Mirgon Begins APCO Presidency
August 19, 2009
Richard Mirgon begins his one-year tenure as president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International during this week’s annual conference. MissionCritical Communications interviewed Mirgon, who recently retired as director of technology services for Douglas County, Nev., about his insights on a number of public-safety communications issues.
What will be APCO’s top goals for the coming year?
I’m trying to continue a trend that former APCO president Willis Carter, current president Chris Fischer and I worked on to build partnerships. Building additional partnerships with federal agencies, commercial members and others is absolutely critical for fulfilling the mission of APCO. Our partnership with the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is one example. We’re also trying to improve the work we do with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) and Office of Emergency Communications (OEC). We’re also trying to reach out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deal with training issues and the National Telecommunications and Industry Administration (NTIA) to get local government moving through the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grant program process.
We also want to build a partnership with the new FCC and new staff. With new members coming in, we’re introducing ourselves and finding ways to work better and improve public-safety communications.
Are you optimistic the 700 MHz public-safety spectrum issues will be worked through quickly once the new FCC is in place?
The issues are broad and wide; 700 MHz is still a complex issue. There’s some diversity in public safety. APCO still believes in a public/private partnership, but how that comes out and is constructed, we don’t know and can’t even speculate about. With the talk of the D block not being auctioned and being allocated to public safety, it changes the dynamics and the politics behind it. It’s one of those moving targets that’s hard to predict.
APCO’s role is to lead and bring public safety together on an issue. We don’t want to jump out there and take hard positions on any of this. With that said, we’re extremely resistant to the idea that we would give back spectrum. At this point, I can’t imagine any kind of construct that APCO would support that would involve giving back spectrum.
What is your opinion on jamming equipment in prisons, particularly as one of the witnesses in the July Senate Commerce Committee hearings on the topic?
The Commerce Committee showed a desire to work with public safety. This is new territory for everybody. Probably our single biggest concern with jamming is that it will cause problems with our 800 MHz systems. Because if you’re jamming, you’re transmitting with RF, and physics say you can’t contain it in a prison. Look at Sprint Nextel; even with proper engineering, 800 MHz rebanding is costing Americans hundreds of millions of dollars.
What will be the biggest public-safety communications issue this year?
I think it will be broadband. It is the future of public-safety communications. It potentially can handle anything from radio traffic to data to 9-1-1 traffic in the future. It’s almost like reinventing public-safety technology and how we work together. It’s going to be a key issue for coming years because it’s such a large issue.
What APCO issue is most personal to you?
Project 42 is APCO’s effort to create data standards within the user devices of first responders. We must have data standards, and Project 42 is looking at the structure at the first responder level to keep it from being proprietary so products with different data schemes don’t talk to each other. We’ll be working with gateways. We’re looking to set standards to help solve the data interoperability problem.
We started in January, and we’ve had two meetings. We’ve brought in a number of experts in the field. Where do you start? We’re looking a such issues as data schemes for latitude/longitude, universal ID, and in-vehicle and handheld computer devices.
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