An Opt-Out Doomsday Clock? Seriously?

Summing it up, nothing more than an apparent attempt to disrupt and a big waste of money for someone or some company’s investors.

By W. Brent Lee, Law Enforcement Official, Retired

Editors Note: This article represents the observations and opinions of the writer and not the opinion or views of APCO International.

As someone who has been involved in public safety and related associations for over forty years, I found the following recent actions of someone or some company absolutely intolerable. Someone or more likely some company took the opportunity to attempt, and yes it resulted in nothing more than that, to disrupt the annual conference of The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO Int’l) two weeks ago in Denver, Colorado. Anyone who knows APCO knows that they are one of strongest and longtime supporters of FirstNet. From offering input as to the definition of public safety responder, to publicly stating its views as to Opt-Out being a false choice, APCO has been and will continue to be a voice in support of FirstNet and their partner, AT&T. Now in reading this you may think I am representing APCO and their views as to what occurred in Denver. I am not. However, I am an APCO member and have been for over 25 years.

Picture this, a rented reader-board truck, displaying a Doomsday countdown clock on all the panels, occasionally parked in front of the Denver Convention Center the last two days of the APCO Conference. Occasionally? Yes, occasionally as there is no place to legally park there. It was parked with the emergency flashers on until told by the convention center staff or the police to move. Being paid by whomever, the driver would continue to park and be told to move repeatedly. So, in all honesty someone paid to advertise and then had to violate the law to do so? What does that say?

Oh that’s not all. I have to give a half clap to someone for figuring out they could also pay to advertise within the convention center, for what good it did! That ‘doomsday’ clock ad appeared against numerous meaningful public safety commercial vendor ads. Those commercial ads, by the way, are from companies who offer products to help public safety protect citizens and save lives. Not something meant to distract attendees. If any readers were at APCO and didn’t notice either of these attempted disrupting acts, it only goes to further show just how ineffective they were.

Let me describe the ad and the associated web site. There is a colorful logo with ‘FirstNet Options’ next to it, followed by, ‘Public Safety deserves better.’ Of course, it then displays a countdown clock (days, hours, minutes and seconds) and finally the comment ‘until you’re without options.’ That’s it folks. Nothing more, nothing less. Here’s how I see it. First, if public safety deserves better, then whomever is behind this needs to say who they are and prove their solution is better. Second, FirstNet Options? There are plenty of ideas about just what that means and there are those who decided it was appropriate to explore other avenues. Currently many states have decided to issue RFI’s or RFP’s to take a better look at what else may be available. Two states having done just that apparently found nothing better and recently Opted-In to FirstNet. I believe it is only a matter of time before other states and territories do the same.

Interesting additional information, the domain for the website showing the doomsday clock was supposedly registered the day before it showed up on the internet, truck, and ads at the APCO conference. Indications are it isn’t even registered here in the United States where the service will be provided. Summing it up, nothing more than an apparent attempt to disrupt and a big waste of money for someone or some company’s investors.

Some may say it is suspicious that Verizon made a public announcement during that week so it must be them. I do not believe it was. Verizon as a major sponsor of APCO had numerous opportunities to announce their change in offerings related to public safety and FirstNet during the conference, and yet they didn’t do so, opting to do a press release rather than in person during the conference. Additionally, they had the respect to inform APCO officials of their intent prior to releasing it publicly. Again, what does that say about whomever wasted time and money in Denver?

Here is the message to the readers. Public Safety, whether it be police, fire, EMS or PSAP’s (public safety answering points/communications/dispatch centers) base their actions on integrity and ethics. They do their jobs not out of financial gain but out of a passion for helping people and saving lives! If you are going to confront public safety or attempt to sway public safety as to what is best for them, have the decency to do so in person not from behind some obscure website. Step up and prove there is something better out there. There was legislation passed creating FirstNet and related processes. They did their due diligence, issued an RFP, selected the best possible partner in AT&T, and are working tirelessly to provide public safety, as a whole, the best possible solution available today.

It will work. It will attain the purpose identified by the 9/11 commission, being interoperability, and it will save lives!


W. Brent Lee is a retired Law Enforcement Official and Past President of APCO International with over 30 years of first responder and public safety experience. As a staff officer he supervised special units, departments, and served as a division commander. Having started in a communications center and spending nearly half of his career managing communications functions Brent is a major supporter of FirstNet and all it will bring to public safety. 


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