- The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) on Tuesday released a roadmap to guide the dedicated communications network for first responders and public safety departments. The plan, unveiled at the APCO International Conference and Expo, was developed after outreach to the public safety community.
- The roadmap identifies priorities from the first responders and other officials who use FirstNet and is meant to inform the budget and investments the authority makes, as well as its new programs and technology development.
- The document is focused around six core areas: Network Core, Coverage and Capacity; Situational Awareness, Voice Communications, Secure Information Exchange and User Experience.
The roadmap, which responds to input from public safety agencies that use the service, will help guide the future.
While some of the feedback was expected, like a desire for more reliable connections and coverage, users also had specific technology requests. The roadmap identifies location-based services as a focus area for the coming years, including indoor mapping technologies that can help first responders identify victims within buildings.
"The goal for us is to deploy the nation's only dedicated broadband network for public safety, and the way we'll be most successful is ongoing, perpetual dialogue with our network," said Dave Buchanan, FirstNet's executive director of public safety advocacy. "We're going to use this to inform our investment decisions … but it should also inform the rest of the ecosystem, whether that's app developers, other tech companies, the training sector, the government or academics."
According to data released this week, nearly 9,000 public safety agencies and organizations in all 50 states have subscribed to the service for a total of more than 750,000 connections. The service now covers 65% of its targets across the country, ahead of schedule.
Buchanan said that as FirstNet has developed and broadened its use, it has created a conversation around technology for first responders. Police and fire departments that may not have had the budget or time to invest in new technology can use FirstNet as a resource, just as the authority leans on its users to guide future action.
"There's a healthy amount of technology that hasn't been operationalized," Buchanan said. "As we have more specific conversations, we can peel those onion layers back and help everyone understand what's available."