SPOC Spotlight: Maryland Moves Forward on FirstNet Outreach

April 17, 2014
Ray Lehr, Interoperability Director for the State of Maryland and Maryland Single Point of Contact (SPOC), speaks to a crowd of about 70 first responders at Maryland’s Homeland Security Technology Advancements Training – Central Regional Forum on April 15.
Ray Lehr, Interoperability Director for the State of Maryland and Maryland Single Point of Contact (SPOC), speaks to a crowd of about 70 first responders at Maryland’s Homeland Security Technology Advancements Training – Central Regional Forum on April 15.

Imagine that you are a fire chief, and your team is on the 13th floor of a 26 floor high-rise building that’s on fire – in the middle of night. You send three of your firefighters in a state police helicopter to rappel onto the top of the building so they can advise those trapped inside the building to stay put. They also must try to open up the stairways to let the smoke out. As smoke envelops the site, it is extremely difficult to see. But you know there are two air conditioning units and a six foot antenna – and you hope they can find something safely to land on.

That is a situation that former Assistant Fire Chief for the City of Baltimore Ray Lehr found himself in several years ago – before anyone had access to mobile data capabilities, Geographic Information Systems, or GPS on their smartphones and laptops. Now, Mr. Lehr is the Interoperability Director for the State of Maryland and the state’s Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for coordinating the deployment of the public safety broadband network.

He is excited about a network that will give incident commanders and public safety officials better awareness in situations similar to what he experienced. But Mr. Lehr also realizes that building the network will require significant planning, analysis, outreach, and education to make sure that it meets the needs of the primary users – the state’s law enforcement, firefighters, EMS providers, and other emergency response personnel.

Earlier this week Mr. Lehr led a discussion with about 70 federal, state, and local first responders at Maryland's Homeland Security Technology Advancements Training - Central Regional Forum. The April 15 meeting at the Maryland Department of Transportation Headquarters in Hanover, MD, was one of three meetings being held across the state this month to educate the public safety community about FirstNet and the deployment of a nationwide public safety broadband network. Staff from FirstNet and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Office of Public Safety Communications attended two of the meetings.

Mr. Lehr said the sessions have been helpful for increasing the public safety community’s awareness and education about FirstNet and the network. “We had probably 70 percent of the attendees today that we’re seeing for the first time,” said Mr. Lehr. “They all have a law enforcement role, a public safety role. The questions were thoughtful too; it’s clear they were paying attention and they see the value this [network] can bring and they want to understand it more deeply,” he said. “I thought it was a really good session.”

Among the forum presentations, Maryland officials showed how the Maryland Video Portal (‘MVIEW’) can combine up to nine live video surveillance feeds simultaneously on one screen. They also showed how the Maryland Emergency Management’s ‘OSPREY’ Internet-based mapping system can monitor hazards and emergencies in Maryland.

During a presentation on FirstNet, Max Romanik, who is Regional Coordinator of the Maryland Broadband Team, talked about how the public safety broadband network would help bring all the systems together for the benefit of public safety. “FirstNet can give that last mile of connectivity, it can get the information from the database to the first responder’s hands in real-time,” he said, adding that once the network is built, it will also provide responders with much needed priority, reliability, and secure communications.

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