Recently, emergency response professionals from across the country gathered in Baltimore, Md., for the annual EMS Today JEMS Conference and Exposition. It was great to catch up with so many former colleagues and familiar faces. Among many noteworthy issues discussed at this year’s conference, I was pleased to see a number of sessions that touched on how EMS can integrate new technologies and applications. This is right in line with FirstNet’s mission, which is to build and operate a nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN).
Also that week, I was able to participate in the annual Joint National EMS Leadership Forum. It was great to talk to the various EMS associations about FirstNet and how to get their members educated about the network and to get involved in its development.
The nation’s EMS personnel operate in a mobile environment: when duty calls, they need to have immediate access to all of their life-saving tools, including communications. Yet, as the world around us has changed, with citizens and businesses utilizing a myriad of portable devices and apps to stay connected, we have not yet begun to realize the full potential of new technologies. FirstNet’s goal is to equip first responders with the 21st century technology they need to do their essential job—save lives and property.
What is FirstNet?
FirstNet is an independent government authority established by Congress in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. FirstNet has a unique operating structure and a staff of talented and dedicated individuals who are committed to making the NPSBN a success. The Board includes a cross representation of public safety, technical, network and industry experts.
Our leadership team, led by CEO Mike Poth and President TJ Kennedy, brings the right blend of public safety and technology experience that is needed to make the network a reality. The Board and staff have worked to foster an inclusive, transparent and productive dialogue between FirstNet and the public safety community throughout the U.S. at all levels of government to plan for this network.
What Will the Network Do?
The FirstNet network will fulfill a fundamental need of the public safety community and implements a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to provide interoperable communications for first responders. For many practitioners, their personal technological devices are often more advanced than the equipment they use for their jobs, and they can be limited when traditional or widely-used communications methods breakdown. Once deployed, the FirstNet network will help put innovative tools and technologies into the hands of EMS personnel and their first responder partners in the field.
This network will be a cutting edge broadband system that evolves with technology. It will have the capacity to handle public safety personnel’s voice, data and video needs. Even during emergencies, EMS personnel will always have priority access to the network, moving first responder communications into the next generation.
We realize this is a monumental undertaking; building a national communications network for public safety has never been done before. That’s why we recently put out a request for proposals to form a public-private partnership with industry to deploy this network. This partnership will enable us to leverage the private sector’s expertise and infrastructure to deploy and operate the network. At the same time, our mission drives the bottom line for this network; we are committed to public safety and service, and so will the network.
Moving forward, we value your input as we ramp up the second phase of consultation; we want to hear your voice as we move forward with planning and eventual build out; and we need you to encourage your EMS colleagues to participate in the process. In other words, we can build the network, but if first responders don’t feel like it is “their network,” we haven’t done our job.
Please get involved—through your state’s single point of contact (SPOC), your national and state associations, and by reaching out to FirstNet directly. We want to know your requirements and work through any concerns you have. Since FirstNet’s inception, we have placed a tremendous priority on consultation and outreach with public safety stakeholders, and as we move into the next stage of our planning we will continue to rely and lean on the unique needs of our public safety partners to assure this network is definitively their network.