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The First Responder Network Authority executive team stands in front of a Shanksville (Pa.) Fire Department fire truck with “United We Stand” banner

Patriot Siren leadership series: Inspiration for our way forward

September 7, 2023

At the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet Authority, we have a critical mission to steward the nationwide public safety broadband network for America’s first responders.

As Executive Director and CEO, I work to ensure our team is ready to support public safety in new and evolving challenges.

One way we are preparing is through the Patriot Siren leadership series. This new program unites the FirstNet Authority executive team to develop a clear understanding of our culture, strategy, and goals.

Heeding the call

We chose the name Patriot Siren because when a siren sounds, it is a call for public safety to activate — similarly, we are ensuring the FirstNet Authority is ready when called.

To be ready, our team must be unified in our passion, drive, and focus.

When we started planning the Patriot Siren series, we put a lot of thought into what would make these sessions impactful — for our geographically diverse leadership team and the organization.

I am a strong believer that getting knee-to-knee is critical to building a powerful and effective team. And so, we designed the Patriot Siren leadership program to be in person. We committed that our executive team would come together on a routine basis in the same room to tackle the organization’s challenges and discuss the opportunities that lie ahead.

We also thought carefully about where these meetings would take place. We chose locations foundational to the FirstNet Authority’s mission. These locations also offered our leadership an opportunity to see first-hand operationally significant areas in order to further understand public safety’s needs.

Hallowed ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Our mission at the FirstNet Authority rose out of the tragedies of September 11. Amid the chaos, first responders struggled to communicate. Congress created our organization to build a dependable network that keeps responders connected when it matters most.

That is why we held our kickoff meeting for the Patriot Siren leadership series in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. On September 11, United Flight 93 crashed into an open field near Shanksville, killing all the passengers and crew, but saving countless other lives. Today, the Flight 93 National Memorial commemorates the crash site.

When the leadership team and I visited the memorial, the sanctity of the site was powerful. We were in awe of the sacrifice, bravery, and loss of these Americans. We also met with the fire chief of the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department, who shared his agency’s history in response to Flight 93.

Beacon of inspiration

This inspiration carried us into two days of work. One of our priorities was to develop a vision for the culture we want at the FirstNet Authority. This led us to develop the first-ever culture statement for the FirstNet Authority and adopt a new set of core values for the organization.

These core values — integrity, the pursuit of learning, synergistic teamwork, unwavering commitment, unbridled creativity, a focus on results, and the promotion of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility — are the beacons guiding our every step.

Building our house

With these values in mind, we set out to create a strategic framework for our organization. I call this building our house. We started with articulating our overarching vision:

Provide our nation’s first responders with the best, most reliable public safety broadband network experience that enables them to protect and serve our communities.

This vision is then supported by four pillars or actions we must take:

Lead. Dedicate. Engage. Innovate.

With our core values and strategic framework in place, the leadership team left Shanksville clear-eyed and inspired to rededicate ourselves and our teams to serving public safety’s communication needs.

Moving tribute in New York City

For the next iteration of the Patriot Siren leadership series, we convened at an equally inspirational and relevant location: near ground zero in New York City. I have visited the 9/11 memorial many times, but it was especially poignant to be there with the FirstNet Authority leadership team.

The site is at the former World Trade Center complex, and the memorial is a moving tribute to the tragedies that occurred there and the resilience of the American people. Our visit was a powerful reminder of the FirstNet Authority’s critical role in supporting public safety’s lifesaving work.

Four key priorities

While in New York, I shared with the team some of my goals for the future of the FirstNet Authority. We worked together to build out four key priorities to focus on in the coming year:

  • Reauthorization of the Program – We must secure Congressional reauthorization of the FirstNet Authority — before the initial authorization sunsets in 2027 — to give public safety the continuity and consistency they expect from the network.
  • 10-Year Investment Plan – A long-term plan will help us map out investments for the next decade, beginning with investments in 5G and coverage, particularly in rural and underserved areas.
  • Culture – We are working to foster a culture of belonging, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our strength is in our staff, and we will work to promote operational excellence through a strong, unified culture.  
  • Organizational Excellence – We must continue to optimize how we use our organizational resources for the future of the FirstNet Authority. Through these efforts, we will strengthen our programs for public safety education, training, awareness, and advocacy, as well as oversight of the network contract.

Inspiration from first responders

A mission-critical part of the Patriot Siren leadership series is visiting first responders on their home turf.

In Pennsylvania, we met with the Shanksville Fire Department, an all-volunteer agency that provides fire services to several rural communities. The firefighters are FirstNet users through the subscriber-paid program, and the fire chief shared with us how important reliable communications are to their work.

In New York, we toured one of the city’s two 9-1-1 public safety answering centers. The centers are FirstNet users, and they answer 25,000 calls a day in a state-of-the-art facility built to be reliable and resilient — just like they need their communications network to be.

The leadership team spoke of the importance of these visits and how they helped bring the mission to life. From volunteer rural firefighters to technologically advanced urban call centers, the team saw how FirstNet is making a difference for public safety across the nation. We re-committed ourselves to working with all first responders in our nation to understand and support their communication needs.

Our way forward

I will continue the Patriot Siren leadership series to bring our leadership team together in meaningful places that unite us in our mission. Building on the discussions at this summer’s Patriot Siren series, I will be signing our culture statement into effect on September 11, 2023.

I am passionate about having dedicated time with our senior leaders to work on the ever-evolving challenges of public safety communications. Together we will lead the FirstNet network in a way that is strategic, integrated with public safety’s needs, and ready for the future.


Learn more about how FirstNet is transforming public safety communications — contact your local FirstNet Authority Public Safety Advisor and sign up for our discipline newsletters. Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn for the latest FirstNet Authority updates.

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