Longtime public-safety communications representatives today announced the creation of the FirstNet Association, an organization that founders hope will provide a platform for end users and vendors to discuss issues associated with the FirstNet nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).

FirstNet Association President Al Gillespie—a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)—said the new organization is being established to provide users and vendors with a way to become more educated about FirstNet and exchange ideas.

“It is open to anybody, and the dues will be minimal—$45 per person,” Gillespie said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The goal is to bring these folks together to carry on the mission that we’ve been working on, make sure that there’s educational opportunities and make sure that there are opportunities to share, through forums, with each other about what’s working, what’s not working, and how can we best do this.

“The mission is to bring the users, the company, the federal organization—and all of the peripheral pieces that come to that—into a forum where they can share ideas and find out what’s working for each of those folks in their own areas and how to improve the service to the end users, the public-safety folks.”

FirstNet Association Treasurer Richard Mirgon—a past president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO)—echoed this sentiment, noting that he believes the FirstNet Association will fill a void that traditional public-safety associations do not address today.

“Public safety is at its best when we’re all working together—and not just within public safety but with the private sector,” Mirgon said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “When you look at the traditional associations that Al and I have both been presidents of, they say to vendors, ‘Maybe you can be on a panel but don’t advertise.’ Well, sometimes you need to talk about what you’re doing, and nobody allows that conversation.

“We’re talking about doing state events and regional events where we bring everybody together as equals, have that honest conversation, try to capture that information and move it to the people who need it to help foster the development of FirstNet.”

Whether those conversations are conducted at in-person events or in online forums at the FirstNet Association web site (http://www.firstnetassociation.org/), the primary goal is to give all FirstNet stakeholders an opportunity to provide input and ask questions, Mirgon said. Some key topics that the FirstNet Association hopes its members will explore include FirstNet coverage, application ecosystem and local-control capabilities, he said.

“We’re not trying to come up with answers,” Mirgon said. “We’re trying to create the platform for people to have the discussion.”

Launching the FirstNet Association is the product of more than six months of planning by Gillespie, Mirgon and Ray Flynn—retired assistant sheriff from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department—who will serve as the FirstNet Association’s vice president.