By Dave Buchanan, FirstNet Director of State Consultation
On January 14, members of the FirstNet team met with numerous local, state, federal and tribal public safety practitioners – including those from law enforcement, fire, and EMS – about planning for the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) in Colorado. Overall, more than 120 representatives from the state’s public safety and private sector communities participated in the initial consultation meeting – FirstNet’s 11th to date. While we have had a number of discussions with the state about key aspects of network planning, it was great to have a diverse and large number of public safety professionals come together to share ideas about how to plan for and deploy the NPSBN in Colorado.
Coverage issues were a key topic of discussion at the meeting, as they have been in most of our state consultation engagements to date. Colorado officials talked about how unique their state is in that almost half of its counties are considered "frontier." As they explained during the meeting, this requires federal, state, local and tribal emergency response agencies to use an “all hands on deck” approach with regard to coordinating transportation, public works, search and rescue, healthcare, and educational institutions during emergencies in those parts of the state.
State and local officials also discussed how Colorado’s terrain presents communications challenges given the presence of the Rocky Mountains and interior plains throughout the state. They mentioned that this can impact their ability to establish interagency communications and develop situational awareness in these and other remote and frontier areas. Collectively, we talked about how FirstNet’s future Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for building the NPSBN should take into account the need to address these and other types of uncovered areas. I noted that this was a good example of how the consultation process was helping inform our RFP development work.
Further, Colorado state and local public safety representatives also presented a number of real world, or “use case,” examples of how public safety communications functioned during large planned events and emergencies in the state– including the annual USA Pro Challenge cycling event, the Aurora Theater shooting, and the Waldo Canyon Fire. On the canyon fire, Colorado Springs Fire Department Captain and Public Information Officer Steve Oswald, and Acting Battalion Chief Captain Tim Deleon, discussed how having access to more broadband capabilities could have benefitted the response operations. “A network where we can transmit video and data is a critical need,” Oswald said.
Walt Lesley, Assistant Director of Technology and Mike Brunswig, Assistant Director of Administration at Adams County Communication Center, Inc. (ADCOM 911), delivered an update on the Police, Fire and EMS Dispatch Center, which is deploying a 700 Megahertz (MHZ) Long Term Evolution (LTE) network with funds from a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant award. Walt and Mike provided a status update on the project, shared some best practices, and demonstrated key benefits of using the network, which now has 16 sites “on air.”
While we covered a lot more ground over the course of the day-long meeting, my overall takeaway is that Colorado is dedicated and committed to making the NPSBN a success in their state. I was also impressed with the outreach and engagement efforts that the state single point of contact (SPOC), Brian Shepherd, has established in the state.
On behalf of FirstNet, I’d like to thank all attendees for their participation, and Brian and his team for organizing the meeting. It was also great to meet with other state and public safety officials such as Stan Hilkey, who is the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Suma Nallapati, the state’s Chief Technology Officer, and representatives from Governor John Hickenlooper’s office. Also in attendance were representatives and SPOCs from several other states - including Arizona, South Dakota, New Mexico, Washington, and Hawaii – who helped share lessons learned and best practices about the FirstNet consultation and planning efforts.
To learn more about Colorado’s efforts to plan for the public safety broadband network, I would encourage you to visit the “FirstNet In Colorado” website.
View Photos of the Colorado Consultation below from the FirstNet Flickr: