There was a lot of news covering many different subjects this past two weeks. Most important for Public Safety is all of the activity surrounding the FirstNet Board of Directors meeting and the information that was released during the public committee and then Public Board Meeting. Since I was not able to attend either, and was not able to watch the proceedings in real time on the web, I will comment on only what I saw during the video replay and from what I have heard since the events this week.
First was the appointment of Sue Swenson as the new Chairman of the FirstNet Board. Sue is an industry veteran who has served on the board since the beginning. She was deeply involved in the FirstNet/BTOP grant discussions that led up to allowing some but not all of the BTOP grant recipients to move forward. While she comes from the commercial side of the industry she has earned the respect of many within the Public Safety community and is looked upon as someone who cares about getting FirstNet up and running and getting it done the right way the first time around. I, for one, am very pleased with this appointment.
The news is mostly positive for FirstNet this time around. Public Safety really wants this to happen and even though there have been too many delays based on Federal bureaucratic imposed limitations as to the true power of the BOD when it comes to hiring, firing, and running the business, the Public Safety community, for the most part, still wants to see it succeed. If FirstNet had been a private corporation or if those at the Department of Commerce/NTIA had interpreted its Congressional mandate differently we would no doubt be much further down the road. In the business world, hiring full-time employees, vetting them, and bringing them onboard is a 2-4 week process in most cases. Bringing a consultant onboard takes even less time, and having preliminary discussions with potential vendors is the norm, not having to go through an extended Request for Information (RFI) process.
The problem with the RFI process is that since it is a public filing those responding won’t truly provide real, concrete information because their competitors will be privy to the contents. So for better or worse, we are saddled with a system where the “company” running the project, designing it, building it or having it built, and then managing it is not the organization that has the final say in what actually happens. I have to remain confident that these issues will be resolved, but I can tell you that if FirstNet was truly an independent company there would be “sticks in the ground,” partnerships signed and onboard, and equipment in the field ready for deployment. No private investors or stockholders who paid for stock would sit still for this long without seeing any tangible results or income stream.
In other news, the NPSTC Public Safety Grade Document (http://www.npstc.org/download.jsp?tableId=37&column=217&id=3070&file=NPSTC_Press_Release_140522_newer.pdf), which is now public, is an important document. When I was a vice-chair of the APCO Broadband Committee we provided the communications site portion of the document to NPSTC and worked many long, hard hours. Joe Ross of Televate and I co-Chaired this task but many others including the Broadband Committee Chairman, Bill Schrier, and the entire committee invested hundreds of hours of time on this one segment of the report. We knew from the start that many existing Public Safety sites did not meet the “mission-critical” requirements set forth in the document but we hoped, and continue to hope, that it will be reviewed not only by the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Council and FirstNet but that many local organizations would read it and at least perform an initial assessment of their own Public Safety sites, perhaps over time making some changes to bring them closer into compliance.
We are using this document in my County to evaluate our existing sites and as we add new sites to the Public Safety systems. Not in the news but important for First Responders, and MORE important for those building communications systems for First Responders, it should be noted that sometimes the incidents are so quick and so fast that what you have available to you is what you have period. Here in Santa Barbara during the Isla Vista incident the entire rampage (after the murders inside the apartment) took only 8 minutes. During that time, 12 crime scenes developed, 50 rounds of ammunition were fired, and two people were run down by the shooter’s car. There was no time to establish an Incident Command system, no time for planning, no time for a master communications plan, no attempt to bring in cells on wheels, portable repeaters, or a command vehicle. Everything was over in a short 8 minutes! Have a great weekend, Andy Continue reading