PSBTA Offers Communications Support to VAPolice to Improve Patient, Staff Safety

Washington, DC — The Public Safety Broadband Technology Association (PSBTA) stands ready to help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) improve real-time communications with its own law enforcement agency and partnering agencies in all levels of government — in order to boost patient and staff safety at the VA’s 1300-plus health care facilities.

This was the promise delivered by retired Assistant Chief Charles Dowd, PSBTA Vice President and former Commanding Officer of the New York City Police Department’s Communications Division and the NYC-911 system, during his May 16, 2024 appearance before the Senate’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in Washington, DC. The Subcommittee was conducting an oversight hearing entitled, “Ensuring VA’s Security: How Can Congress Best Support VA’s Law Enforcement?” The PSBTA is composed of the nation’s leading Public Safety executives and associations.

“As we understand, the VA appears to have a critical need for interoperable communications both locally and nationally that will allow them to talk directly to their partners and to share critical information such as situational awareness,” Assistant Chief Dowd told the Subcommittee’s members. “I recommend their communications solution should be looked at from a holistic national purview that not only provides a communications solution for the VA’s law enforcement but may include additional elements of technology for other divisions of the VA and the local, state, and federal mutual aid partners. This is recommended so there is a nationwide, sustainable, common solution, and we would encourage the VA to harness advanced broadband solutions that can integrate with the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. There should no longer be a need to encourage disparate systems for one organization because of geography anymore.”

To make this happen, Assistant Chief Dowd recommended that the VA:

  • Establish a Joint Task Force with its own police force and other public safety agencies to foster better understanding, streamline communications, and coordinate responses more effectively.
  • Update its policy and procedures to improve VA police communications, and improve communications with other public safety agencies.
  • Cross-train the VA’s police communications staff with those of other public safety agencies.
  • Provide adequate funding for these improvements.

“We applaud Congress for working to bolster the VA’s emergency preparedness posture through investments in communications systems at VA medical facilities; however, we would caution against limiting its scope to legacy radio technology,” said Assistant Chief Dowd. “The integration of broadband-enabled push-to-talk into traditional radio systems expands the coverage reach of traditional radio systems, while also increasing the system’s functionality and improving redundancy and reliability. We understand the VA has already made great strides to implement FirstNet technology and integrate their radio systems with FirstNet push-to-talk. We applaud the VA’s Public Safety and Emergency Management personnel for their technology leadership and their recommendation for Congress to build upon this progress.”

For more information:

PSBTA Media Contact:
John Paul Jones
info@thepsbta.org

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