Public Safety Advocate: Thank You, Ed Parkinson; RapidSOS; Call for Public Safety Hall of Fame

Those who have been reading the Advocate for any length of time know I rarely feature individuals in my articles but when I do, it is to impart information that is unique in some way. This first issue in May is written to tell you more about one of the people who made FirstNet possible and then joined the FirstNet Authority to serve as its CEO for almost nine years. Now he has decided to take his talents to the private sector to pursue a new opportunity.

Many articles have been written about Ed Parkinson this past week, but I have yet to see one that reaches back to when Ed was a staff member for the House of Representatives, Homeland Security Committee, Chaired by Representative King. I will enjoy taking this opportunity to fill in some blanks in his professional history. Yes, Ed served on the FirstNet Authority board as its CEO. However, you probably don’t know that what he did while he was a staffer in Congress had a lot to do with the public-safety community, against all odds, convincing Congress to approve a law to create FirstNet.

I first met Ed on June 10, 2010 when I spoke at a meeting in DC that was attended by a number of Congressional staffers. The meeting was a set-up with three people from the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau presenting their rationale for why public safety did not need a nationwide public safety broadband network. I was the last participant and the only one in support of the concept.

After the meeting, Ed came up and introduced himself and proceeded to introduce me to a few other staffers. It was clear from that first meeting that Ed was a believer and was willing to help the public-safety community find its way around Congress. He helped us make efficient use of our time while in DC by steering us to the individuals whose support we needed so we could talk with the most appropriate Members of Congress.

Public Safety Alliance (PSA) members had begun making trips to DC and, with the help of APCO, we set up appointments with Representatives and Senators. However, Ed helped us better understand that while it was good to spend time with the elected officials, it was the staffers who helped their elected bosses decide how to vote during both committee and final floor votes.

He pointed us to two different groups of staffers. The first was made up of staffers who knew something about communications and broadband and the second group consisted of staffers who used their smartphones and knew they could talk to anyone. These staffers did not understand why we were trying to establish a nationwide broadband public-safety network.

Over the course of two or three years, Ed was an invaluable resource for us. Looking back, it is difficult to imagine that we would have finally convinced Congress to append what we wanted for the network to a larger bill in order for it to be passed and signed into law.

Ed continued to assist us as the FirstNet Authority became a reality. He joined the Authority as the go-between for the federal government and the FirstNet Authority, which, while part of the United States government, was set up as an Independent Authority. Ed later became the acting CEO and finally the CEO of the organization. He worked with the board, which was not an easy job since board members rotated in and out as their terms expired. He worked with the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) that reported to the board, and he worked with his staff to develop a roadmap for FirstNet’s future. When it was time to invest money back into FirstNet (Built with AT&T), he worked with public safety, AT&T, and the FirstNet board to decide how the funds should be spent. I believe Ed helped everyone make the right choices.

Ed is moving on to work for a private company that is focused on assisting first responders in performing their tasks safer and more efficiently. Because he has lived and breathed public safety for many years, I believe Ed will be successful in his new undertaking.

Everyone who helped create FirstNet, served on its board, came from within public safety to work at the Authority, and the FirstNet group at AT&T owe Ed a debt of gratitude for all he has done to see to it that FirstNet became a reality and then hugely successful. Ed, you will be missed by so many of us!


Now that we have wished Ed all of the success in the world in his next endeavor, let’s see where he is going and what role he will play in the fast-growing RapidSOS. On the RapidSOS website, you will first see the catch phrase, “E911 FOR IP PHONE DEPLOYMENTS.” This is followed by the text below about IP PHONE DEPLOYMENTS:

Intrado delivers comprehensive and reliable E911 solutions for IP phone systems. These E911 solutions help organizations simplify E911 management, reduce infrastructure costs, and meet state and local E911 regulations. They seamlessly interoperate with industry-leading IP phone systems to cost-effectively meet the E911 requirements of organizations of all sizes.

Key features of our E911 solutions include: 

  • Automatic discovery of IP phones
  • On-site security desk routing and notification
  • At the beginning of the statement, you will see a reference to Intrado
  • 911 caller identification down to the building, floor, and room level
  • E911 support for employees on the main campus, at branch offices, and at home
  • E911 connectivity to over 6,000 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) across North America”

You may wonder about “Intrado” being mentioned in that statement. With a little more exploring of the RapidSOS site, we learn that RapidSOS and Intrado worked out an arrangement in which Intrado provides the location data that is used in the E911 systems offered by RapidSOS.

Ed Parkinson will be heading up the RapidSOS public sector business. This appears to be a great fit since Ed is well known, well liked, and well respected within the public-safety community. In days long past, this is where I would say, “and he brings with him a Rolodex full of great contacts.” Now all I can say is that his contacts list is probably a list to which many others wish they had access.

Ed gave a lot of his life to the public sector, and he earned each promotion along the way. Let’s all wish him well in his venture into the private sector.

Winding Down

There is more about Ed and many others in the book we are still writing. Many who contributed to making FirstNet happen have written their own observations, comments, and perhaps some fun things along the road to FirstNet.

All this brings me back to what I was trying to promote a few years ago. There is already a Wireless History Foundation (WHF) and every year its executives vote to add three or four more people to their Hall of Fame. Going down the list of inductees, you will quickly see that the WHF is all about the cellular industry with a few exceptions for notables who worked in both cellular and within the public-safety community (e.g., Morgan O’Brien and Sue Swenson, my apologies if I missed anyone). Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the Hall of Famers are definitely deserving of being in the WHF Hall of Fame. A few years ago, I nominated Chief Harlin McEwen (Ret) who has probably won every award public-safety-community organizations can bestow on a person. However, Harlin was deemed not to be a fit for the WHF because his long, stellar career was in public-safety communications and then FirstNet. However, because he was not firmly entrenched in cellular, he has not been inducted into the WHF.

Now, I am back to calling for the public-safety community and its vendors to start their own LMR/Broadband Hall of Fame. Once it is formed, there would need to be a determination of how many inductees there should be in the first year. Off the top of my head, I think thirty or more would be a good beginning. The list should start with those who worked so diligently to convince Congress to approve FirstNet. The next inductees would be those who followed and made it happen (some are one in the same). I have my list and I am sure many of you have your lists, which can include a few people we lost along the way. This is something we should definitely undertake to preserve our history and I am hopeful that someone will pick up the ball and run with it!

Until next week…

Andrew M. Seybold
©2022 Andrew Seybold, Inc.   


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