The 2015 APCO Annual Conference was both pivotal and revelatory for the advancement of in-building public-safety communications.
Team SOLiD returned to APCO for the fourth year which, for a Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) manufacturer, makes us a veteran.
I recall feeling like a pioneer in 2012 while discussing in-building wireless solutions with AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) when the conference was hosted in Minneapolis during which the first board members were announced for the nascent FirstNet initiative. Little did I know then that SOLiD would host the newly-elected FirstNet CEO Michael Poth and newly-titled President TJ Kennedy as well as current and former board members Chief Jeff Johnson and Chief Charles “Chuck” Dowd at a cocktail reception to launch a new eBook called The Imperative which details the obstacles and options facing public-safety communications inside public and private buildings. (Thanks to the Long View Gallery for hosting our reception!)
(Check our APCO recap posts from 2012, 2013 and 2014 to map the public-safety evolution. And watch videos from industry luminaries Jonathan Adelstein (PCIA), Rob LeGrande (The Digital Decision), James Teel (Harris) and SOLiD’s Seth Buechley)
A pivotal shift has occurred within the public-safety industry whereby the topic of in-building is no longer met with a puzzled or skeptical look.
When SOLiD presented back in 2012, we observed in a blog post that “Based upon the number of heads that were both nodding in agreement and disagreement during the panel, the public safety and commercial cellular industries need more forums for debate and education as well as programs designed to solve the common problem of public safety communication.”
In contrast, an industry colleague was surprised that nearly every attendee in his presentation this year was familiar with DAS.
But while developing The Imperative (download a free copy here), it became clear – as its editor, John Celentano, states in the eBook’s opening pages – that, “…public-safety communications is not relegated to police, fire and emergency medical services (EMS). Its about the general public, too.”
This is revelatory because most people likely envision a fire fighter when they think of the words “public” and “safety.” As Don Brittingham, Vice President for Public Safety Policy at Verizon observed during our launch reception, the general public is the “public” in public safety.
Donny Jackson, Editor at Urgent Communications contributed to the foreward of The Imperative and writes:
“From a public-safety perspective, good indoor coverage for customers and first responders provides multiple benefits during an emergency response.
Initially, strong commercial indoor coverage lets consumers who are indoors dial 911 to report an emergency via their cellular phone—the device they are most comfortable using, and it should provide better location information in the near future. This can save valuable time in circumstances when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
Once first responders are on the scene, a good indoor public-safety system allows firefighters, law enforcement and EMS to communicate better and more efficiently using LMR voice today, with the potential to leverage Band 14 LTE and transmit sensor data via myriad technologies in the near future. This data capability includes the ability to track the location of first responders, as well as monitor their health via biometric technology.
When first-response efforts have gone awry, communications difficulties almost always are cited as a key contributing factor. This is understandable, because organizing any endeavor—from the construction of a sports arena to planning a family reunion—tends to happen more smoothly when strong lines of communications are open.
In short, a facility with good indoor wireless-communications coverage for consumers and public safety is inherently safer than those that lack this functionality. Without good indoor coverage, there likely will a delay in reporting an emergency situation and the response effort often is delayed, which can lead to increased property loss, injuries and fatalities.”
This observation was echoed on a panel moderated by Donny Jackson where I joined Chief Alan Perdue, Executive Director of the Safer Buildings Coalition (SOLiD is a member). Chief Perdue shared that the majority of 911 calls are made using a smartphone and that, similarly, the majority of emergency incidents occur indoors.
According to John Celentano, “…it is vital that both public safety and commercial cellular to work together to solve for public-safety communications.”
The common denominator, however, is the Building Owner – the key stakeholder that can impact in-building wireless communications for both cellular and public-safety – who, unfortunately, remains noticeably absent from these discussions at APCO.
We’ll be back with a separate post to explore the challenges and opportunities for the Building Owner to address the public-safety imperative.
Tell us what you observed at APCO that is pivotal and/or revelatory in the comments.