This is the latest in a series of blogs highlighting FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). The PSAC consists of members representing associations and agencies from all disciplines of public safety, as well as state, territorial, tribal, and local governments, and provides guidance and recommendations to FirstNet in carrying out its duties and responsibilities. Its input is invaluable to the development of the FirstNet network.
Fire chiefs from around the country lead one of the major groups of potential FirstNet network users. FirstNet has the potential to vastly increase firefighters’ communications, improving safety for both firefighters and the civilians they protect.
Firefighters in big cities have unique challenges as they deal with large buildings, crowded streets, and dense populations. Chiefs in these areas are represented nationally by the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro Chiefs), a section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Metro Chiefs brings together fire chiefs from large metropolitan fire departments across the country and enables them to collaborate and share information on major issues affecting fire departments and firefighters.
Metro Chiefs is a designated member of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), and Chief Niles Ford is the Metro Chiefs’ current PSAC representative. Ford is the Fire Chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) and has over 25 years of experience in fire services and EMS. Chief Ford has had a distinguished career during which he has, among other things, encouraged increased engagement by the BCFD within the community and been instrumental in increasing the hiring of local residents by the BCFD.
Chief Ford is a huge proponent of FirstNet and of increasing data and technology use in the fire service, having seen its value firsthand. “FirstNet is going to be the gift that keeps on giving,” Chief Ford says. “It’s being developed so it can evolve… [and] it gives [us] an opportunity to build upon what we’re doing.”
FirstNet recently met with the Metro Chiefs Executive Board to discuss the importance of public safety organizations in large metropolitan areas participating in the FirstNet State Plan decisions in their respective States. FirstNet has been working on specific engagements with the leadership of large metropolitan areas to ensure that the needs of these areas are met by the FirstNet network.
In addition, FirstNet staff – including Vicki Lee, a former volunteer firefighter and current FirstNet State Plan Advisor – attended the Metro Chiefs Annual Conference in Long Beach, CA, where many of the discussions focused on the importance of data access and use by fire service personnel. The FirstNet network should improve firefighters’ coverage, capacity, and service and could revolutionize the way the fire services respond to incidents and emergencies.
FirstNet recognizes the benefit of engaging at a regional level so that stakeholders across a region have a common understanding of the network. The FirstNet Metro Leadership Engagement team recently held a meeting with Chief Brian Fennessy from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department in which they discussed network specifications and how the metro area leadership can start preparing for the FirstNet network.
Metro Chiefs is a longtime supporter of FirstNet and is an active participant in the planning and development of the FirstNet network. We look forward to continue working with them as we deploy the network for public safety.