NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, the NVTC Digital Strategy Committee writes about the group’s recent event on digital strategy and public safety, featuring Fairfax City Fire Department Chief Richard R. Bowers, and how it revealed several very interesting and useful challenges for the NOVA business community.


The Northern Virginia Technology Council’s (NVTC) Digital Strategy Committee (#nvtcdigstrat) recent event regarding Digital Strategy and Public Safety, featuring Richard R. Bowers – Chief, Fairfax Fire Department – revealed several very interesting and useful challenges for the NOVA business community.Not least of which was the current challenges around focused, resourced digital strategy planning across the County constituent agencies, and among local jurisdictions.Many targeted capabilities and improvements in “front-end” digital tools, outreach and engagement, plus initiatives on the “back-end” to handle system-specific data and information management are certainly underway, but information-sharing among the public safety stakeholders – businesses, government and the public – remains a strategic planning, governance and education hurdle to address. In other words, a B2G2C digital strategy challenge.NVTC Digital Strategy with Fairfax Fire Chief Richard Bowers

“Simplicity” was a key concept – that seems hard to maintain in the first responder settings, particularly with the profusion of both new technology equipment and situational data. Chief Bowers illustrated the challenge with local EMS responders – on route or on scene -having to quickly use and interact with at least 5 separate kinds of equipment:

  • EPCR (Electronic Patient Care Reporting)
  • CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch)
  • MDC (Mobile Data Computers)
  • NCR (National Capital Region) Patient Tracking System
  • Mobile Phones, iPads and Radios

The variety of interfaces, variety of data granulation, variety of authentication methods – it all adds up to what can be a burdensome expectation on responders, which creates higher risk in areas of data quality and security, process coordination and mission efficiency. This hinders, therefore, the ability of the entire responder community to deliver optimal outcomes – in spite of the number and types of technologies available and in use.

Furthermore, as the technologies available to both the responders and the public become more pervasive, easy to operate and use – for collecting or contributing incident reporting, sensory feedback and overall situational awareness data – it’s simply too difficult to add these inputs to the mix in a way that avoids information overload, or worse, information degradation or errors. There’s no common information architecture that anticipates a proliferation of device inputs, mobile and social channels.

A standard “dashboard” visualization service for use in the field, to quickly access the various systems and growing information sources, was also mentioned as a highly-desirable capability – particularly a dashboard to sensitive systems and protected information in a BYOD environment – i.e. on personal cellphones or tablets. A related need surfaced above the actual dashboard of the response vehicles and fire engines – actually having “heads up” display on the windshield of incident information, particularly GPS and route data.

Fairfax 2015 Police and Fire Games

The Committee was also briefed on the upcoming World Police and Fire Games, coming to Fairfax County at the end of June this year (2015). It’s anticipated that over 12,000 athletes and family/guests (over 30,000 in all) will attend the games, and that Fairfax County will experience tremendous global attention, regional pride and local economic benefit from hosting the event. Over 2000 volunteer slots remain open, along with many sponsorship opportunities for businesses, organizations or individuals. The Fairfax 2015 Games Website maintains all information for athletes and all other participants, from local accommodations and event venues, to a robust social community and online marketplace.

The NVTC Digital Strategy Committee looks forward to more collaboration sessions with the Northern Virginia public safety and First Responder community, and will continue to support information-sharing about B2G2C digital strategies.

Thanks to the NVTC event sponsors, speakers, coordinators and volunteers, including:

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