LAS VEGAS—FirstNet is launching a new engagement program that calls for the organization’s officials to meet with public-safety agencies throughout the United States to help them “optimize FirstNet inside their agencies,” according to Dave Buchanan, director of the First Responder Network Authority’s advocacy team.

Conducting outreach is not new to the FirstNet authority, but this engagement program will be different from the state-leadership-focused efforts that the organization executed prior to the governors of all 50 states and 6 territories making “opt-in” decisions last year.

“We’re going through what we’re calling this big pivot—we’re pivoting from 56 to 60,000,” Buchanan said during a session yesterday at APCO 2018. “Our focus area is changing from the work we did from 2013 to 2017—where we worked with SPOCs, state bodies and states on consultation, building an RFP, making an award, and working on the state-plan process—now toward moving to an engagement program with the 60,000 public-safety agencies that we’re responsible to work with out in the field.”

When meeting with public-safety agencies, FirstNet subject-matter experts will conduct workshops that are designed to help educate agency officials about the network platform, as well as gather input from the agencies about their communications needs, Buchanan said.

“What I’ve challenged the team to do is really look for a way to bring about a program that’s repeatable, efficient and brings about quantitative and qualitative elements back to FirstNet as we do these individual engagements—have a series of these events and do a deep dive, helping agencies figure out how to optimize FirstNet inside of their agencies,” he said.

Buchanan said that workshop topics will explore the agency’s operations and technology, helping agency officials develop use cases for leveraging FirstNet system functionality, as well as a more detailed technical understanding needed for implementing these capabilities.

Another type of workshop will examine potential future product and services, with help from FirstNet’s laboratories in Boulder, Colo., Buchanan said.

“We would bring our product roadmap with AT&T to public safety and allow them to test, try out and give us feedback on the different products on the product roadmap,” Buchanan said. “We think this will be something that will be critically valuable as we go forward. We know that this will be something that first responders will be excited to participate in.

“It gives us a chance to bring that products that are on the AT&T product roadmap to public safety, so we can get their feedback and get their input during that roadmap process, so we can ensure that we’re bringing the very best, appropriate and useful products to market—before they come to market, not after.”

FirstNet also plans to conduct “after-action review engagements” with agency officials after the agency has utilized the FirstNet system, Buchanan said.

“This gives us an opportunity to sit down with public-safety agencies, emergency managers and others who are involved in critical incidents … to understand their use of FirstNet during that response,” Buchanan said, noting that the information from these efforts will be used by FirstNet and AT&T to “improve the way that FirstNet performs in those times of need.”

FirstNet plans to begin this new outreach effort with engagements scheduled in Richmond, Va., Guam and Minnesota, Buchanan said.

In an additional outreach effort, Buchanan said he has started hosting a FirstNet podcast called “Public Safety First” that can be accessed for free through Apple iTunes.