FirstNet Urged to ‘Be on Guard’ for Skeptics of Network

September 28, 2016–The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) needs to “be on guard” for skeptics who don’t think that a nationwide public safety broadband network is necessary, a representative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs said during a quarterly meeting in Washington today of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).“There are still skeptics out there on FirstNet,” said Jim Goldstein, government relations manager for the IAFC, citing a recent article in “The Atlantic” that criticized FirstNet (TRDaily, Aug. 10). The article has drawn widespread criticism from the public safety community.

“There are still people out there who are convinced, including … folks on the Hill, that this is not the best thing in the world,” Mr. Goldstein added.  “So just always be on guard.” He added that FirstNet did a good job of discussing the need for the network at a recent IAFC conference. The IAFC board of directors recently approved a statement endorsing FirstNet (TRDaily, Sept. 8).

Mr. Goldstein said some fire officials believe there is more of a challenge to explain to the fire service why the FirstNet system is needed than it is for the law enforcement and emergency medical services communities.“They don’t know until they get it what it means, and I think there’s going to be a real need and urgency for it once it gets there,” he said.

Paul Patrick, chair of the communications committee for the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO), noted that his group passed a resolution at a conference last week supporting FirstNet. Among other things, the resolution said the group “calls upon colleague EMS associations at the state and national levels to encourage governors to allow FirstNet to build radio access networks by not proposing to build their own networks.”

“The thing that’s exciting to me is that the EMS community is starting to get it,” said Mr. Patrick. “We’re just excited to get it out there.” He said the EMS community should be a big use of data on the FirstNet system.

TJ Kennedy asked NPSTC members to help FirstNet communicate “to the end-users” about the benefits of the network. In the next year or two, front-line responders “are the ones that are going to be asking the questions,” he said. – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily