By Dave Buchanan, FirstNet Director of State Consultation
On November 18th, FirstNet conducted its eighth initial consultation meeting, with this one taking place in Des Moines, Iowa. While the state was experiencing record breaking cold weather on that day, the more than 50 state and local participants generated a lot of energy and ideas regarding Iowa’s communications needs for the public safety broadband network.
The meeting began with a round of introductions to show the variety of public safety agencies and backgrounds of participants in attendance. This included representatives from the Iowa state patrol, county sheriffs, metro police forces, county and metro fire and rescue, EMS, the state homeland security team, and the Iowa departments of health, public works, and transportation. We were also pleased to have 911 coordinators, the Iowa National Guard, and representatives from the Governor’s office bring their perspectives and areas of expertise to the meeting. I personally found all of the participants to be engaged and knowledgeable about FirstNet, and as a result, we were able to quickly foster a dialogue.
As has become routine at these state meetings, the FirstNet team began with a general overview of the consultation and planning process. The team also explained how FirstNet would leverage the responses to the Request for Information and Public Notice to inform our comprehensive network acquisition strategy.
Iowa reported on its statewide outreach efforts for the public safety broadband network. Representatives from the state said they had reached out to more than 60 of its counties to date and plans to form six regional interoperability committees, or RICs, to coordinate efforts throughout the state. Also, Iowa said it was planning a public-private partnership summit for the more than 140 independent and private sector telecom companies in the state to discuss key public safety broadband network components and devices, including the core and radio access network.
Representatives from Iowa also presented several case studies to highlight the use of and challenges with public safety communications during large events and emergencies. This included the Iowa state fair, a simulated pile up of vehicles on a highway during a blizzard, a week long cycling event across the state called RAGBRAI, and the 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids. In each of these cases, the commercial networks became congested, and this impacted some aspects of the response efforts. Further, these case studies demonstrated the need for coverage in rural locations and small towns and resilient infrastructure to withstand extreme weather conditions. Iowa representatives also discussed the use of deployables that can scale to large public events and the need for robust, flexible devices for emergency responders.
Further, representatives from Iowa demonstrated a mobile application that the State Patrol is piloting called TraumaHawk that connects first responder teams at the scene of an accident to trauma units in hospitals. Iowa representatives said that among the benefits of this application, it has helped reduce notification time to a hospital, improve patient analysis, and assemble the right trauma team on arrival.
On behalf of FirstNet I would like to thank those who attended the meeting on November 18th. I would also like to thank the state Single Point of Contact (SPOC), Tom Lampe, and the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC), Craig Allen, for organizing a very informative and lively meeting. To learn more about the state’s efforts to plan for the public safety broadband network, I would encourage you to visit the “Connect Iowa” website at http://www.connectiowa.org/
Find photos from the Iowa Initial Consultation meeting on the FirstNet Flickr