FirstNet official urges local governments to issue smartphones to first responders
All first responders should have government-issued smartphones to ensure that public-safety personnel can access wireless broadband capabilities and that any data or evidence captured is stored appropriately and securely, according to a FirstNet Authority official.
“I have very specific advice for mayors, county executives and elected officials: Give your first responders smartphones—city-, county- or state-issued smartphones,” Bill Schrier, a senior advisor for the FirstNet Authority, said during a session earlier this month at the CES show in Las Vegas. “What company in the United States sends its field force into the field and doesn’t give them smartphones? Taxi drivers have them. UPS delivery, sales people and even reporters … have got smartphones that have been issued by their companies.
“But I bet, if you go back and … ask a cop or firefighter in your city, ‘Do you get a city- or county-issued smartphone?’ they’ll probably say, ‘No.’”
When asked by the moderator whether it matters whether the first responder is on a government-issued device as opposed to a personal smartphone, Schrier—the longtime CTO for the city of Seattle and the former CIO for the city’s police department—said there are key differences for the citizens that the first responder is responsible for protecting.
“Think about yourself in a situation where a crime has occurred in your home, you have an emergency medical condition, or you have a fire or some other thing where you need to be rescued,” Schrier said. “Do you want your information on a first responder’s personal device, or do you want it where the city and government can control it, where they can put apps in it and make sure that photographs are automatically uploaded to the cloud and kept on the device?
“If I was this group [in the CES audience], I would go back to your elected officials and say, ‘My first responders need smartphones. Please issue them and secure them.’”
In addition to receiving government-issued smartphones, first responders should have “a suite of apps on it for managing data,” Schrier said. Not only does this let first responders collect valuable public-safety information, but it also gives them a way to receive important information about situations when moments are most critical, he said.
“If you have a lost child, and you have a photograph of that lost child, you want every first responder possible having that photograph immediately,” Schrier said, noting that the same capabilities can be used to help find elderly people with dementia who become lost.