Friday, June 10, 2011


Among my new duties as public safety director, I am now responsible for the Emergency Communications Center (more commonly known as 911), previously a division of the City of Lincoln Finance Department.  Yesterday, I finally got to spend a significant chunk of time with its manager, Julie Righter.  Julie tagged along with me to make a presentation at a conference in Kearney, and the half-day commute provided us with a good long uninterrupted meeting.   I highly recommend a road trip when you really need to concentrate without distractions.

The field of emergency communications is not entirely foreign territory to me, but I needed more than just a refresher.  There is a new language to be learned, and among the conversation in the front seat yesterday were Zetrons, Embers, site controllers, Orion MapStar, Vela, enunciators, Paracletes, logging recorders, consoles, modules, fire picks, CAD picks, trunking, conventional, and interoperability.  I now know that you can have a Bluetree and a Bluetooth, but they are not the same thing, and neither is blue.  I learned that OpenSky has nothing to do with open sky, and that PlantCML is related to Magic XL, but they are more like cousins than immediate relatives.

The communications center has more acronyms than Carter has little liver pills.  I could probably now score over 70% on GETC, NEMA (not to be confused with NENA), LEOP, FEMA, MSAG, QI/QA, EMD, ESD (I, II, and III, no less), NIMS, IDT, CALEA, PSSI, APCO, PSAP, PSCSAM, and (my favorite) TERT.  Would you really want to be known as a TERT?

It was quite a vocabulary lesson, as Julie briefed me for a few hours on current projects, future projects, and the many issues she and her staff are juggling.  The one that really caught my attention, though, was Next Generation 911, also known as NextGen911, and in its shortest form, NG911, essentially an initiative to update the nation's 911 infrastructure to adapt to the wireless mobile technology a growing number of citizens employ as their weapon of choice for communications.

You've got a century of development and history in emergency communications based on land line telephones and private radio networks under your belt.  Now suddenly everyone wants to use such things as email and text messaging to contact their local emergency services providers, with an audio file, video clip, and set of images attached!  On the 911 end, the technology is all adapted for the phone call and radio dispatch. NG911 is the collection of protocols, training, software, hardware, network, and other stuff needed to move emergency communications into position to respond to the new reality of how the world communicates.


Anonymous said...

Concentrate without distractions?
I will guess you are not suggesting that traffic is a distraction? Day to day traffic in Lincoln is a distraction to many. It is hard to find time to drive when so much needs to be done. Interstate traffic can allow for great conversation. In Nebraska, aside from counting the few trees along the way and the number of bug splats on the front window, conversation should be prescribed to drivers as they cross this great scenic state.
Coffee wears off, but a good dose of Acronym quiz can help the most sleep deprived driver out on the road. I can see it now. The welcome stations on each end of the state handing out Lancaster County acronym quiz cards. Deposit at the next stop, and you are entered to win a dinner with our very own PSD.
Thought we all could use some humor this "Happy Friday"

Anonymous said...

Mr. Director,
I almost said Chief but I am getting used to hearing your new title. I was just curious as to whether you will have a standardized way of sending texts, images etc. from various devices? Will compatibility be an issue? I just got a phone/camera a few months ago and the aggravation of this "old dawg" learning new tricks has been frustrating.
Have fun with the new toys

I am still searching for a rifle scope that can take pictures through the scope to snap pictures when I pull the trigger. I figure I could have braggin rights without even buying a hunting license of paying attention to seasons. It might play hell with my trigger control tho.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Is NERD one of the acronyms?

Michelle said...

I am glad that you are still finding time to blog with your new position. I enjoyed your posts as Chief and am sure that being the Director will give you a many new topics.

Anonymous said...

Director Tom-In my day (pre-Ming Dynasty) we had LJTS (Linda, Judy, Topper and Satterthwaite). Eight-tracks were the preferred media for music, and most houses had a landline. We took Polaroid photos at the crime scene and they magically developed in front of our eyes. Times have changed. I thought that stuff was pretty high tech.


Anonymous said...

If this was facebook I'd 'like' 3:28 pm's comment. The propeller is spinning!

Dave said...

You said a profane word Tom, and that word is OpenSky. I literally cringed when I read that word.

Oh Lord, please don't tell me the county and city is looking at implementing an OpenSky system in Lancaster county? P-25 systems are much better radio systems over the properitary OpenSky.

Has anyone actually studied OpenSky and it's use in Public Safety? Having used Radio Reference a few years and reading the forums, I think it can be said that OpenSky is the worst VOIP radio system ever designed.

There have been numerous complaints from numerous public safety agencies, and some agencies that have gone with OpenSky are switching back to convention non-trunked radio systems because of the problems associated with OpenSky. It's terrible for firegrounds and fire departments should never depend on a duplex based fireground system, rather they should be on a simplex system.

I'm sure you've done your research Chief (sorry, you'll aways be Chief) on the subject, but keep digging. Do not allow OpenSky to penetrate Lancaster County.

And what about interoperability? How well would OpenSky interface with the State's P-25 system recently implemented?

Just my two-cents worth. OpenSky really bothers me with all the negative reports about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're going to be over-seeing the comm center. As a former employee there, with some connections still to the place, I feel that the center has long been neglected and left in that vague place known as Finance, which never made sense at all. I'm hoping that you can help instill a little morale to that place. Wonderful people there, just kind of neglected in the morale building, IMHO.