Poarch Highlights APCO’s Goals, Projects
Monday, April 18, 2016 | Comments
Derek K. Poarch is the executive director and CEO of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International. APCO has 10 departments, each with a director who reports to Poarch. The association has 56 full-time employees in two offices — Daytona Beach, Florida, and Alexandria, Virginia.

Poarch has served in the public-safety communications industry for 39 years. He is a life member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and received APCO’s Leadership in Advancing Communications Policy award in 2008 while he was chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB).

MCC: What are the main goals for APCO this year?
Poarch: APCO’s goals fall within five core areas: refresh, strengthen, research and expand training and resources to meet the needs of public-safety communications; ensure APCO’s financial stability; expand the prominence of APCO by increasing advocacy efforts on a national level; increase the value of membership and broaden the opportunities for member participation; and lead public-safety communications in enhancing the understanding and use of emerging technologies.

A major goal for this year is to undertake our recently launched Project 43 – broadband implications for the public-safety answering point (PSAP).

MCC: Tell us more about Project 43.
Poarch: A number of major, broadband-based developments are leading to a paradigm shift in the role of the PSAP. Implementation of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will place broadband communications into the hands of first responders. Next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) technology will enable PSAPs to use broadband data in ways that will transform how the public reaches 9-1-1. Other IP-based technologies, including those supported through smartphones, tablets and mobile apps, are prevalent and capable of sending an array of information to the PSAP. As a result, PSAPs of the future will be the nerve center, managing data-rich communications via broadband technology with 9-1-1 callers and first responders.

Project 43’s goal is to help telecommunicators, PSAPs, 9-1-1 authorities and others in the public-safety community understand existing technology capabilities and prepare for the evolving broadband communications technologies that will impact PSAP operations and improve support to emergency responders. This will entail substantial research and may result in new standards or best practices related to governance, cybersecurity, operations, staffing, training and technical issues.

MCC: What is the best way to enhance 9-1-1 location accuracy?
Poarch: Any public-safety telecommunicator can tell you that location information for wireless calls to 9-1-1, especially when placed from indoors, needs significant improvement. APCO has been a champion of a “dispatchable location,” meaning the address plus additional information such as the apartment number, floor, office suite or whatever is needed to get responders to the person who needs help. This is the gold standard for location accuracy for 9-1-1.

Last year, the FCC adopted new rules, consistent with recommendations APCO helped develop over seven months of negotiations with the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the nation’s largest wireless carriers. We’re working with the carriers, technology vendors and other public-safety stakeholders to ensure dispatchable location solutions are deployed, and that PSAPs have actionable location information. We are seeking to leverage widely deployed, commercial location-based services, which use technologies such as Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth beacons to improve location accuracy for 9-1-1.

Any solutions that are adopted must be sufficiently reliable and secure to meet public safety’s needs. While some ask why certain smartphone apps can locate them but 9-1-1 can’t, the bottom line is that the location features of these apps do not meet the specific requirements for 9-1-1, particularly for more challenging situations such as calls made from indoors.

MCC: How is APCO working with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)?
Poarch: APCO played a key role in securing passage of the legislation that created FirstNet, and we’ve provided guidance and advocacy as FirstNet’s staff has pursued its statutory charge to implement a nationwide public-safety broadband network. There are potentially great synergies between FirstNet and NG 9-1-1, and the law even directs FirstNet to promote integration with PSAPs. We’re in regular contact to ensure that 9-1-1 is given appropriate consideration as the network moves forward. Additionally, APCO and FirstNet have a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to collaborate on mobile apps. We’re sharing lessons learned and feedback collected through AppComm to assist FirstNet with planning for the public-safety apps that will be an essential part of its users’ experience with the network.

MCC: Tell us about AppComm.org.
Poarch: AppComm is APCO’s application community that serves as a trusted place to learn about existing apps, share ideas for new ones, and address important issues to ensure apps for public safety and emergency response are as effective as possible. Mobile apps hold extraordinary potential for public safety, but we know there are unique considerations for security, reliability, privacy and a variety of other factors. Through AppComm, we’ve developed a list of key attributes for effective apps, conducted pilot testing on app efficiency, co-hosted workshops with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to identify public safety’s mobile app security requirements, and published a white paper to caution PSAPs and the public against premature attempts to create “9-1-1” apps. Through our MoU with FirstNet, we’re sharing lessons learned and collaborating to support FirstNet’s mission.

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Sandra Wendelken is editor of MissionCritical Communications and RadioResource International magazines. Contact her at swendelken@RRMediaGroup.com.

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