Urgent Communications: Clearer Timeline for FirstNet Not Expected until 2015


States and localities will have a clearer understanding of the cost to participate in the public-safety broadband network after a comprehensive request for proposals goes out in early 2015, according to Amanda Hilliard,FirstNet’s director of outreach.

“As we go through that process and get responses back and make an award, we’ll have a lot more information and detail on potential cost and build-out of the network that will then get incorporated into the state plans,” Hilliard said Wednesday during an IWCE’s Urgent communications webinar on the “State of the States.”

For agencies that are preparing for the coming of FirstNet, while trying to maintain their current communications systems, those answers cannot come soon enough.

“Everybody wants to know what is this going to cost us in the end. What is the business model? What is it going to cost? How is it going to operate in the end,” said Scott Neal, director of the Pennsylvania State Police’s Bureau of Communications and Information Services.

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Highlands Ranch, CO, Tower touted as boost to safety, Highlands Ranch Herald

Highlands Ranch plan would aid first responders, by Christy Steadman, Posted 7/23/14

Plans are in the works for a new 180-foot-tall communications tower, proposed to be built on Grigs Road, which would improve public and first responder safety in the event of a disaster in Highlands Ranch.

The purpose of the tower is to improve emergency communication in the northern part of Douglas County for first responders, including, but not limited to, law enforcement, fire departments, schools, public works and road crews.

“Public safety is paramount,” said Robert McMahan, captain of support services in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. “Douglas County is working on providing the best public safety communication for the citizens.”

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From Arlington, TX: Arlington Firefighter Returns from Nerve-Wracking Work in Israel


PANTEGO — When you fight fires for more than two decades, there’s a good chance you’ll have a couple of close calls.

Billy Hirth just had three or four in the course of one week.  The 52-year-old Arlington firefighter was helping Israeli firefighters respond to emergencies near the border with Gaza.

“There were just different things,” he said. “At one point, a radio goes off in Hebrew, everyone runs. I figure that was a good sign I should run […] a rocket hit about 600 feet from us.”

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FCC Order Would Require Carriers, OTT Providers to Deploy Text-to-911, Courtesy TRDaily

A draft second report and order circulated today for the FCC’s Aug. 8 meeting would require all wireless carriers and interconnected, over-the-top (OTT) texting providers by year-end to be capable of deploying text-to-911 services, an FCC official told TRDaily. Providers would have to provide text-to-911 offerings within six months of a valid public safety answering point (PSAP) request.

The order, included on the Aug. 8 tentative meeting agenda released today, follows up on a policy statement and second further notice of proposed rulemaking adopted in January (TRDaily, Jan. 30) in PS dockets 11-153 and 10-255. The statement and second further notice sought to press smaller wireless carriers and interconnected OTT texting providers to become capable of deploying text-to-911 services by the end of this year.

In an agreement between public safety groups and the four national wireless carriers, those providers met a May 15 deadline for being capable of deploying text-to-911 services to PSAPs. The draft order would codify that accord.

In a companion third further notice of proposed rulemaking also circulated today, the FCC also plans to solicit comments “on potential improvements to current text-to-911 technology, such as through better location information,” according to the tentative agenda.

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NPSTC Governing Board Member Highlights Importance of NPSTC Work When Fire Hits Home

NPSTC Governing Board Member Highlights Importance of NPSTC Work When Fire Hits Home

By John McIntosh, Forestry Conservation Communications Association (FCCA)

“NPSTC has been spot on focusing on the absolute need for hardening of radio sites, communications infrastructure and making sure that these systems are redundant and properly maintained.”

It was deeply moving to hear of the tragedy befalling Debbie Replogle of the NPSTC staff and her home in the Methow Valley, Okanogan County, Washington. It is one of many stories I have heard from friends and acquaintances here in Washington State as this fire event grips public attention and commands significant resources to attempt to control it. My wife and I just drove through this area two weeks ago and marveled at the scenery.

Having been an officer with the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Police (WDFW), I have worked in both Okanogan and Chelan Counties many times, now the venues of catastrophic wildland fires. It is one of the most scenic areas of Washington State and supports a large tourism and agricultural industries; both of which are severely impacted by these events. But is unfortunately also prone to catastrophic wildland fires.

From an operational and public safety perspective, WDFW Police staff in both counties have been mobilized to man road blocks and form strike teams to evacuate residents. There are many seasonal residents in the area who have never realized the risk of wildland fire.

The entire area operates on VHF high band with many repeater sites in the affected area. The power is out and I understand that many sites are on battery backup or generator power due to the wooden power line poles burning out. I spoke to the WDFW Regional Director for the area and he was mentioning that the WDFW Methow River Fish Hatchery was in danger of burning down but had been saved because of the fish planting tanker trucks were used in fire service. The hatchery is operating on backup power. I mention this to illustrate the scope of the disaster. Continue reading

Important Legislation for Hams: Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014

This Act will ensure that every ham in the US, regardless of the community they live in, will have the opportunity to practice their avocation from their own homes without breaking any rules or fear of reprisal.

In June, 2014 with Congressman Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) as the sponsor and Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) as co-sponsor, HR 4969 – the “Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014” – was introduced into the 113th Congress.  This bipartisan effort would direct the FCC to extend the “reasonable accommodation” provisions for Amateur Radio antennas to include all types of land-use regulation, including deed restrictions and restrictive covenants.  For more information, visit  http://www.arrl.org/hr-4969

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FCC Promises to Hold 911 Providers Accountable for Outages, Courtesy TRDaily

Telecom carriers that provide 911 services will be held fully accountable for issues that occur on their networks regardless of whether the issue is caused by a third party, David Simpson, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau¸ said today during an address to attendees of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ summer meeting.

Both the FCC Bureau and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission are currently investigating a multi-state 911 outage that occurred in April.  Technical problems in an Intrado facility in Colorado prevented more than 4,400 911 calls from being forwarded to public safety answering points (PSAPs) in Washington, Minnesota, and North Carolina.  Several other states including California were affected by the outage.  CenturyLink, Inc., and its vendor Intrado, Inc., told the FCC and the UTC that they have taken steps to avoid another major 911 outage. Continue reading