By Stephen Martini
Members of the FirstNet Board will review capabilities statements that are due March 31 from vendors interested in answering the RFP issued in January for a nationwide public safety broadband network.
Kevin McGinnis, a FirstNet board member and chief/CEO at North East Mobile Health Services in Maine, shared the timeline with attendees at APCO’s Emerging Technology Forum in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, March 15.
The RFP, a 20-section document issued in January is guided by 16 stated objectives. “These objectives are a roadmap of where we want to go, not how to get there,” McGinnis said. “I expect this network will be created by a team of organizations, commercial and rural wireless partners and engineers.”
FirstNet members will review Capabilities Statements, due March 31, from all who are interested to help those answering the RFP determine their areas of strength or weakness. All responses to the RFP are due May 13.
McGinnis said problems plagued wireless communications and public safety response for more than 100 years, citing the tragic end of the infamous Titanic steamship in 1912. He detailed failed transmissions among nearby ships trying to both warn and rescue passengers onboard. Those messages were not received as radio operators on the ship used emergency channels to transmit non-emergency messages for passengers, failed to use consistent code language when transmitting their emergencies, or used equipment not able to pass information to that of other vendors.
Looking through an EMS-lens, McGinnis is confident a comprehensive public safety broadband network will help every link within emergency medical care more frequently meet the “Golden Hour,” which is the critical time to connect a patient with the appropriate medical care. He envisions a world where victims involved in a motor vehicle crash on a rural county road don’t have to wait 20 minutes before their accident is discovered, but telecommunicators are instantly notified with the help of automatic crash notification technology.
Important elements of an emergency response will occur simultaneously as helicopters are placed on standby or even launched based on crash notifications received while medics on the scene transmit patient vitals directly to the hospital via cameras or other equipment.
“I expect this will change EMS and clinical patient assessment based on the amount of information available,” McGinnis said. Once the RFP deadline passes, McGinnis said the board will review all proposals based on six evaluation criteria—business management, coverage and capacity, products and architecture, risk, coverage and capacity, and past performance. Once awarded, planned for late fall or early winter this year, he anticipates presenting the proposal to all governors so each state may choose whether to join FirstNet or build their own radio access network.