This post is a part of the First Responder Network Authority’s Meet the Public Safety Advocacy Team blog series, introducing you to FirstNet Authority’s leading partners with the public safety community.
Public safety outreach is a critical component to our proactive approach of enhancing and growing the FirstNet network. True to its mission, the First Responder Network Authority’s Public Safety Advocacy team developed an extensive engagement strategy aimed at collaborating with all public safety disciplines, including law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, 9-1-1, and emergency medical services throughout the 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.
The Public Safety Advocacy team for the East represents 19 states within a geographically diverse region, including:
In 2019, the Public Safety Advocacy team for the East worked alongside local, state, tribal, and federal public safety organizations in over 350 engagements to determine the right communications plan of action for each area. Whether it’s cutting through congestion in the upper northeast’s densely populated states, reaching across vast tracts of rural or mountainous lands in Appalachia, or deploying network assets to the coasts during tropical storms and hurricanes, our team of experts can help you identify how dedicated public safety broadband can support your operations.
Ehrin Ehlert, Area Director for the East, leads a diverse and knowledgeable team of experts with backgrounds across all public safety disciplines, and local and state governments. The team works with emergency management and other public safety professionals throughout their region to support the issues and concerns important to their community. Since joining FirstNet in 2016, Ehrin has created an effective public outreach strategy to increase awareness, involvement and support for FirstNet’s projects and programs.
Ehrin says, “For about two decades now and specifically since 9/11, public safety has fought for a nationwide broadband network that would interoperate with all agencies across the United States. And that is what FirstNet provides.”
Ehrin began his public safety career working for Tennessee State Parks and later for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. While serving as a law enforcement officer, Ehrin was selected to serve as the State Point of Contact for FirstNet and subsequently appointed Deputy Statewide Interoperability Coordinator. Ehrin remains a commissioned police officer, and he continues to train new officers and participate in emergency response and recovery efforts.
Billy Freeman, Senior Public Safety Advisor, advocates on behalf of first responders and public safety organizations in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Billy engages public safety organizations and first responders to better understand their technical and operations communication needs. Billy is driven to bring FirstNet’s advanced communication platform to current and future generations of first responders, like his own son who currently serves as a firefighter/paramedic in Tennessee.
Billy says, “My work allows me to interact with front line public safety organizations and other essential agencies. It is an honor to support FirstNet’s dedicated communications system to help responders and keep citizens safe.”
Before joining the FirstNet Authority, Billy served in the U.S. Army and dedicated 28 years of service to the Memphis Fire Department. Billy shares the lessons he’s learned throughout his career while teaching hazard communications courses to local firefighters and communications personnel in his community.
Charles (“Chuck”) R. Murph, Jr., Senior Public Safety Advisor and FirstNet Authority Subject Matter Expert for Emergency Management, is responsible for public safety advocacy in the states of Alabama and Florida. Chuck regularly conducts consultation and outreach activities with public safety stakeholders across the region.
Chuck says, “Being a part of the FirstNet Authority is an opportunity to transform public safety operations based on technology that public safety lobbied to create.”
Before joining the FirstNet Authority, Chuck gained 25 years of public safety experience working in the fields of volunteer fire rescue, emergency management and state homeland security. Chuck is most proud of his work serving as a volunteer firefighter protecting his hometown.
Gerald Risner, Senior Public Safety Advisor, covers the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Gerald works on behalf of public safety to develop positive relationships with the first responders in these communities.
Gerald says, “The FirstNet Authority allows me to interact daily with those who selflessly serve to keep us all safe.”
Gerald’s 20+ years of public safety experience ranges from working as a radio technician to managing the State of Tennessee statewide radio systems. For Gerald, learning about public safety’s mission critical needs helps to advance and sustain public safety in the future.
David Cook, Senior Public Safety Advisor, advocates for public safety stakeholders for the states of New York, New Jersey, Vermont and the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. David works across these states to ensure that FirstNet will continue to address their operational and technical needs as they evolve and grow.
David says, “The FirstNet Authority’s mission is powered by our commitment to creating a network that public safety needed years ago and still needs today.”
In David’s 45 years of public safety service, he served as a fire chief and has managed response and recovery efforts for law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, and 9-1-1. This experience led David to working on behalf of the State of New York where he managed government data flow, oversaw statewide interoperability planning, and chaired major federal planning initiatives. David’s son is currently following in his father’s public safety career working as a New York State Trooper. David is driven to serve public safety for the valuable opportunity it has given him to contribute to creating a more reliable communications experience for emergency responders.
Lori Stone, Senior Public Safety Advisor, oversees outreach and consultation for the states of the West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. When she first joined the FirstNet Authority in 2015, Lori served as the Single Point of Contact in Maryland during the early planning and implementation stages of FirstNet.
Lori says, “It’s gratifying to see FirstNet that has long been planned for become a reality and to have people share their network experiences along the way.”
Prior to joining the FirstNet Authority, Lori gained experience on legal, policy, and planning initiatives related to emergency management and public safety communications for the State of Maryland. She also developed Continuity of Operations Plans and exercises for high education institutions, hospitals, and non-profit organizations, as well as oversaw public safety communications grant programs.
Bruce Fitzgerald, Senior Public Safety Advisor, serves as Senior Public Safety Advisor for the states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Bruce regularly stays engaged with public safety stakeholders across the region by providing frequent updates on the FirstNet network, program developments, and future plans.
Bruce says, “While working hand-in-hand with public safety stakeholders, my goal is to help communities understand that FirstNet is as a fully operational communication platform that provides our first responders with the critical communications capabilities they need most during emergency response.”
Bruce brings over 15 years of public safety, crisis management, program direction, and government relative experience to the FirstNet Authority. Bruce’s public safety career includes working for AT&T as a FirstNet principal consultant for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, where he partnered with public safety agencies to adopt and implement FirstNet.
Bruce previously served as the State Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director for Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Bruce has also served in leadership roles with the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) and Northeast States Emergency Consortium (NESEC), and in 2012, he led a team of state and private officials and the National Guard to assist the City of New York in recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
Do you have feedback or questions about public safety communications in your community? Contact your local public safety advisor.