Fall 2022 was a busy time for the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet Authority) Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and its Tribal Working Group (TWG). Both groups returned to in-person meetings, with members eager to catch up and get to work planning 2023 engagements.
Tribal Working Group Updates
Early in November, TWG delegates gathered in Boulder, Colorado, at the FirstNet Authority’s Technical Headquarters. After a day of productive discussions with the group and FirstNet Authority leadership, TWG members toured the Boulder FirstNet Lab and tested out the Public Safety Immersive Test Center (PSITC), a virtual environment for technology training, testing, and research and development.
The group welcomed two of its newest members, Chief of Police Jess Hall from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Indians, and Tico Charlee, Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Office. Acting Chair Gerad Godfrey led the group’s discussion around FirstNet in Indian Country, noting its usefulness in the 2018 Anchorage Earthquake, when commercial cell networks were overwhelmed by public use. The group also discussed broadband connectivity on tribal lands, sharing the benefits of FirstNet-connected devices during search and rescue operations, and learning about the Tribal AMBER Alert in Indian Country program from Fox Valley Technical College representatives.
The TWG delegates in Boulder also had the opportunity to address FirstNet Authority staff on a virtual call, highlighting their work in tribal public safety and emphasizing the need for the FirstNet Authority to continually improve public safety communications and the FirstNet network.
Later in the month, more than 20 PSAC members gathered in Tysons, Virginia, alongside the FirstNet Authority Board, leadership, and staff. After several years of engaging exclusively virtually, the group enjoyed convening in full again. They heard timely updates and had discussions with the FirstNet Authority teams on recent accomplishments and future plans, as well as with AT&T leadership on momentum and buildout progress for the FirstNet network. PSAC members also discussed the work each of their associations plans to do in the near future, and how it ties to FirstNet.
PSAC Chair Chris Lombard led the group in the two-day meeting, noting the new members since the PSAC last met in person. He commended all the members for remaining engaged virtually and encouraged everyone to use the time together to connect with their colleagues.
PSAC members participated in an operational scenario workshop, talking through a flood response and highlighting and prioritizing different communications capabilities and technologies. The dialogue demonstrated the dynamic needs of all kinds of responders and public safety professionals. FirstNet Authority Board members listened in on the workshop, gathering new perspectives and feedback directly from PSAC members.
During discipline breakout discussions, PSAC members enjoyed the opportunity to speak directly and candidly with the FirstNet Authority subject matter experts for each of their disciplines. They were able to dive into details on the issues that face their stakeholders and peers most directly—such as mission critical push-to-talk for law enforcement, wildland versus structural firefighting, telemedicine for fire/EMS, and call-taking and dispatch for 9-1-1/emergency communications officials.
These discussions will serve as the basis for the 2023 discipline engagements, bringing specific, targeted content to discipline-focused groups across the country. The data collection and feedback gathered will bolster the FirstNet Authority’s investment in the network and future innovations for public safety’s use of FirstNet.
The FirstNet Authority is pleased to have hosted two great gatherings of the PSAC and the TWG, and appreciates the time and expertise of all those in attendance.
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