FirstNet Board Members Seek to Reassure Public Safety
Tuesday, February 05, 2013 | Comments
Source: FirstNet
Two First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board members sought to calm fears and criticisms from public-safety officials that the board isn’t tuned into local and state needs. The board also provided more details on how public-safety officials can communicate their needs to FirstNet.
“Public safety has a high standard and a higher need for resiliency,” said Craig Farrill, FirstNet acting general manager. “We get that. Reliability is the foundation of what we’re doing.”
Farrill and Kevin McGinnis, FirstNet board member, made presentations at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International Emerging Technologies conference last week in Anaheim, Calif.
Farrill said the board is grateful for the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) statement of requirements, the NPSTC public-safety broadband high-level launch requirements and the more than 100 responses the board received to its notice of inquiry on a proposed network architecture. He said public safety outlined 1,300 detailed requirements, and the board intends to meet all of them.
The board understands the public-safety broadband network must be a robust standalone network with backup from commercial networks, followed by satellite and then rapidly deployable systems during and following emergencies that take down entire systems, Farrill said.
The board’s major reach-out phase to the public-safety community around the country will begin this quarter, said McGinnis. The board members plan to visit all of the 56 states and territories during the coming months. State coordinators should be in place, and McGinnis encouraged public-safety officials to identify their state point of contact to FirstNet and communicate their needs.
Second visits to each state and territory will follow, Farrill said. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) intends to open the application window for the $135 million state and local implementation grant program in the first quarter of 2013. These grants are intended for outreach and to communicate needs to the board, he said.
As required by law, governors will designate an individual or entity to serve as the point of contact with FirstNet and NTIA on all matters pertaining to the nationwide public-safety broadband network. To support state activities now, the National Governors Association (NGA) assembled points of contact (PoCs) for public-safety broadband matters. These designations were also made by the governor but may not be the same as those designated through the NTIA process, said Heather Hogsett, NGA director of the Committee on Health and Homeland Security. Hogsett is one of four vice chairs of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC).
“The NGA PoCs form a group that is helping support implementation of the network and address state-specific issues,” Hogsett said. “Many states are conducting their own outreach to key local and public-safety officials within their boundaries. More of this will come. In the interim, NGA is helping put public-safety officials in contact with the key players in his or her states when such questions arise.”
“In the coming months, we are in the listening process,” Farrill said.
“The PSAC will greatly facilitate sharing critical information regarding the network and will be utilized to help address questions or concerns that arise,” Hogsett said. “PSAC membership was carefully considered to include a wide array of key stakeholders. Public-safety officials are urged to contact their representative national organization — for example, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) or International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) — to ensure that their representative on the PSAC has the value of their feedback, concerns and questions. Once the PSAC is officially established, more information and a more formal process for gathering input will be announced.” 
The information reassured some public-safety officials who attended the event. Patrick Mallon, executive director, Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS), said he agreed with the board members’ comments that there must be local control, even though it will be a nationwide network. In addition, not relying solely on commercial networks is critical for public safety, he said.
The board also plans to release a notice of inquiry on user devices. In addition, the board’s business plan is on track for an April release, Farrill said.
Farrill said network operations centers (NOCs) will likely be located in each state, and that is where part of the $7 billion allocated under the bill will be spent.
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