Fontes makes mark as NENA CEO
Has it really been a year since the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) revamped its governance model and hired CEO Brian Fontes, who made the jump from being the policy guru for corporate giant AT&T to leading the non-profit 911 organization? No one is more surprised than Fontes himself.
"It's gone much more quickly than I ever thought a year would go," Fontes said during an interview with Urgent Communications. "That must mean that job is exciting, the issues are exciting and time passes quickly. I think, whenever you're enjoying things in life, time does pass quickly."
Fontes described the working on the public-safety side of the 911 issue as "exhilarating" and expressed amazement at the amount of work NENA members do for the organization, even when they likely are being stretched by pressures at their day jobs during a down economy.
Certainly the economic downturn has created challenges for NENA, but Fontes believes the organization is "is better off than it ever has been" financially, thanks largely to a review of all expenses and a search for additional revenue sources, including online advertising and webinars. In addition, NENA conducted outreach with groups like commercial telecom vendors and alarm/security companies to participate in the organization's 911 efforts in an unprecedented manner.
Some of the fruits of these efforts will be on display during the opening session of the second day of NENA's annual conference next month in Fort Worth. Presenters from AT&T, Ericsson, a commercial entrepreneur and some traditional 911 vendors will talk about upcoming services and development in their industries, Fontes said.
"I know the people who will sit in the audience are extraordinarily hard-working people who don't often have the time to sit back and take a look at what the future is going to be like," he said. "So, we're going to have a series of presenters who are going to talk about the future in different aspects — not just 911, but everything they're going to talk about will have 911 implications."
NENA also will provide an electronic floor guide, something Fontes hopes will extend the value of the conference to exhibitors, attendees and public at large.
"Instead of a one-time document that's printed and is basically worthless after the conference is over, you can make it electronic and make it available 24/7/365," he said. "And, if it's really good electronics, then vendors can continually update the information that is in that guide, so it exists beyond the time period of … our conference."
This year's conference will have traditional educational tracks and sessions. For future years, NENA is considering methods to expand its virtual presence with webinars featuring conference participants on the organization's new web site that was launched last December, Fontes said.
One piece of good news for NENA is Fontes said exhibit-space and sponsorship indicators for the annual conference are higher than in previous years, which is a notable accomplishment in a poor economy. If such trends continue, expect other public-safety organizations to consider pursuing a CEO-based governance model for themselves.
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