Public safety communications technology is advancing in ways that will completely transform emergency response. The decades-old networks first responders and PSAPs now use – land mobile radio, 9-1-1, and emergency alert systems – are catching up to the modern, IP-based technologies that we as consumers enjoy every day. The consumer marketplace is flooded with smart devices offering internet access, texting, multimedia messaging, photos, videos, social media, and on. And it seems every few months there are new “must have” products, features, and services.
Translated to the public safety world, we will witness the deployment of an advanced, interoperable, wireless public safety broadband network, along with Next Generation 9-1-1 networks and Next Generation Alerting systems that can be woven together through an IP-based backbone. These new communications platforms are in varying states of deployment but are in progress and continually gaining momentum.
So by advancing public safety to the level and pace of technology occurring at the consumer level, we are poised to see a rush of new ingenuity directed at public safety users. Our community now appears as a new “enterprise” market to tech companies, big and small. And I suspect that in many ways innovations made in the name of public safety will also have crossover appeal to the general consumer marketplace. But the innovation I’m talking about certainly does not have to come from the private sector alone (although the door is open to such companies). Indeed, we are already seeing a number of emerging applications that are conceived by public safety practitioners, the value of which FirstNet Chairman Sam Ginn recognized and encouraged at FirstNet’s initial meeting. With just the one following example, the potential for practitioner-driven ingenuity is quite evident.
Back in September, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Transportation hosted a “Safety Datapalooza.” The event provided a forum for those who have used freely available government data, available at http://safety.data.gov, to showcase their products, services and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways.
One particularly interesting demonstration was provided by San Ramon Valley Fire Department Chief Richard Price, whose district offers PulsePoint, a location-aware mobile app that empowers everyday citizens to provide life-saving assistance to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. In the event someone experiences sudden cardiac arrest, the public safety agency that receives the 9-1-1 call can notify nearby PulsePoint users that CPR is needed. The application works to improve cardiac arrest survival rates by crowdsourcing emergency medical services.
So that brings me to APCO International – the world’s oldest and largest organization of public safety communications professionals. Its members include state and local employees of law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical service departments, as well as 9-1-1 public safety answering points (PSAPs) and emergency operations centers (EOCs). Indeed, APCO members represent the actual users of the advanced networks to come – the police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who will use the wireless broadband network to protect life and property, the 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers who will use Next Generation 9-1-1 technology to communicate in advanced ways with the public and first responders, and the EOCs who will use Next Generation Alerting systems to keep the public informed with targeted, data-rich information.
With APCO’s organizational structure, resources and reach, and the thousands of public safety communications professionals working in San Ramon Valley and elsewhere, we are well-positioned to work with the tech community, academic institutions, FirstNet, and others to develop the future “PulsePoints” that will assuredly save more lives. Already developed something? Let us know about it, we’d be interested to learn more.