A test of will
In September 2005, Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly wrote a column about Bobby Martin, who was born without legs. Despite this formidable challenge, he became a varsity football player at Colonel White High School in Dayton, Ohio. During his senior year, Martin was a backup nose guard and covered kickoff and punt returns as a special teams player. You read right — he covered kick returns. Martin would run down the field on his hands — he could not use prosthetics because he has no lower body — and participated in 48 tackles in his senior season, including seven solo takedowns. Last year, Martin received an ESPY award, for Best Male Athlete with a Disability.
I’ve been thinking about Bobby Martin since returning from IWCE 2007 in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. There, keynote speaker Morgan Wright, Cisco Systems’ global industry solutions manager for public safety and homeland security, said the first responder community should realize that it is the problem when it comes to widespread adoption of IP technologies. The future of public-safety communications should include devices capable of communicating to any other device, at any time, and from any place, he said, adding that such a goal can be accomplished through IP technology — but only if public-safety communications officials are willing to change things that haven’t been changed for more than 30 years.
Wright is correct; public safety must change the way it thinks about its communications networks. Already there are many applications available to first responders that would make them more effective and keep them safer — and surely more will develop — but they require an IP infrastructure. It seems absurd that teenagers have far more sophisticated technology in their hands than what is provided to first responders. That has to change. But all we keep hearing from the public-safety community are complaints about costs and amortization cycles and migration paths (more accurately, the lack thereof) — all of which are cited as obstacles blocking the path to an IP-driven future.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that these aren’t important considerations. But Bobby Martin proved that there’s no substitute for desire when it comes to overcoming seemingly impossible challenges. It’s a lesson that public-safety communications officials would do well to consider. An IP-driven future is attainable — if public safety wants it badly enough.
Editor’s Note: Harlin McEwen, chairman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s communications and technology committee writes a counterpoint in First Response on page 32.