By James Careless
After a nationwide assessment of 200-plus applicants, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO International) has chosen Melvin (Mel) Maier as its new executive director. Maier was already on staff as APCO’s chief technology officer, and brings more than 33 years’ worth of public safety experience to APCO’s top job. He has also been vice chair of the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee, chair of the Funding and Sustainment Committee at SAFECOM, and a founding member/current chair of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition.
AllThingsFirstNet.com (AFTN) got in contact with Maier to find out about his plans for APCO International. Here’s what he had to tell us.
AFTN: What does it mean to you to become head of APCO International?
Mel Maier: It was an incredibly humbling experience to be chosen as the Executive Director/CEO of APCO International, as I am a passionate advocate for public safety communications and the work of APCO and its more than 40,000 members. I have benefited directly from the work of APCO members and its professional staff throughout my career, from educational and training opportunities, ANSI standards development, and frequency coordination services to using the brevity codes more commonly known as ten codes (10-4!). I look forward to maintaining APCO International’s prominence as the leader in public safety communications and doing what is right for our members.
AFTN: What led you to this moment in your career?
Mel Maier: I have a career history of public safety service and emergency communications at the local, state, and federal levels. I began my career as a police officer, rising through the ranks to the position of Captain and was the Director of 9-1-1 Operations in the Oakland County Michigan Sheriff’s Office. Oakland County is the second-largest emergency communications center (ECC) in Michigan.
My relationship with APCO began as a member more than 20 years ago. Through the resources provided by my membership, I improved my knowledge and skills on crucial public safety communications. I then had the opportunity to serve as the Chief Technology Officer for APCO International, a position responsible for the development of technical and operational standards and the coordination of effective legislative and regulatory matters that influence ECC operations.
AFTN: What do you hope to achieve at APCO?
Mel Maier: I will work tirelessly to ensure our members are informed and prepared for the demands and challenges presented by the technological changes in our work environment. I will also ensure that employees at APCO have been empowered to contribute to the success of APCO by aligning their actions to further APCO’s vision, and I intend to ensure this work is supported and maintained.
As a member-driven association, APCO strives to enhance professional abilities and promote the personal development of ECC staff to manage situations with critical decision-making skills. Additionally, public safety telecommunicator (PST) stress and burnout from cumulative exposure to traumatic situations are universal experiences among emergency call takers. These challenges have introduced a greater need for education and training programs for PSTs and ECC leaders. I will strive to expand access to these educational opportunities across the United States and introduce APCO to new global markets.
AFTN: What are the most pressing issues facing your constituents these days, and what can be done to address them?
Mel Maier: Public safety telecommunicators experience increasing call volumes as technologies make it easier for people to call 9-1-1. As someone with a background in public safety, I know that job descriptions alone cannot prepare PST professionals for an ECC’s challenging environment. We must recognize the importance of hiring the best talent and provide our ECC members with skill development, educational programs and practical tools to maintain optimal well-being.
APCO will continue to support its members and the public safety communications community through educational programs and special events such as the 9-1-1 Staffing Crisis Summit and the 9-1-1 Wellness Summit taking place in February, as well as new coursework from the APCO Institute.
AFTN: What has FirstNet done to date to assist communications in public safety, and what does it still need to do?
Mel Maier: As an early advocate for providing a nationwide, interoperable broadband network, I saw firsthand the effort put in by APCO and other public safety associations in successfully lobbying efforts to secure the passage of legislation in 2012. This legislation created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and ensured that public safety has priority access to dedicated broadband spectrum via the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.
FirstNet, in consultation with the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), has improved the ability of public safety to communicate and share data in an interoperable manner. FirstNet can develop and use emerging communications technologies to directly connect those requesting emergency assistance to field-based responders and other needed services and resources.
AFTN: Finally, what are APCO’s goals for 2024?
Mel Maier: Supporting the modernization of 9-1-1 systems nationwide to achieve Next Generation 9-1-1.
Correcting the federal government’s statistical classification system to categorize public safety telecommunicators as a protective service occupation rather than administrative/clerical.
Advancing health and wellness for the 9-1-1 community.
Protecting public safety access to reliable, interference-free spectrum, particularly in the 6 GHz and 4.9 GHz bands.