SBC’s 10th Anniversary: Celebrating our past – driving towards the future

Chief Alan Perdue

The Safer Buildings Coalition Celebrates a Decade of Impact
By Chief Alan Perdue (ret.), SBC Executive Director

Posted on May 16, 2022

There’s a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that says, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” This quote has always had a special meaning from growing up on a small tobacco farm. One of the lessons I learned from that experience was that of understanding that in order to have a harvest, one must endure the planting season. As I reflect on the 10-year anniversary of the Coalition, I am reminded of the planting season we (founder Seth Buechley, Mike Collado & a few others) went through to get us to where we are today. The impact that has been accomplished by so many people coming together over the last ten years has produced what we would call in the farming world, a bountiful harvest. So, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and then set our sights on the future…

The Early Years

In 2013, I had the honor of coming onboard as the Executive Director of the Coalition. In the early years, I attended many conferences such as IWCE, APCO, In-Building Wireless, Northeast DAS, and others attempting to help the people that would give me a minute of their time understand that public safety in-building communications was an important need and would be a growing market because of the need for our public safety responders to have fixed, reliable communications when operating inside buildings. And as you can imagine, I heard a lot of comments such as “public safety is not a real thing” or “we are focused on the carriers, public safety is not a market to us”. Based on a lot of the comments we heard in the early years, it would have been easy to give up, to give in and agree with those naysayers…

However, having that foundational experience of growing up on the farm where you learned that when planting crops, sometimes there were obstacles that stood in the way of having a bountiful harvest such as weather, disease, insects, etc. but you did not let that deter you from your vision and your mission. As we applied that concept to the Coalition, we continued to forge ahead knowing that public safety communications was a real and more importantly a necessary need for our first responders.

And I am so glad we continued our journey. When I look back at those early years, I remember attending IWCE and there were maybe two red boxes associated with public safety on the floor of the exhibit hall. The next year there were a few more and the number continued to grow. If you were at this past year’s event, the topic of public safety was everywhere you turned.  This amazing journey would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of several individuals and organizations that believed in our collective mission – Solving the in-building communications wireless dead zone dilemma.  Ensuring that both the public and public safety could communicate in an emergency.

So, What’s Changed?

A whole lot of things. If one looks at where we were and where we are now there have been significant aspects related to in-building communications that have changed. Topics like codes and standards, legislative involvement, work with the Federal Communications Commission related to noise & interference, best practices, competency of the industry with the development of the NICET certification process, and the list goes on and on. The industry has realized that public safety and the importance of cellular coverage is vital to the wellbeing of the public. Being connected in an emergency is vital to one’s safety when they are located inside buildings be it the public or public safety responders.

Stakeholders have realized that wireless connectivity is really the new utility within buildings. Building occupants must be connected in order to conduct everyday business as well as have access to 9-1-1 during an emergency. Building owners are beginning to realize that without connectivity, their buildings are simply not marketable to the public. In today’s world of bring your own device, being connected is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. The Coalition has been involved in almost every aspect of this journey helping all stakeholders understand the critical nature of in-building communications.

How Did We Get Here?

Quite frankly, through the involvement of many individuals and organizations who shared our belief and vision that the ability to communicate inside building is paramount for one’s safety.  So many great people took part in the activities of the Coalition in areas such as our Board of Directors, Work Group Members, Task Force Members, special projects team members, our staff, and the list goes on and on. I have been honored to serve in many organizations during my career and there is always one common denominator that makes an organization excel and that is its members. For their dedication and commitment through the years, I want to say a big personal THANK YOU, job well done!

The Next Season: Driving to the Vision

In farming, as soon as you finish one harvest season it’s time to start preparing for the next one. So, as we celebrate our 10-year milestone, we cannot rest on our laurels there’s still a lot that needs to be accomplished.

While the leadership of the Safer Buildings Coalition has an intuitive sense of how we will get there (because we think about this every day, all day), we have not yet done a great job of communicating to our members and the industry in general what we see as the path to our Ultimate Vision: Eliminating Wireless Dead Zones (of every kind) inside buildings.

As author Lewis Carroll said, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. It is incumbent upon SBC leadership to share the vision of Eliminating Wireless Dead Zones (of every kind) inside buildings with membership and the industry. In the coming months, and with the help of our members, we will craft a Roadmap for Ubiquitous In-Building Wireless Coverage. In this, we will nail the idea of what it truly means to have a Safer Building. To live up to our name: Safer Buildings Coalition.

In that, we will expand on these ideas that we hope most of our members already know about SBC:

  • The Three Pillars of in-building public safety communications:
    • Mobile 911 Calls Must Get Out with Location Accuracy
    • Mobile Mass Notifications Must Reach Building Occupants
    • First Responder Communications Must Work

  • In order for a building to truly be safer, all manner of wireless communications must work inside building for everyone: While SBC has focused on in-building communications for Public Safety (i.e., LMR) for most of the last 10 years, cellular service for both public safety and the public are critical to make buildings truly safer.
  • Building Owners and their occupants are paramount in this mission: We are not saying that first responders are not paramount. We are recognizing that building owners must fund these systems, and therefore need help getting the costs in line and to realize good ROI. It has to be good for them too. And of course, the building occupants must see the benefit. If they can’t dial 9-1-1 and be quickly located, no one is coming to help them anyway.
  • Industry must innovate and Scale
  • Industry must continually improve Competency

The Coalition (meaning you, us, all of us together), has an opportunity to truly make a difference in the world of in-building communications and most importantly, you have an opportunity to be a part of it. Our Coalition is only as strong as its members, so don’t sit back and miss these great opportunities. Get engaged. Get involved. You can make a difference in how people #feelsafeinside… 

But, before we start preparing for that next harvest season, please take a minute to catch your breath and watch this amazing video of what you “our members” have accomplished in our first 10 years: