Fire Service Must Offer Input to FirstNet State Plans

By Eric Tade

Why is this important to the fire service? Because Colorado and other states have unique wildland, rural and urban response challenges and considerations, and the fire service should consider how data is transforming its response paradigm.

Change is inevitable. During the past 127 years, the fire service witnessed the transformation from the use of a fire alarm box to dispatch centers. The first fire alarm call box was put into service in the 1880s to telegraph a location code to the central fire station when the lever was pulled in the box. As technology progressed, the fire service actively transitioned to dispatch centers that would receive and disseminate calls for service all over a city, county or jurisdiction.

According to the Denver Firefighters Museum, the last fire call box was taken out of service July 12, 1979. The dispatch centers that replaced call boxes handle multiple calls simultaneously and dispatch the appropriate resources and personnel. Communications was transformed as the fire service moved from the call box to the dispatch center, and we are standing at the brink of another communications revolution. While some are cautious to embrace trends that transform the way organizations do business, other shifts are quick and irreversible.

The transition to a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) is such a shift. This network is being built in a partnership between a federal entity, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and its commercial partner AT&T. The NPSBN has the potential to offer first responders and others supporting all types of incidents and response, priority access on a Long Term Evolution (LTE) data network — the exact same network that the public uses. However, the nation’s responders will no longer compete with the public for access to this network. If they use it, their services will be prioritized.

This article was written by Fire Chief Eric Tade and appears in Mission Critical dated August 8, 2017.

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