The Synergy between 9-1-1 & FirstNet

At the NENA Conference recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on the “Synergy between 9-1-1 & FirstNet.” Joining me for this enlightening discussion were: Jackie Mines (Director, Division of Emergency Communication Networks, Department of Public Safety, State of Minnesota, Walt Magnussen (Director for Telecommunications at Texas A&M University and Director of the TAMU Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center - ITEC), and Amanda Hilliard (FirstNet Outreach Director).

This panel offered a unique opportunity to bring the 9-1-1 and FirstNet communities together for a spirited discussion. Although NG9-1-1 and FirstNet are evolving on parallel paths, they are not often part of the same conversation. But they need to be. Here’s why:

  • Public safety communications is made up of three interwoven spheres: the public, the PSAP (or hub), and first responders. Upgrading one domain without enabling the other domains’ ability to accommodate the same technology can only widen the interoperability gap.


  • Next Gen 9-1-1 and Public Safety Broadband should be integrated as part of the overarching Systems of Systems. Not doing so diminishes both initiatives, especially if our mission is true interoperability and end-to-end broadband communications.


  • If a PSAP secures access to video, at some point it only makes sense the PSAP will share that video with first responders in the field. So does this fall under NG9-1-1? Or FirstNet? And should what we call it really matter? These very types of questions highlight the fuzzy intersection of NG9-1-1 and FirstNet.


  • At the State level, the governance model typically splits responsibility for NG9-1-1 and FirstNet coordination out. Minnesota serves as an excellent governance model where the two groups work together to create one governance body. Beyond the obvious collaborative benefit, the approach maximizes funding and resources.


In summary, it’s vitally important for the Public Safety industry to keep the big picture in mind as we move forward with these two transformational initiatives. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind when it concerns something as vitally important as Public Safety communications.

I was pleasantly surprised to see our NENA panel packed with an audience of new and veteran Public Safety communications professionals and private industry, all of whom were engaged in the discussion. As Public Safety professionals, we sometimes have to walk a tightrope, and this is just another stretch. The good news is there appears to be consensus that this is an important enough topic to keep on the table. Personally, I look forward to rolling up my sleeves for the work ahead. It’s too important for us not to work together.

If you want to read more about the “Synergies between 9-1-1 and FirstNet” panel at NENA check out this article in Urgent Communications.

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