SAFECOM, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) premier public safety communications advisory council, is made-up of public safety stakeholders with a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds. Major Darryl Anderson, of Stark County Sheriff’s Office, offered to share some of his insights about SAFECOM and the direction of the public safety communications community.
Darryl Anderson was an Ohio State Trooper for 31 years, from 1970 - 2001. He retired with the rank of Major, and last served as the Commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Training Academy. Immediately prior to that assignment, he was in charge of the Office of Technology, where he served as one of the primary architects of what would become the Ohio Multiple Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS). In July 2001 he retired from the Patrol and became the MARCS Project Manager, overseeing the build out and deployment of the original statewide 800 MHz voice and data platform. He founded Ohio’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) and became the first Ohio Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) and Single Point of Contact. He also served as a Deputy Sheriff in Pickaway County, Ohio in his spare time!
In 2010, he led the development of the state’s migration to the current Project 25, 700/800 MARCS platform, now supporting over 150,000 radios! He retired from state service in 2015 and shortly thereafter went to work for Sheriff George T. Maier of Stark County, where he assisted the Sheriff and the Stark County Commissioners in the design, procurement and build out of a MARCS “Super Cell”. Stark/MARCS now supports virtually all Stark County first responders with countywide in-building coverage, ensuring seamless interoperability for all emergency personnel. Sheriff Maier presented Major Anderson with the 2022 George Papodopulos award for his diligent work with the Stark/MARCS system, the recently activated Jail Management System, and his continuous work on the countywide law enforcement Records Management System.
CISA: What drew you to joining SAFECOM and what is your role as a SAFECOM member?
Answer: I served as Ohio’s SWIC from the inception of the position until my retirement from the State in 2015. In the role, I routinely and continuously interacted with SAFECOM members and became keenly aware of the benefits of SAFECOM’s collective wisdom as we move forward with Public Safety Mission Critical Communications. Admiral Hewitt approached me and asked me to join SAFECOM as a Member-at-Large. I jumped at the chance! I believe my primary role with SAFECOM is to ensure the voice of the first responder “At the Tip of the Spear” is always heard as we work continuously toward improving public safety communications!
CISA: What projects at SAFECOM are you currently working on and what projects are you most excited for?
Answer: I am on the Funding and Sustainment Committee and know full well the importance (and oft-times overlooked!) of both initial funding of communications projects, and even more important (and more overlooked!!) the continued funding of systems once in place. I firmly believe one of the huge benefits of SAFECOM is the ongoing communications best practices SAFECOM provides. System managers do not need to “reinvent the wheel” as new projects are planned and implemented. SAFECOM provides ongoing guidance for communication leaders nationwide. This is exciting! The emerging Land Mobile Radios/Long Term Evolution “Seamless Roaming” capability is very exciting!!
CISA: What do you want those who may not know about SAFECOM to know about the program?
Answer: SAFECOM is (tangentially) from the government and we are here to help!!! The experience and knowledge of our individual and collective membership, supported by CISA, stands ready, willing, and able to provide assistance to public safety communications managers and practitioners at all levels. The perusal of the SAFECOM website will assist the inquirer to find the proper resources needed to solve challenges many face for the first time. Every time I have approached CISA, as either a practitioner or a SAFECOM member, with an issue I needed help with, I came away with solid potential solutions and/or individual contacts.
CISA: Tell us about your experience working in the public safety community. How has the communications landscape changed over the years? How do you see the landscape changing over the next few years?
Answer: When I first hit the road as a trooper in early 1971, our radio technology was a 4-channel, low-band in-car radio that worked, most of the time. We did not have portable radios until 1978, so when we exited our patrol car we had no “lifeline”! It was not until the trunked digital technology emerged in the early 1990’s that we could roll out a wide-area radio system that could be relied on to work consistently. Today, if our deputy’s’ radio does not affiliate with their backbone system, it is cause for great alarm (and rarely, if EVER happens!). Progress!
I believe the emergence of Next Generation 911 (NG-911) will greatly enhance officer situational awareness in the next few years as real-time video information becomes available to the dispatch center and relayed to the first responder. Also, real-time viewing of officer’s in-car and bodycams will allow for great officer safety and support.
CISA: Do you think SAFECOM will continue to grow and develop in the next couple of years to better help local, tribal, state, territorial and federal agencies?
Answer: Yes, it is our mission! As long as SAFECOM continues to network, stay informed, and create best practices, and seek out energetic membership, we cannot fail!
CISA: How has your involvement in SAFECOM impacted both your community and the public safety community as a whole?
Answer: By staying involved in what is developing nationwide, by networking with both SAFECOM membership and National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators membership, we all benefit when we implement new ideas and best practices mined through these networking opportunities. The ongoing support and assistance that CISA provides to all levels of government is laudable!
CISA: Where do you see the communications landscape in the next 5-10 years?
Answer: As previously mentioned, NG-911 will provide both the dispatch centers and the on-scene first responder with more real time information. FirstNet and other cellular providers will continue to get more robust and provide additional data and other tools. The current and next generation of public safety personnel are “digital natives” and will bring new perspectives to our leadership as they advance through the ranks. Ten years from today the mission-critical public safety radio on the first responders’ belt will still be their most utilized tool as they do the jobs demanded by our public!
CISA: SAFECOM strives to be an active partner to the public safety community at the federal, state., local, tribal, and territorial levels. How are you working within the community to highlight the SAFECOM program?
Answer: In addition to bringing back and implementing best practices at our countywide level, I continue to be active in both the Ohio SIEC and our 12-county regional interoperability committee, and share knowledge gained in SAFECOM at both of these levels. My phone is always on and I remain committed to move forward each day to better serve the public, and especially provide the tools for our safety personnel to do their jobs more effectively and safer!
In closing, CISA’s ongoing, unflagging support of SAFECOM has made the progress in the public safety mission critical communication move ahead exponentially since 2001. CISA leadership and rank-and-file remain dedicated to serving our county and are commended by our SAFECOM membership!! THANKS, CISA!!!