Highlight: Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi
Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi Network recently sat down with Project Manager Justin Barton of DPS, who works on the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) -- a federal grant designed to help states across the nation prepare for participation in the National Public Safety Broadband. They discussed the National Public Safety Broadband Network, how his department is already taking steps to embrace mobile broadband data, and how communications technology for first responders has evolved over the years.
Mike Bucossi was a senior in high school when he felt the draw to become a firefighter. “One of my friends in high school was on the call force [at the Brattleboro Fire Department]. When we were out on the front grounds of the high school one day, we could see Mt. Wantastiquet over in New Hampshire had a pretty good forest fire going on top of the mountain. At that point, he started talking to me about being on the fire department and convinced me to join the call force. From there, it just morphed into a career.”
Fast forward to 2015, with over 40 years of service under his belt, Bucossi has seen communications within the Brattleboro Fire Department evolve significantly. “When I started back in the 70s, there were three portable radios in the department and the shift officers carried them. They were three times bigger than they are today and were single-channel, low-band radios which were very hard to use because of the terrain in this area. Slowly but surely, we worked our way into modern times, if you will, and more portable radios were bought but we were on the low-band for many years in the early stages of my career. We now have a very sophisticated radio system here: microwaves, repeaters, multi-channel radios, everyone on the career staff has their own portable radios.”
Today Chief Bucossi is in the process of implementing a first responder application called Active 911. The application can be downloaded to any device, including smartphones and tablets, and enables response efforts to be monitored in real time. It’s also a digital messaging systems that delivers alarms, maps, and other critical information instantly. “We’re in the process of going to the Active 911 dispatching application. We’ve got the contract and we’re in the process of loading the software into Spillman and then loading the application on everyone’s phones if they want to use it. Maybe we will get to where Hartford is in a few years, using voiceless dispatch, but we’re not there yet.”
Chief Bucossi says that his organization has always embraced technology in “baby steps” and sees the transition to mobile data as another step in the evolution of the ever changing communications landscape among first responders. Bucossi comments that his concerns about the network are costs, coverage and adoption. “My major concerns would be money, coverage, and people getting used to it and learning how to use it. The technologically-challenged people like myself learning how it works and how to make it work the best for Brattleboro”. While Bucossi is already transitioning to mobile based applications to help improve response times and respond with more ease, he is cautiously optimistic about the National Public Safety Broadband Network.
This very transition to mobile broadband applications on smartphones among first responders is one sign that the nation is in need of a dedicated National Public Safety Broadband Network. The National Public Safety Broadband Network will be an interoperable network in the nation’s rural and urban areas. When deployed, the network is envisioned to have departments just like Brattleboro Fire operating on the FirstNet network. The network will provide priority access for all first responders and promises to provide enhanced coverage for all first responders.