EM Forum Presentation — March 27, 2013

Introduction to FirstNet
An Update on the Public Safety Broadband Network

Kevin McGinnis, MPS, EMT-P
First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board of Directors
Vice Chair, Public Safety Spectrum Trust
Chief/CEO, North East Mobile Health Services

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/FirstNet/FirstNetUpdate.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130327.wmv
MP3 format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130327.mp3
or in MP4 format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130327.mp4

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Host and Moderator today and we are very glad you could join us.

Today’s topic is an update on the Public Safety Broadband Network, which we first addressed back in 2009.  Activity to move this forward has picked up quite a bit in the past year or so.  FirstNet was established within NTIA to implement an LTE network nationwide and a Board of Directors was appointed.  But most of all, we wanted to do this program now while the opportunity exists for first responders and emergency managers to provide input on the network implementation.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to welcome back today’s speaker:  Kevin McGinnis is a member of the Board of Directors of FirstNet representing the first responder community.  He has spent nearly 40 years in emergency medical services, and advises several professional associations on technology issues.

Please see today’s Background Page for further biographical details and links to several related resources.  In particular I would like to point out the link to the Public Safety Advisory Committee list, which includes the names of the individuals representing national associations that have been invited to participate.

Welcome back Kevin, and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Kevin McGinnis: Thank you very much, Amy.  It is a pleasure to be back with you.  Forty years—it is actually only thirty-nine—no need to make me feel prematurely old in EMS.  It is my pleasure to be here today addressing this group from the perspective of the FirstNet Board—a pleasure I did not have the last time I was here.

I want to do a couple of things today to put this all in perspective.  First of all let me start by saying the FirstNet Board activity is only about six months old and we have been apparently endowed in some people’s minds as having prodigious capabilities to instantly create a system and in other people’s minds as moving too fast to do so.

We are probably striking the right balance in moving ahead in building this network. What I want to do is give folks an idea of why FirstNet and broadband from one public safety user’s perspective with discipline from EMS because that is the pond I swim in and explain where we plan to go as a national EMS community using broadband.

Then I want to transition into a little bit about FirstNet and where it has come from, where it is today and where we are headed with it and what the capabilities will be.  Then we will have the opportunity for questions and answers.

[Slide 2]

You may recognize these folks.  Usually about half of our audience does who were trouncing across our television screens in the early seventies on the show “Emergency”.  That show gave rise to our first look at what paramedics are, at what lifesaving capabilities EMS has the potential to have in the field beyond just being a horizontal taxi cab.  

Since then from the seventies until today, about forty years—and I have grown up with modern EMS—we have advanced our capabilities tremendously so we really do lifesaving things at the scene.  One thing that hasn’t changed for us in that time is the sophistication of the communication system.

Basically what we have dealt with and what these people are using in these pictures are what we use today by way of VHF and UHF.  We have added on 700 or 800 megahertz communications but it is all narrowband for the most part—basically 96 percent voice and maybe 3 or 4 percent data for telemetry and other limited uses.

In that time recognizing those limitations and seeing that there were a number of technologies that exist today in hospitals and other settings we are not able to use in the field because of the limitations of narrowband communications, about five or six years ago I started holding expert panels and focus groups on communications issues.

I was basically asking what kind of technology we wanted to have in the field five or ten years from now and what communication capabilities and infrastructure, bandwidth and the like that we are going to need to support that technology.  What I am going to do is give you the overview of what the answers to those sessions were over the years and then a few specific examples.

[Slide 3]

As an overview, there were four major needs identified.  To folks in EM in particular these are buzzwords but in EMS they are virtually unknown as operational terms.  Situational awareness—to us, having a perfect knowledge of the resources in the response area you are going into on your next patient call and knowledge of the events going on around you which may interfere with you successfully completing that call or may interfere with resources you need because they are dedicated somewhere else.

Common operating picture is especially important for EMS because every patient call we have has more than one set of players.  It is often that first responders who get to the scene—the ambulance gets there, the ambulance crew, an incoming helicopter crew, and extrication crew for things like motor vehicle crashes and other extrication situations.  There is always the doctor at the hospital that will give us orders or monitor what we are doing and wants to know when we are going to be there.

They all need their own situational awareness but they also need to share a common set of expectations about what is going to happen to my patient in the next five, ten, fifteen or twenty minutes so that we get it all right and clinical decision making is right and the patient gets what they need.

We also have an issue in EMS, and police and fire as well, of sequential processing.  That means that from the moment a tone goes off to send us to a call we get pieces of information which address our picture of what we are going to find at a scene or what we need to do at a scene.  Every time we get a new piece of information from getting the tone, jumping in the ambulance, getting out of the barn, heading to the route—the new information may be that it is not the scene we thought it was.

It is located differently.  There is construction between you and the scene.  You will need to route around it.  We have new patient information and it looks like they are in bad shape—that type of thing.  What happens is we get information and change our plan,  get information and change our plan,  get information and change our plan.  Oftentimes it seems we are wandering our way through a call—not really having the complete picture until we actually start to get there and it all becomes clear to us what our resources are and the patient’s condition.

Unfortunately by that time it is too late to make some decisions that might have cut short that patient episode and gotten us to a better place. It would be better if we could get a lot of different information at the same time.  That is parallel processing information and also be able to send out information that we are processing from the scene on patient condition and whatnot to those who need to have it so they can add it to their situational awareness and the general common operating picture of everybody.

Parallel processing is an important thing.  As I said at the outset we have an inability to adopt technology that is available today.  We are going to explore some of those pieces that will definitely benefit our patients.

[Slide 4]

First example—I get to my ambulance base to sign on duty and I have a blank slate when I walk through the door.  I don’t know much of anything going on in my response area.  I’ll start off by finding out who my partner is.  We’ll tackle an inspection of the ambulances for equipment and supplies being up to date and for the electronics and vehicle equipment working—that sort of thing.  That takes forty-five minutes for two ambulances.

Then we want to check and see what hospitals are open and taking patients, whether the trauma center is taking patients, whether the helicopter is in operation today and whether the ambulance service next door, which is a volunteer service has a paramedic on or if I am the paramedic for them as well today.  

Things like that can take upward of one and a half hours to two hours to collect all that information from start to go.  Even before that forty-five minute inspection of the ambulance is over we have our first call.  We are going out with incomplete information, incomplete operating picture, and incomplete situational awareness.

Picture this instead—we walk into the base and we see a picture like you see before you which represents our response area for Ridgeway EMS 1—our ambulance.  Immediately when we bring that up on our smartphone or toughbook in the ambulance or the PC on the desk, we immediately have a picture of what is going on in the response area that is described as the response area geographically.

Immediately we know, looking down at the left-hand corner for instance, the inventory and status of the vehicles are both in the greens.  If something was wrong—if a Band Aid had walked out of that ambulance and triggered an RIFD signal—that would be red.  We would click on that and see what was missing and put it back in.  It is a lot less than forty-five minutes to do that.

All the other icons on here either display something instantaneously that tells you about that, like the hospital that is on divert, the helicopters—one is available and one is not.  You can click on it and find out what the story is there.  All of that is real time information.  If you don’t see the face of it on the screen you can hit the icon and dig deeper for more information about those folks.

That is one way we have just immediately, by being able to parallel process information on one screen in real time, give us a picture and save us one and a half to two hours—in five minutes I’m ready to go out the door on my first call with great situational awareness and presumably all the other players monitoring the same multi-source information gives them the same common operating picture for us all to share.

[Slide 5]

Here is another example.  You have probably heard of “The Golden Hour”.  It has been well debated and somewhat debunked but it is something we hold to just to explain how time critical conditions can be affected by faster and more appropriate response.  Essentially the golden hour is the time from the moment you suffer the injury that is going to kill you until the time the surgeon can get in and fix that injury so that it doesn’t kill you.

Whether it is an hour or two hours or thirty minutes—that is the issue of debate.  One thing we know that it is not—twenty minutes for us to discover the car crash happened that injured you, twenty minutes for me to go out in the ambulance and discover you really are injured and life threatened, ten minutes to load you into the ambulance, thirty minutes to get you to the local hospital, two hours to play around at the local hospital before they determine you need to go to a bigger hospital and forty minutes to get you there.

In today’s era in most places in the country with organized trauma systems and helicopters that cuts it down quite a bit.  You cut out the local hospital for the most part.  Still, the golden hour does not equate to twenty minutes to discover the car crash happened, twenty minutes for me to go out in my ambulance and discover we need to call the helicopter, forty minutes for the helicopter to get here and forty minutes for the helicopter to get back.  It still doesn’t compute.

Those time critical events are not limited to trauma.  We now know that heart attacks, stroke and other conditions have very specific windows of opportunity to fix the patient so the patient doesn’t suffer in the long term with disabilities or die.

[Slide 6]

Let’s look at the alternative.  Instead we get an alert.  Once that car crashes OnStar or similar concierge services can send out a data burst.  That data burst provides information on exactly where the car is, the occupancy, the forces acting on that car and it basically gives you a good picture of what happened in the car and what you might anticipate finding there.

[Slide 7]

In fact advanced automatic crash notification will actually allow you to build in predictors of serious injury as in this screen.  When you have that predictor—92 percent probability of injury—all the resources around you which you want to have a common operating picture with can set up protocols.

For instance, if that happens, the helicopter can say that if they get the notice within the first couple of minutes after a crash they will send a helicopter crew the helicopter, start the helicopter and perhaps even send it up.  The trauma center may get ready to go.  Extrication may automatically go.  Then you have a wonderful parallel processing of information going to multiple participants in this call.

[Slide 8]

By the time I leave the ambulance barn to set out this is what we have saved—we have saved the twenty minutes of discovering the crash happened that injured the patient.  We saved the need for me to go out to the car crash and verify that it was a bad crash.  All the resources are en route.  That is going to significantly cut down in our example about forty minutes worth of time in this event.

When I roll out of the barn instead of wondering what is going to happen next I have a ton of information here about all the folks that are responding to this and what my situational awareness is for this.  Plus we have access to DOT computers to get up to date directions to the scene so we don’t run into construction and we know we have the road lights and stop lights on the road ahead of us under our control.  Some cars ahead of us know we are coming and some don’t so we have to be careful.

[Slide 9]

Another capability when we are all heading to that scene—those who do extrication can do just in time training because we know what kind of car it is.  They can pull up on the screen a guide to tell them the best place to cut into the car to get the patient out most effectively and what kinds of dangers to look forward to when they do that.

[Slide 10]

Last example of my extended examples—at the scene, some more parallel processing—we hop out of the ambulance today, the process of going up to and looking at the initial car and then maybe going on to another car—but in that initial car, assessing the first patient, getting information, communicating with them, figuring out what is going on and then communicating that patient to the hospital or the incoming helicopter can take five or ten minutes.

[Slide 11]

Let’s look at a different model.  Instead I hop out of the ambulance, I put on my video camera—it’s a hat-cam—that video in real time starts going into patient database number one.  I start talking into a lip microphone dictating what I’m seeing about the car and the patient.  That is being translated into a text file and going into patient database number two and being kept.  

We walk up and I have in my hand a stand-off vital signs monitor and go zip—if you remember the Star Trek tri-corder—those you as old as I will know that I’ve just taken the vital signs of the patient without touching him.  That goes into patient database number three.  I take a playing card deck size monitor and put it on the patient’s chest and those additional vital signs and EKG go into patient database number three.

Lastly I either grab a chip off the patient in something they are wearing or I go into the regional medical record repository and I download the patient’s pertinent medical record into patient database number four. It looks like this.

[Slide 12]

[Slide 13]

You remember how I said that process would take five to ten minutes.  That exercise—and we’ve simulated it several times—takes sixty seconds to populate those four patient databases.  Now in sixty seconds the hospital can access those databases, the incoming helicopter can or anybody authorized can do that. We have just cut a good ten minutes off of scene time per patient by being able to parallel process data like that.  

Some other technologies that have been identified in those groups I’ve talked about have been two-way video, probably not so much for urban applications because things happen fast in urban areas but if you picture it in a rural area where you have a basic EMT as opposed to a paramedic who only does a handful of calls a year and gets stuck on a 90 minute transfer of a difficult patient to the city hospital when the helicopter can’t fly—the patient starts to turn a color the EMT hasn’t seen before—wouldn’t it be nice to have a virtual doctor in the back of the ambulance to look at that patient and provide advice?

That is a need in the future.  Community paramedicine is an up and coming deal where EMS folks are going to be providing primary care but again there aren’t going to be physician’s assistance in the rural areas in particular so they are going to be using wireless telemedicine to communicate with the rural health center.  It lets the doctor see the patient and the PA see the patient and that sort of thing.  The list goes on and I’m not going to go into those.

[Slide 14]

We have identified technologies to monitor 21, 42, or 63 patients at a time using a smartphone.  We use the same technology to monitor firefighters going into a burning building, and on and on and on.

[Slide 15]

Three dozen different technologies have been identified to my knowledge from the processes.  The one thing that I have said up until now when I’ve done these presentations over the last several years is we can’t do that with the communication systems we have to today because narrowband won’t support these applications.

Now my tune has changed because as of this last year we have FirstNet—a broadband system for public safety use exclusively, including EMS.  One of the things for those of you who are aware of FirstNet and what was granted—we had about seven billion dollars to develop the network.  That sounds like a lot of money.  It is certainly more than I have in my checking account personally. It is not to develop a nationwide network, essentially a Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile of public safety as it were.  

One of the things that is going to make this successful are applications like this.  When we get systems out there using applications like this and the Kevin McGinnises of the world go down to see them in operation I am going to come back to my city and say to my city council or my state house that I have to have these applications for EMS.  It will save patient lives.

We have to invest in FirstNet in our state.  We are not going to depend on federal dollars in the long run to make this happen.  That is just a shot in the arm.

[Slide 16]

Let’s take a look at FirstNet.  In 2006 a concept of having essentially a Verizon or AT&T for public safety exclusive use was broached by Morgan O’Brian who had been the head of Sprint Nextel for awhile and Harlan McKuen in the public safety realm had come together with the idea of a public and private partnership where public safety could partner with AT&T or Verizon or some other provider.

Bandwidth for broadband would be given to public safety and they could share that with the private provider.  The provider would provide up-to-date state of the art technology and the infrastructure to make this thing happen.  Public safety would share its bandwidth with the private provider so they would get some benefit out of it.

The FCC very much bought into the concept and developed it further and came out with a proposed auction of bandwidth in the 700 megahertz bandwidth to this public safety broadband network.  Unfortunately for a number of reasons I won’t go into today, the necessary bandwidth auction that was held in 2008 failed so that private public partnership did not end up working. What do we do next?  We still have this need for broadband for all the things in EMS I described and for many more in police and fire communities.  

The Public Safety Alliance was formed of fire, police, public safety communications and EMS organizations to lobby for a capability like this.  After a long battle in D.C. on the hill, which some of us still have nightmares about—the Middle Class Tax Relief Job Creation Act of 2012 was signed in February of 2012 by President Obama and it created the First Responder Network Authority or FirstNet Public Safety Broadband Network.

[Slide 17]

What that brought with us were a number of assets.  It gave us Congressional approval to go ahead and form this network for public safety.  It gave us twenty megahertz of bandwidth.  It is called band fourteen in the 700 megahertz spectrum if you talk that language. It gave us seven billion dollars in steps based on future auctions of other bandwidth to build the system.

It put together a board of directors for FirstNet which consists of people who came out of the wireless network development industry.  Our chairman, Sam Ginn, was a very successful wireless communications network developer as well as others he attracted to the board.  There are public safety folks, police, fire and EMS and sheriffs represented on the board.

There are state and local folks represented on the board.  Combined all the talents you need really to direct at a very high level the spending of that money and development of that network.

[Slide 18]

We also have as assets a considerable amount of information that has come before us.  Many of us have participated in the public safety world in anticipating broadband.  NPSTC (National Public Safety Telecommunications Council) has contributed a number of documents that inform this board and the technical expertise that the board is collecting to build a network.  

If you haven’t ever read SafeCom Statement of Requirements Version 2.1—write that down, Google it on the SafeCom webpage—that will give you scenario based description of where we are headed with all of this.  This document was written in 2004 but it holds true today.

[Slide 19]

Out of the NPSTC documents we have more than 1,300 requirements that FirstNet has to consider that came out of the public safety community itself—requirements for what the network needs to do.

[Slide 20]

This is a network of components.  Obviously public safety is a player as is our network, the wireless operators, the other commercial terrestrial or land based providers—the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world—and satellite providers provide layers of additional capabilities for us to make our system more reliable, and other providers I will describe in a minute.

[Slide 21]

Basically there are three components to what we see as our future at FirstNet—terrestrial mobile systems, our 700 megahertz band system we own and license to be used as our primary network, and the other terrestrial systems, commercial systems, mobile satellite systems where terrestrial systems (cell towers) don’t reach, and also systems on wheels or cells on wheels, that we will maintain for disasters in areas where the infrastructure goes down and the satellite can’t come in—areas where we need to stand up a system temporarily.

[Slide 22]

Solving several critical issues—we need to have instant inter-agency communication and collaboration.  That means when someone comes down from Maine to New Jersey in a storm like Sandy when we land on the ground we have instant data communications that look exactly like Maine when we are in New Jersey, and obviously interoperability with existing public safety systems.

We have to be able to talk one to many, one to one, push to talk capabilities, group communication of a nationwide scale ultimately, mission critical reliability through being able to layer on other networks where they are needed with focal network being the FirstNet network.

Coverage into areas that are not now covered—I am going to talk about the rest of these or I have already talked about the rest of those.

[Slide 23]

Our chair likes to say that we are going to cover every square meter.  I laud his optimism and I hope we can do that.  It was pointed out to me that there are some very deep canyons in the United States where we may have some challenges. That is certainly the goal—through satellite or terrestrial to get out there.

You can bet your life on it network—it’s available all the time. It has a high reliability, public safety grade hardening appropriate to the locale.  We don’t harden for earthquakes in Maine but we do in Tennessee and so on—matching the  need for hardening but making sure it is there by making sure we use additional commercial and satellite networks to build in that reliability.

We are not inventing a network from the ground up—a so-called green field development.  We are going to explore existing infrastructure of towers and even water towers and other places where we might put antennas to make the system work at a lower cost.  I described the three-in-one network.  

[Slide 24]

One emphasis here is on local management.  That simply means that although this is going to be distributed nationwide network, events and emergencies are local.  Locales need to define what their protocols are going to be for turning up and down capabilities under certain circumstances.  I said the DMS might use a lot of video.

That is banned with intensive and if we have a mass casualty incident we might turn off the video so we can do multi-casualty patient monitoring.  How you do that and when you do that needs to be a locally managed decision.  That is what FirstNet is committed to.

We are committed to excellent voice quality, equal or better than that which we enjoy with commercial wireless today.  We recognize that while we want the best available speeds and through put for as much data as possible, it is going to be matched by local and state managers to the conditions of the response areas at that time and in that situation.

[Slide 25]

Obviously these communications for police in particular for HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) purpose within EMS have to be highly secure.  We are not going to sacrifice anything in that regard.  We are using LTE as our adopted technology for this system and we intend to maintain that as the most recent revisions or editions of that.

Last I want to emphasize our goal is low cost.  That is to say that when you ambulance service changes out the cell phones in the back of the ambulance, that putting in a FirstNet communications device will be affordable—as affordable as putting in a newer generation of cell phones.  That is our goal in terms of the equipment cost and monthly charges in the system.

[Slide 26]

Quite simply we exist to serve first responders in this.  Our goal—we are not a profit making situation.  We do not serve investors.  Our owners are colleagues in public safety.

[Slide 27]

What can public safety folks, emergency managers and other public safety colleagues out there as far as the development of this system do?  Along with us we keep reminding ourselves on the board of where FirstNet came from—the battles we went through in Washington, D.C. to get the capability we have that is known as FirstNet today.

FirstNet came from public safety and it exists to serve public safety.  We need to remember that public safety is the owner and consumer or user.  What you can do out there is identify through the state and local grant program process which requires this that NTIA is administering, identify your state point of contact for FirstNet development. Every state has to have one.  

Every state point of contact is supposed to have a representative body that represents you.  Get on that body or make sure somebody you believe is a responsible party is on that body to make sure you are represented in decisions of who gets what bandwidth and how it will be used and those decisions—in certain situations turning up and down bandwidth—how that will be done.

It is locally managed but you are the local.  Again we have to think about apps.  The apps are going to sell this system and make it work in the future.  With that, I turn it over to Amy for questions.

[Slide 28]

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Kevin. That is a very good introduction. Let’s move to our Q&A.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring:  About the state points of contact, the governors are supposed to identify those by April.  Is that correct?

Kevin McGinnis:  I can’t give you an exact date but it is the governor’s responsibility to do that.  You can go on the FirstNet website to get the date on that.  It is happening quick.  

Amy Sebring:  We do have a link on our background page to state and local implementation and funding opportunity announcement and I believe that information is in there as well.  [Application deadline, including Letter of State Designation, was March 19.]

Jeff Pierce: We have a 3-year performance period for Phase 1 and 2 that we have funding for. How are others planning to sustain momentum on this process when we have an unfunded gap between planning & buildout?

Kevin McGinnis: That is a great question.  I think one of the things we need to take as a mindset is that this is not necessarily a process where you are all at once building a statewide system.  The planning has to be done on a statewide basis clearly.  That is the intention.  There are already a number of systems out there, whether they are city or county or region or multi-city wide that have begun building to the end of having a network there.

You are going to end up with a number in the statewide planning efforts being a process of connecting a lot of those individual buildouts.  But in order to do that we recognize that states are in such different places in terms of their readiness for broadband from nothing to having thought a lot about it and having points of contact and having interoperable executive committees or other committees that have been established that are going to be assigned as new tasks, the NTIA didn’t try to do something that applies to everybody in the same way.

They tried to give some flexibility for folks depending on where they are.  When you do that you end up with this type of extended planning process—giving people time to get up to speed.   Having said that it is then a matter of focusing on the early builders in states to support their activities in moving them forward, getting them to the point where they are starting to have developed effective applications that are being used and can be shown in the rest of the state as examples of success.

Hopefully at that point there will be some local resources starting to flow into the mix and people won’t be entirely waiting for infrastructure building.  A good part of that initial two stage first set of planning funding, the first part is to set up the structure in which you are going to do your planning and make sure it is representative.

The second part is to start analyzing your state capabilities so that you are not attempting a green field build—a very expensive build up from the ground floor with nothing—that you have identified infrastructure that is not only capable of supporting the 700 megahertz system but the owners of that infrastructure (back haul, antennas, towers) are willing to come to play.

I’m not a techie but I’ve watched some of these systems go up and three years is not a huge period of time to get those systems up and capable.

Amy Sebring:  I gather from some of the material I’ve read about FirstNet that you are hoping to leverage some existing assets that are already available in cities and states.

Kevin McGinnis:  No question about it, Amy—we would be foolish to try to do a green field build.  It isn’t necessary.  The assets out there are many.  It’s not only physical assets such as black fiber, microwave and other things that are available.   I’m not a techie so if I get into terminology we may quickly be led astray.  I avoid that.

Not only the infrastructural pieces but also other forms of organized networking that are out there—we talked about other forms of terrestrial network out there in the form of commercial wireless, large governmental wireless systems, satellite systems and that sort of thing.  We need to look at all of those and we are.  

Our acting general manager, Craig Farrell has been talking with owners of federal systems as well as state and local systems trying to get a handle on what is out there and what it will take for FirstNet to take advantage of those things.  Issues that go down to technical and mundane such as—do we need to get environmental impact statements to use existing technology or infrastructure?  

What other kinds of bureaucratic hurdles are there to be able to adopt the offers of other people’s infrastructure?  It would be nice if we could do a handshake and go ahead and use it but it’s not that simple.

Richard VanDame:  How does this interface, if it can, with UICDS and VirtualUSA?

Kevin McGinnis: Good question—I think that, and mind you again, I am not a techie, but at a high level from a policy view I look at the way VirtualUSA works with sharing common operating picture and situational awareness data, there certainly is the potential for the network to be involved in that sharing of data whether that makes Virtual USA more capable than it is today—I haven’t kept recent tabs on Virtual USA and it has spread across the country and other situational awareness capabilities.

It seems to me and I’ve heard it discussed that the network could play a role in data transmission and probably should play a role because of its ability or intended ability that we have immediate nationwide communications capability.

Amy Sebring:  I understand that FirstNet  is about to start a pretty intensive outreach effort and part of that will be to the vendor community to engage them also.

Kevin McGinnis: You’re absolutely right.  Our outreach program right now is under the direction of Jeff Johnson who is the fire representative on the board and temporarily serving a stint of duty as a staff member until we hire someone into that position.  He has done a very capable job of organizing what will be some regional meetings coordinated with the National Governor’s Association to begin to get a picture of how the various states and regions across the United States and how well prepared they are at this point and what the variation and preparation is.

We will also be going out state by state and looking more specifically at what state and local preparedness is like for implementation of this program which will obviously impact exactly how we roll the network plan out ultimately.  Our leaders, Sam Ginn, the chair, and Craig Farrell, the acting general manager and others that have been assigned have been talking with some of the major components in industry—the heads of commercial wireless carriers—to begin the conversations about how we are going to interact with those entities as additional resources to be drawn upon by public safety.

Once we have established the plan to communicate with and be very transparent to public safety and its community we will further elaborate on our plan to communicate with the vendor community.  We recognize there is a wealth of talent out there we would like to tap for our developmental purposes.  We also need a process to tap that talent in a way that is fair to all parties because it is a competitive world out there.

Wayne Ozio: Are there any deadlines or time frame for each state and counties to begin to implement?

Kevin McGinnis:  The only deadlines that are pertinent right now are deadlines associated with state and local grant process that we talked about earlier.  I would refer you to that website because I can’t do dates off the top of my head.  As far as the rest is concerned in general I would say no, other than the state and local planning process itself.

You have to get ready and get involved in becoming a participant as your state is ready.  There is a process that will kick in that states will have to respond to whether they are going to participate fully in the system or whether they are going to “opt out”.  Those states will still have to play within the system but they will have to develop their own radio access networks and the like in the way they want to as long as the network interoperates with the FirstNet network.  

That timeframe is dependent upon some things FirstNet needs to do in terms of defining its plan of action going forward and actually going out and sending out RFPs for system development and clocks start within that process or after that process.

Sanford Altschul: Is the grant funding all being administered by the SAA (State Administrative Agency)?

Amy Sebring:  That goes to the point we talked about earlier about the governor setting up those points of contact.  It is very likely, may be the same if they are already set up.

Kevin McGinnis:  Whoever the governor sets up as the point of contact.

Len Clark: What is the interaction between FirstNet, which supports Broadband and National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), which stated in its report that there is not enough bandwidth?

Kevin McGinnis: The NPSTC is the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, and I sit on that—the relationship between FirstNet and NPSTC is the NPSTC has preceded FirstNet through the period when we were looking at the public-private partnership I talked about, back in 2007 and 2008.

Back as far as then NPSTC was beginning to develop requirements of the public safety community, whatever it was to become.  Ever since then they have refined that and as we come to FirstNet today they are the ones that have generated those 1,300 or more requirements that I talked about FirstNet is very seriously considering as it moves forward with its network building plan.

When NPSTC at one point said we wouldn’t have enough bandwidth, there was a point in our developmental time when one of the battles we were fighting was with certain government agencies as well as certain commercial providers who felt we didn’t need twenty megahertz of bandwidth.  

Subsequently folks like Andy Seabolt who is well known in the public safety communications world and NPSTC folks at the Public Safety Communications Research Laboratory have done work that demonstrates and has demonstrated in the past the twenty megahertz is going to serve us for awhile.

In and of itself it may not be sufficient down the road but that is what we were shooting for initially.  We are glad we got that rather than five or ten which other people were trying to aim us toward.  I think we who sit on NPSTC are very content with where we are sitting now.

Isabel McCurdy: Access to personal medical records is a privacy issue. How do you get permission to do that?

Kevin McGinnis: It is actually pretty easy.  Either you wear your medical record on you and you offer it up as an emergency thing that gets put into a smartphone slot—that is easy and secure—you are giving permission, or you have agreed to have your medical records submitted to a regional repository of medical records.

That cannot happen without your permission.  When you go to a doctor’s office they may have you sign a statement that says my record can go into, in my case in Maine it is called Maine Health Info Net.  Now my record is available to any other provider or hospital in the state and any ambulance that happens to be on the scene needing my record.  I have given my permission.  That is the health answer to that.

Sanford Altschul: Is it safe to say there is intent to get this implemented on a regional basis vs. individual communities?

Kevin McGinnis:  It is actually our intent to get it established on a national basis.  On a national basis we are going to have certain things that are shared everywhere so we can have that instantaneous ubiquitous communication that we might need in some situations.  When we go from place to place to place in certain situations such as storms and other disasters that we can have instantaneous “on”—we have the same communications and interoperability there that we have at home.

Having said that we do intend there be local development and local management that goes to questions of who will have priority in your locale for what kinds of situations and who does not. What kinds of applications have priority under certain situations?  Those are intended as regional or local decision making.  We do believe a lot of the early buildouts are going to be cities and counties and other locales as opposed to larger approaches.  That is a matter of those who are already doing it or giving it thought.

Alonna Barnhart: The law requires FirstNet to use LTE technologies, but if the planning phase of this effort will take up to 3 years, by the time we're ready to build networks LTE will be obsolete.  Will we have to amend the law in order to keep current with technology?

Kevin McGinnis: LTE will not be obsolete in three years.  There are versions of standards for LTE that are coming out routinely which update the capabilities of LTE.  As a for instance, one of the things we have not cracked with LTE is one to one voice communications—push to talk—those things are being planned in LTE for future versions of LTE which will not appear until three years from now.

So LTE is going to be obsolete in three years is not true.  It is going to be evolved but the systems we are establishing today or will establish in the next three years are not going to be subject to wholesale discarding. FirstNet will evolve along with technology.

Dr. Tom Phelan: Will this health information system work or coordinate with the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance System (ERHMS) from the CDC and National Response Team?

Kevin McGinnis:  I don’t know—we haven’t thought that far ahead in the EMS world in general.  That is the national EMS community hasn’t thought about how we are going to do that.  That is regardless of FirstNet or not—how regional repositories of patients’ electronic data are going to be shared for preparedness purposes is a whole other matter.

Once those policies are established so that data is allowed to flow between regional repositories of health data and preparedness coordinators then yes, FirstNet can be a part of that data pipe.  


Amy Sebring: On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants today, thank you very much Kevin for joining us today and sharing this information.  We wish you good luck as this effort moves forward.  We think they are very lucky to have you on the Board.

One thing I do want to point out the link on our background page. They are planning a June workshop conference on this in Colorado, and there is an open invitation to register and go. See the link on our background page.

Folks, before you go, PLEASE take a moment to do the rating and enter any additional comments you may have.  

Our next program is scheduled for April 10h when we will present an update on the implementation of the new National Flood Insurance Program provisions that were passed by Congress nearly a year ago. Our guests will be David Miller, Associate Administrator for the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, and Kristin Robinson who has been coordinating the implementation for FEMA. Please make plans to join us then.

Thanks to everyone for participating today and have a great afternoon!  We are adjourned.