Washington Post Op-Ed: Bring 911 Into the 21st Century

An opinion piece in The Washington Post calls for the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan to include modernizing the nation’s 9-1-1 system. Specifically, the Op-Ed stresses the importance of moving to Next Generation 9-1-1, technology that will increase response times, location accuracy, and allow text, photo, and video data to be shared by callers to First Responders on their way to the emergency.

According to The Washington Post:

Even as an estimated 240 million 911 calls continue to be placed annually, the systems that service them have grown obsolete, unable to handle photos, video, downloads, precise geo-locating and even, in most places, simple text messages. That’s a threat not just to public safety but also to national security.

Worryingly, no one seems quite sure how to pay for a modernization to what’s known as Next Generation 911 (“NG911” in industry parlance), whose cost could exceed $20 billion. This week, as hundreds of public-safety and industry officials gather in the District for their annual 911 conference, many will have one main question on their minds: Why not prioritize an upgrade as part of the Trump administration’s national infrastructure project?

In Maryland, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat alarmed at the deaths of constituents in her district involving 911 breakdowns since 2006, has introduced legislation to help localities start the transition to NG911.

Advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 Systems is one of MACo’s 2018 Legislative Initiatives. Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers. MACo urges a concerted statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing the expertise and needs of front-line county managers.

Senate Bill 285/House Bill 634 – “Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland – Establishment” creates a Commission to examine at the strategic aspects of Next Generation 9-1-1 implementation in coordination with the Emergency Numbers Systems Board’s (ENSB) existing efforts, particularly ensuring that those areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB are addressed. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of Next Generation 9-1-1 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

MACo is in strong support of SB 285 and HB 634, you can read the MACo testimony here.

Useful Links

The Washington Post Op-Ed: Here’s an idea for infrastructure week: Bring 911 into the 21st century

MACo Initiative: Next Gen 9-1-1 Commission Would Guide MD Forward

Conduit Street Podcast: 9-1-1 Takes Center Stage, Huge Drop of Bills Introduced, Sick Leave Law Looms, and Senate Changes Afoot

Conduit Street Podcast: 9-1-1 Takes Center Stage, Huge Drop of Bills Introduced, Sick Leave Law Looms, and Senate Changes Afoot

Both county and municipal governments, still feeling the permanent effects of devastating cutbacks to state roadway funding, have made restoring Highway User Revenues a perennial legislative priority.  HB 1569, introduced today, represents a compromise between counties and municipalities, whereby all local governments would have their local share of Highway User Revenues fully restored.

A law requiring employers to provide employees with sick leave will go into effect on Sunday, despite a veto last year from Governor Larry Hogan and a last-ditch effort by the state Senate to delay its implementation. The law requires employers with 15 or more full-time employees to provide workers with at least five days of sick and safe leave per year.

The Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) (SB 285/HB 634), one of MACo’s 2018 Legislative Priorities, had a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee this week. Counties from across the state sent public safety professionals to stress the importance of advancing NG911 in Maryland.

The General Assembly is on pace to introduce more than 4,000 bills in 2018. With “crossover” just five weeks away, legislators are scrambling to meet the deadline.

Senator Ed Kasemeyer, Chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, announced he does not intend to seek re-election to another term. His decision would leave yet another member of the powerful fiscal panel uncertain for the next four-year term.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson break down the compromise on Highway User Revenues, discuss the paid sick leave law, recap the NG911 hearing, preview big changes on the horizon for the Maryland Senate, and more!

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

If you are having trouble using this media player, listen on our website.

 

Counties Support Expanding Tech Internship Programs

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified before the House Appropriations Committee in support of HB 527, “Higher Education – Maryland Technology Internship Program – Alterations,” on February 8, 2018. The bill enables counties to participate in the Maryland Technology Internship program.

Currently, the Maryland Technology Internship Program connects college and university students, recent graduates, and veterans with small innovative businesses in the high-growth technology sector through internships. The Program incentivizes businesses to participate by offering a stipend of up to 50% for each paid intern. HB 527 would expand the current Program by authorizing the State and local governments to participate in the same way as technology-based businesses.

From the MACo testimony:

Counties are invested in having strong and vibrant economies. A robust, well-trained, and educated workforce encourages businesses to locate to and grow in Maryland. This bill helps encourage high-achieving students at Maryland institutions of higher education to remain in the state after graduation.

The bill properly leaves the decision for establishing a program in the hands of local governments, who are best situated to determine whether a program is in their best interest. If a program is established, it requires both the county and the State to split the costs for paid interns, disbursing financial burdens and ensuring that the State is equally invested in the advancement of its students and workforce.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Olympics-Related Malicious Activity Likely to Affect Local Governments

Malicious cyber threat actors have historically used high-profile events such as the Olympic Games to carry out their attacks – government entities are likely targets.

CyberAttackOlympicsThe Center for Internet Security (CIS), endorsed by MACo, has published a white paper providing recommendations for county technical staff in protecting networks and users during the 2018 Winter Olympics. The cybersecurity experts at CIS note that high-profile events are usually turned into vehicles for malware, scams, fraud, and cyber-espionage.

Because county employees might view Olympics content on government-issued devices or networks, these threats could directly impact the security of local government systems.

Tactics likely to be used are summarized below, but more details are available in the CIS white paper:

Phishing – Expect emails with links to malicious website advertising live coverage, news stories, or ticket sales. These websites often contain malware or attempt to steal login credentials.

Olympic Coverage – Malicious actors are likely to create malware-laden websites with domains resembling legitimate ones. They often use social media to spread these links. The CIS Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center has already observed an uptick in registration of several domains containing “Olympics,” “winter,” “games,” or similar key phrases.

Mobile Apps – Olympics-themed apps may not be as legitimate as they appear. While they may use 2018 Winter Games branding, they could contain collection capabilities that could cause data breaches if downloaded to government network endpoints.

Travel to the Olympics – CIS reports that cyber-espionage and profit-motivated cyberattacks on visitors and spectators in PyeongChang are almost a certainty. Wi-Fi spoofing, card-skimming, and similar hard-to-detect threats could invade government systems through employee devices or credit cards.

Recommendations for addressing these threats are available in the CIS white paper.

To find out more about the Center for Internet Security – and how they can help your county networks stay safe and secure with low-cost or FREE MACo member options – please contact MACo Member Services Director Virginia White.

Hawaii’s False Missile Alert: Lessons Learned (Part 1 of 2)

Image result for Hawaii images map

Washington Post article (2018-01-13) reported that the state of Hawaii issued an emergency alert on January 13, 2018, that warned of an incoming ballistic missile attack. The alert turned out to be a false alarm but briefly caused a public panic until the alert was retracted 38 minutes after it was sent. While it was ultimately determined that the alert was caused by human error and failures in Hawaii’s emergency alert procedures, initial speculation raised the possibility that Hawaii’s emergency alert contact lists had been hacked or compromised.

MACo will examine the Hawaii alert situation and discuss how it is relevant to both Maryland and its counties in a two part blog article. Part 1 (this part) will discuss what happened and highlight the importance of protecting the contact information of residents. Part 2 will explore the shortcomings in Hawaii’s emergency alert system and provide lessons learned for Maryland’s local governments.

WHAT HAPPENED

The article noted that at approximately 8:07 am, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent the following cellphone alert: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The alert appeared to have been accidentally activated by an Agency employee during a shift change. While the Agency tweeted that there was no actual missile threat at 8:20 am, a second text alert retracting the previous alert was not sent until 8:45 am. The article stated that the message caused a brief panic in some residents and tourists while others appeared to have no idea what was happening. From the article:

“I literally sent out ‘I love you’ texts to as many family members as I could. It was all kind of surreal at that point,” [Honolulu resident Noah] Tom, 48, told The Washington Post. He made the difficult decision of turning the car toward home, where his two youngest children were. “I figured it was the largest grouping of my family.” …

 

Back on shore, there was no panic, just vacationers and others wondering why there was no immediate coverage on restaurant televisions or local radio.

THE AFTERMATH
Unsurprisingly the false alarm resulted in calls for a thorough investigation from both state and local Hawaii officials. The article indicated that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also plans to conduct an investigation. Both the Agency and other emergency management agencies throughout the United States plan on reviewing their alert procedures and if necessary making changes to avoid a similar situation. Part 2 of this series will examine the procedural and communication lessons the Hawaii incident poses to county emergency management agencies.
PROTECTING EMERGENCY ALERT CONTACT INFORMATION
While the cause in this particular incident was human error, it is also critical for states and local governments to protect their emergency contact information. As part of their 2018 legislative initiatives, both MACo and the Maryland Municipal League are introducing legislation to prohibit the release of an individual’s personal contact information (street address, email address, or telephone number) under the Maryland Public Information Act where that information was solely provided or gathered to create an alert, notice, or news distribution list. This prevents residents from being spammed with unwanted messages,  or worse, false alerts that are made to look like official notices. MACo believes this makes sense from both a security and privacy perspective.

 

Anne Arundel Announces $48M Public Safety Radio System Upgrade

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh today announced a $48.4 million capital construction contract to replace and improve the public safety radio system in the County.

According to a press release:

“Three years ago, Anne Arundel County began undertaking the largest public safety infrastructure upgrade in its history,” said Schuh. “This public safety radio system upgrade is crucial to those efforts. In any emergency, effective communications between first responders is critical.”

The project will replace all first responder mobile, portable and network radio equipment and comply with P25 public safety radio industry standards, providing improved interoperability between the County and its neighboring jurisdictions.

The new radio system will address many current system radio coverage issues and will provide improved radio coverage inside of structures throughout Anne Arundel County. Once the project begins, the County anticipates the system will be built in 36 months.

In addition to improvements to voice dispatch radio performance, the new system will include state-of-the-art technology to enhance the safety and efficiency of first responders in Anne Arundel County, including real-time GPS location of first responders when they are away from their vehicles.

The contract with Motorola Solutions, Inc. requires guaranteed reliable in-building portable radio coverage inside of 196 critical buildings throughout Anne Arundel County. These buildings include schools, hospitals, police stations, fire stations, and government buildings.

Read the full press release for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #7 – Small Cell Broadband/Election Issues

The future of wireless will evolve from large, macro-cell towers to include thousands of densely-deployed small cells, operating at lower power. Small cell wireless facilities are deployed by mobile operators to extend network coverage and/or increase network capacity. State and local governments across the country have expressed concerns over legislation that would pre-empt local government regulations when it comes to siting antennas and other infrastructure in public rights of way such as power poles, street lamps, and traffic signals.

Elections are a public good and serve critical purposes: they are how we choose our representatives, set the course for our public policy, and give voice to our views about the issues that impact our lives, families, and communities. Many states, including Maryland, are considering measures to increase voter turnout.

On this episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss small cell broadband and election issues.

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

Washington County Prepares for Next Generation 9-1-1

Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) issues are of top concern for county governments officials seeking to improve and enhance their handling of emergency calls from cell phone users.

NG911 will enable the public to make voice, text, or video calls from any communications device via Internet Protocol-based networks. Linked call centers will also be able to share resources like GIS (Geographic Information System) databases rather than each having to purchase their own. These capabilities can make public safety both more effective and more responsive.

While the technology to implement NG911 is available now, there are many issues that local governments must work through, including uniform specifications, the process of transition, governance, and funding. In Washington County, local government officials are in the process of updating addresses and reviewing geographic boundaries, all in an effort to prepare for NG911.

According to Herald-Mail Media,

Local planning is part of a nationwide effort to bring 911 up to the “next level of technology,” said Bud Gudmundson, the county’s GIS manager.

GIS coordinates will provide more accurate location information, including vertical coordinates. Location information won’t have to be tied to an actual address. That will help dispatchers identify locations whether someone is on the side of a road or in a field, which will help with search-and-rescue efforts, Fischer said.

Local officials are wrestling with the problem of the boundary between Washington and Frederick counties for a few reasons.

The boundary line is along South Mountain and hasn’t been surveyed since 1824, Gudmundson said. There are few, if any, markers along the line showing that boundary.

Another issue: Some addresses will need to be corrected.

The county’s planning department is the addressing authority for unincorporated areas in the county. Hagerstown handles its addressing and the smaller towns handle theirs.

Hagerstown has been good about checking with the county about addresses and Gudmondson said he doesn’t foresee the county taking over what the city is doing.

However, the county is going to ask the smaller towns if the county can take over addressing authority for them, for the “sake of consistency and accuracy.”

MACo has adopted advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 systems as one of four 2018 Legislative Initiatives.

Advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 Systems

Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers. MACo urges a concerted statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing the expertise and needs of front-line county managers.

Click here to learn more about MACo’s 2018 Legislative Initiatives.

Broadband Throughout the Land at #MACoCon

In today’s world, internet connectivity is no longer a luxury—it is a necessity. Broadband is critical to the future of our economy, education, and safety. Many Marylanders have either limited or no access to broadband, creating a gap in the ability of some communities to participate in the global economy. In order to address the service gap, counties are employing new and innovative solutions.

Mark E. Ripper, Director, Dept. of Technology Services, Carroll County

During the 2017 MACo Winter Conference panel “Broadband Throughout the Land” attendees learned about the challenges and best practices associated with expanding broadband access in Maryland.

Mark E. Ripper, Director, Dept. of Technology Services, Carroll County, discussed broadband in Carroll County, including dark fiber networks, client bases, and relationships with providers and customers. Mr. Ripper also discussed best practices for counties looking to set up contracts for broadband service.

James D. McCormick Jr., CIO, Caroline County, talked about broadband from a rural perspective, including the lack of access to existing infrastructure. Mr. McCormick also described the different options for delivering broadband service, such as aerial, boring, and conduit.

Victor Tervala, Chief Solicitor, General Counsel Division, Law Dept., Baltimore City discussed some of the challenges of expanding broadband access in Baltimore City. Mr. Tervala also talked about potential issues counties could face regarding deregulation for broadband providers.

The session was moderated by Delegate Johnny Mautz and was held on Wednesday, December 6. The MACo Winter Conference was December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Partnership.”

Crack the “Code” Code with Programming Power at #MACoCon

Software can advance a county’s budgeting process, making it more streamlined, efficient, and transparent – or it can encumber the process and add headaches and staff time to an already labor-intensive process. Learn how counties large and small have cracked the “code” code at the Winter Conference session, Programming Power: Technological Tools to Tighten the Budget.

Montgomery County addressed planning its $5.5 billion total operating budget by designing its own software program to streamline and systematize its budgeting process. Meanwhile, Queen Anne’s made its budget more transparent by investing in  Open Data Queen Anne’s County. Learn more about what Queen Anne’s accomplished by watching the video below, and get the full download from budget directors and information technology experts at the MACo Winter Conference.

Title: Programming Power: Technological Tools to Tighten the Budget

Description: In many areas of service, the right software package can prove to be one of a county’s most reliable and beneficial partners. This holds especially true for budget officers, who have identified exceptional technological tools to replace cumbersome legacy systems and business processes. These nimble, powerful, and user-friendly programs can simplify complex webs of databases and systems, saving finance offices hundreds of hours of staff time – and, of course, money. Find out how the right technological tools can streamline your operating and capital budgeting processes, from fellow government officials solely seeking to share the goldmines they’ve found.

Speakers:

  • Jennifer Hughes, Director, Montgomery Office of Budget & Management
  • Scott Coble, Manager, Montgomery Office of Budget & Management
  • Jonathan Seeman, Director, Queen Anne’s Office of Budget, Finance & Information Technology

Date/Time: Thursday, December 7, 2017; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. The conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference: