Fire Chief Speaks Out in Washington State

From time to time we will become aware of information that we think is important enough to issue a special edition, this is one of those times. One of our public safety colleagues, Chief Al Gillespie, has shared with us a letter sent from Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. We have been given permission to share the entire letter. This letter to David Postman the Chief of Staff for Washington Governor Jay Inslee and is related to the state’s decision to issue an RFP for the Band 14 FirstNet radio access network (RAN) in Washington.

Below is the text from that letter along with a link to the letter itself. This is one example where public safety is speaking out in support of opting in to the national FirstNet program. We believe that Governor Inslee should do the right thing and support Washington’s first responders. All Governors should keep in mind that this network was asked for by public safety, for public safety and is a public safety network.


September 29, 2017
David Postman
Shelley Westall
Mr. Postman and Ms. Westall,
I received a message from Tara Lee indicating that Washington State has decided to create a separate RFP for a high‐speed,  wireless broadband data network dedicated to public safety instead of opting‐in and cooperating with the Nation’s FirstNet  Program.  To say that I am disappointed with the decision is an understatement, especially after so many of us in the first  responder community have been working diligently to secure Band 14, educate legislators relentlessly, and secure funding  and support so that our personnel and communities can have a higher level of safety.
I never thought that this project was part of a political agenda or an unrealistic goal.  I honestly believe that government does  have the ability to utilize technology that can communicate across jurisdictional boundaries of any magnitude.  We owe that  capability to our community, and it must be a part of something that has no respect for any jurisdictional line—it has to be  National.
I have been the incident commander and on the command staff on a number of large incidents involving Federal, State, and  local assets and have needed the technology—as recently as a couple of weeks ago at the Freeman School shooting.  At that  incident, we were forced to wait for satellite communications due to the overwhelmed networks and an immediate loss of  data capability.  At the incident we had incoming and on‐scene resources with critical communication needs from the ATF,  FBI, State Patrol, Border Patrol, and nearly every other public safety agency in our region—all with the immediate need to  communicate.  Unfortunately, we could not.  Our land mobile radio service worked wonderfully for the local resources that  had the ability to use them (local fire, EMS, and law), but all of the incoming non‐Spokane County resources rely on an  overwhelmed cell phone network.  FirstNet should have been available to the responders in this case, and so many others this  summer.
I have traveled our State serving in a number of different committees praising the work of FirstNet and promising the elected  officials and members of first response agencies that a solution to everyone’s challenges is near.  After our fire season, the  flooding in Texas, hurricanes on the East Coast and myriad of other disasters it is implausible that we are delaying the opt‐in  process.  At this stage in the process we should not be attempting to re‐invent the wheel or to add a redundant system that  would be limited to two states, or that would require more dollars to patch or connect into a national system.
My overall purpose in writing is to say that I am disappointed in the process and additional delays.  Our first responders look  to us for leadership, and I feel that we have seriously let them down with this outcome.
Brian Schaeffer  Fire Chief

To view the letter please click on the button below.


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