Mission Critical Reports: NPSTC Says FirstNet Should Move Up First Responder Location to 2019

By Sandra Wendelken, Editor, Friday, November 17, 2017 | Comments

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) said in a position paper the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) should step up its timeline for implementing location-based services to track first responders. NPSTC said first responder tracking should be implemented by June 2019, but FirstNet officials said they would provide enhanced location

FirstNet’s request for proposals (RFP) documents required enhanced location four years after contract award, which would be March 2021. Initial state plans noted that enhanced location would be available five years after contract award or March 2022, NPSTC said.

“During recent Congressional testimony, both FirstNet and AT&T stated their intention to provide enhanced location at some point in 2020,” the paper said. “FirstNet’s board has also indicated a preference for enhanced location services to be implemented by 2019.”

FirstNet board members declined to comment.

“We want to get this technology out in the field ahead of schedule but only after it has been tested and proven to work as promised for public safety,” said a FirstNet spokesperson. “As an advocate for public safety and administrator of the network contract, FirstNet’s role is to ensure that location-based technology is available to public safety as soon as possible, but first we have to make sure these solutions meet public safety’s needs and expectations for location-based services.”

The FCC does not require carriers to locate first responders, only the locations of 9-1-1 callers to public-safety answering points (PSAPs).

“The ability of FirstNet to incorporate location technology to field responders into its network is of critical importance to first responder safety,” NPSTC said. “This includes the ability to locate first responders in both outdoor and indoor environments.”

NPSTC said it would to assist FirstNet, including through its Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), in its efforts to develop responder-tracking technologies.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) expressed support NPSTC’s position statement. “Tracking the precise location of emergency responders in both outdoor and indoor environments through FirstNet is of critical importance to first responder safety,” said Gary McCarraher, fire chief in Franklin, Massachusetts, and chair of the IAFC’s Communications Committee. “While we recognize the difficulty facing carriers to develop effective location technology — especially inside multistory buildings — the IAFC strongly agrees with FirstNet and NPSTC that enhanced location services are critically important to the safety of firefighters, EMS personnel and police officers and calls on FirstNet and AT&T to meet the June 2019 timeline.”