Snake Oil Pitches And Wooden Nickels

By Richard Mirgon, Public Safety Consultant

I would like to start this article by making one distinction between myself and other people who write. That distinction is I am public safety. Yes, I have been retired and I am doing consulting but I have “been there and done that” and I have the 30 plus years of experience and as they say “experience is the best teacher”. So, what’s my point? My point is there is a distinction between those of us with decades of experience and those who write hoping someone will listen to their snake oil pitches and offerings of wooden nickels.

Here is where I am going with this. There are those who write about FirstNet who may have fancy letters behind their names, but in fact have never worked in the public safety community, were not part of the vision and have no experience in public safety communication or response. They are simply trying to make a name for themselves blogging to drive their business. These same people take statements out of context, make quotes from documents without the entire statement and simply mislead public safety. As I pointed out in my last article, lives are at stake with this new and innovative public safety network. Too many of these people are simply snake oil salesmen of the 21st century. They are Monday morning quarterbacks who never had a ticket to the game, let alone participated.
The other current issue I find entertaining are the companies that now want to be your wireless vendor of choice. Where were they in competing for the FirstNet award? Many years ago, some of these companies had excellent public safety offerings, but have chosen to move away from the public safety market. There wasn’t enough money or interest to support public safety. Word on the street is that they now want to find a way to compete with FirstNet by offering look alike products and services. Is this to compete or to disrupt the market or do they really care about the first responder community?

Those companies who cared about public safety submitted bids to FirstNet with the best offer winning. Was it the best offer for public safety? In my view, absolutely yes. I will say it again. I was part of the team that built the vision and what I will tell you is FirstNet captured that vision and the winning bidder showed in their bid they understood and supported that vision. Not only did they understand what public safety was asking for, they are providing more than we could have ever hoped for.

Anyone who has ever been a first responder or a technology provider within the public safety community knows how difficult it is to build interoperable systems and to keep them up to date. Public safety has spent billions, yes billions, of taxpayer money trying to solve this problem. We continue to need interoperable communications to respond to manmade and natural disasters. Just because you’re on an IP wireless network doesn’t mean you have interoperability. If you believe that, you don’t understand the complexity of such networks which is why there is FirstNet and a single nationwide provider.
Many are saying “the vendor doesn’t have the coverage”. The reality is this is day one and just the beginning. Billions of dollars are about to be invested in the FirstNet Network. It will grow with us and will only get better with time and support. When we as public safety engage in the solution and the provider, the network grows and improves. Please understand the plan was never viewed as having complete coverage on day one. The vision was to have a large starting footprint that will grow with our needs. We have won that and FirstNet has brought us to this starting point.

We are all best served by supporting and working with FirstNet and the partner. Don’t be taking wooden nickels or betting the lives of first responders on solutions that are not true public safety solutions. These solutions are not driven by first responders and won’t solve the interoperability problem. They won’t provide enhanced services or public safety support. Those “other” solutions will actually put first responders at risk.

This is the “First Responder Network”, your network, and it is public safety’s obligation to be part of the solution by working together.


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




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