5 Points of Contact Share FirstNet Plans
Wednesday, March 05, 2014 | Comments

With the state consultation meetings slated to begin this spring, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board and state points of contact are busy preparing. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) has been conducting optional coverage workshops to help states consider their coverage needs.

“It is our understanding that OEC has completed coverage workshops for a majority of the states,” said a FirstNet spokeswoman. 

The five points of contact MissionCritical Communications spoke with — Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Oregon and Tennessee — all had completed their workshops.

“We’ve hosted the OEC coverage workshop,” said Sgt. Ehrin Ehlert, Tennessee Highway Patrol. “It went well. We had some local stakeholders, and the reception was very positive. The workshop was a good introduction to FirstNet.”

States will begin phase two, which includes the data collection, after FirstNet finishes its current work determining the technical needs for the nationwide public-safety broadband network, the FirstNet spokeswoman said.

“The goal of the first meetings was to gear up the audience for phase two — the state collection of data infrastructure,” said Oregon’s Point of Contact Steve Noel, Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC), Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Once FirstNet identifies what it wants from the states, Noel said his stakeholders will be ready. The Oregon team hit many of the state’s quarterly conferences in October and November. In the spring, they’ll do another major push.

The first quarterly webinar with the points of contact was held in January, and at least 35 states participated, the FirstNet spokeswoman said. The next webinar will be in April.

“We have been getting informal updates from them for a while and had our first quarterly webinar a few weeks ago,” said Colorado’s Point of Contact Brian Shepherd, broadband program manager, Governor’s Office of Information Technology. “From what I can tell, it seems like they are ready to ramp up their outreach and coordination efforts, which will be very useful. Based on the webinar, I am optimistic they are ready to start moving things forward.”

FirstNet is conducting monthly calls with the states by region and participating in the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) workshops in February and March, the FirstNet spokeswoman said. “FirstNet will use these meetings to provide updates to the states and engage in discussion on consultation and outreach efforts,” she said. “FirstNet will be staffing regional teams over the next several months to engage with the states on a daily basis to conduct outreach and support consultation.”  

FirstNet held the first of two workshops in Atlanta this week for eastern state and territory officials. A second workshop is scheduled March 11 – 12 in Phoenix, Ariz., for western states. The workshop offers a forum for states and territories to interact with FirstNet staff and discuss how planning is going, as well as encourage regional connections and collaborations, a National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) press release said.

Before starting phase two, states must complete phase one. In Florida, from informal discussions with FirstNet members, the state has a general feel of what FirstNet is expecting for the completion of phase one, said Executive Director Julie Jones, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. FirstNet wants to know about the state’s governance with formal relationships documented; examples of goals for outreach and education, including what they are doing and the contact list they are building; the plan for rural areas; and assessment and validation with the user agencies, as well as key and secondary stakeholders identified, she said.

FirstNet okayed a request for information (RFI) Jones released earlier this year. The RFI focuses on planning and implementation to help her office decide what is the most efficient and effective way to use the state’s existing infrastructure and plan for new technology, she said.

To foster communication, Jones’ office created a Basecamp project called FloridaNet that houses all of the state’s documents, discussions, recaps of meetings, emails and more. “I have a very transparent process for all my partners to interact,” Jones said. “This will be our primary forward-facing entity.”

Florida’s first series of workshops began in February, and it will hold others throughout the year around the state. The goal of the initial outreach is to determine the points of contact, begin the assessment of the state’s communications and infrastructure, and risk assessment, she said.

All five of the contacts stressed the importance of casting a wide net for participants. “We basically haven’t turned anyone away, which has been key,” Jones said. “Because FirstNet has been interacting on the federal level, we have a lot of interested parties. They have contacted me and asked how they can participate. We immediately send them to FloridaNet and ask for their participation on a subcommittee.”

Colorado will use the state’s county offices of emergency management (OEM) as the primary access points to local agencies. Once those relationships are established, they will jointly reach out to individual agencies and users in a local and regional format, Shepherd said.

Key participants mentioned by the contacts include state departments of emergency management; police, sheriff and chief associations; emergency response; state chapters of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International; 9-1-1 officials; leagues of cities and associations of counties; public works; and others.

The FirstNet in Oregon office is following a communications plan structure that was developed for a previous project, Noel said. Oregon also has a good planning document it has been sharing, he said. The document is available for download on the Oregon State Interoperability Council website. They've also created a website dedicated to FirstNet in Oregon.

More information from the five state points of contact will be highlighted in “Early State Planning for FirstNet” in the March 2014 issue of MissionCritical Communications

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