquisition and contract process quickly – we will award the contract within the week. There will be no letting up on this public-private partnership once it’s awarded. The outcome will be a significant investment in public safety infrastructure needed serve our communities. We’re excited to see impact this network will have in making communities across America safer.”
It’s astounding what we’ve been able to accomplish when law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services leaders work together with a single focus. We have shown that, when we pursue technology and teamwork, when we allow us to dream the impossible, when we challenge those who say it cannot be done, when we embrace that the private sector can work together with government to create a true public-private partnership, we can create a sustainable technological leap forward for public safety communications that will serve this generation of first responders – and the generations to come.