By Richard Mirgon, Public Safety Consultant
How many times do we say to friends, colleagues and people we know “How can I help”? We do that more often in public safety because helping is in our core. We are service-oriented and we care about our communities. How often do we want to help, but don’t know how to help? Let me make a small suggestion that could end up being a big idea.
FirstNet is up and running. FirstNet built by AT&T is aggressively working every day to meet the commitment they made to the FirstNet Authority and to the first responder community. One key element of that is coverage. We know it is improving everyday and will continue to improve. Coverage is King as they say and we can help improve coverage. As AT&T is building out our band 14 spectrum, they are building and modifying cell sites coast to coast. Many of these sites will need local permits and approvals. This process can be extensive and is different for each community. One element that will slow this process down is when the permitting authority doesn’t understand who or what FirstNet is.
We can help by educating and briefing our local planning departments, planning commissions and elected officials about FirstNet. I am not suggesting we bypass the process. Those processes exist for a reason, but one element that can slow down a process is not understanding the intent of the request or the impact on the community. When we educate our local officials, it allows them to make better and quicker decisions. With that said it is also my belief that asking for permits to be expedited supports the community we serve.
As we all know wireline 9-1-1 is no longer the primary mode to access public safety. It is wireless 9-1-1 that accounts for 80% of all 9-1-1 calls. Each and every cell site impact someone’s life and safety. Here is how impactful a cell site is.
- There are 323,448 cell sites in the US according to statista.com
- There are over 240 million 9-1-1 calls made every year, 80% via wireless according to nena.org. That is about 192 million wireless 9-1-1 calls.
- Each cell site processes on an average of 593 9-1-1 emergency calls a year.
That is a significant number. Now, I realize as much as anyone that the number is an average and there are sites in major cities that see more calls, with some rural sites seeing far fewer calls. However, you can’t deny that the numbers are staggering. I can’t think of a single other technology that saves or impacts more lives.
So back to my point. As the numbers show, every cell site in the US saves lives. Sites being built for FirstNet not only save lives in our community, they protect the lives of our first responders and provide access to additional lifesaving technology and information. Our first responders have become dependent on broadband data and are becoming more dependent every day. Permitting and approving cell sites should be a national and local priority.
It is time to take action once again, but this time on a local level. Reach out to your local officials, planning departments, and permitting authorities and asked that they give priority to FirstNet sites. Writing a memo, sending an email or providing a briefing to those officials is simple and meaningful. Firstnet.gov has a number of PowerPoints and information brochures to make this task easy and painless.
Again, I am not suggesting bypassing the laws and regulations. I am asking that we support those requests for FirstNet sites. That they be given priority in the permit and request process – because it matters. It makes a difference to our community and it saves lives.
(This is a corrected version of the article. we would like to thank our readers for pointing out math errors.)
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.next-paradigm.com/about/