Claire Bailey, CTO, Arkansas/Photo by Kelly Quinn Claire Bailey, CTO, Arkansas/Four Questions Photo by Kelly Quinn

Under Chief Technology Officer Claire Bailey's leadership, Arkansas has progressed toward interoperability by implementing its Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN). This 700/800 MHz radio system eliminated some of the stovepipes that existed between public safety agencies and jurisdictions.

What broke Arkansas out of the stovepipe scenario?

When you get a group of people together, there's always going to be a lot of ways to approach projects, ideas or implementations.

I've been in technology for a very long time, and where we've had the most success in any effort that we've done is when we've listened to the people who carry the radios. Personally, as a computer-science person, I've never walked into a burning building in a fireman's role and the radio either worked or failed.

How do you get all of the public safety stakeholders to the table?

We had [project managers] nominated from the local leadership, and that, to me, was the strength of how we moved forward. We also engaged an independent quality assurance group that doesn't work for the state. We did a request for proposal to find [a vendor] that specifically engineered radio systems across the nation.

In terms of deployment, has anything surprised you or have you come across any obstacles you've had to sidestep?

When we looked inside a squad car or emergency management vehicle, they are carrying all kinds of loads on batteries, due to devices and things that have to remain charged. It's fine while the vehicle is running, but when you turned off your car, the battery was discharging. So there was a very small hiccup that we were able to isolate. The overall drain on the battery was causing an issue. The phased implementation helped. It allowed us to ensure that our deployments were on track and that we were hitting and testing the right components.

How do you measure return on investment for projects like this?

When you ask, "What would I have spent versus what did I spend by upgrading the existing infrastructure?" We saved millions of dollars by building upon existing infrastructure and bringing people into that common environment. We also worked very hard to segment maintenance and operations so that we do not charge a user fee.

How do you measure return on investment for projects like this?

When you ask, "What would I have spent versus what did I spend by upgrading the existing infrastructure?" We saved millions of dollars by building upon existing infrastructure and bringing people into that common environment. We also worked very hard to segment maintenance and operations so that we do not charge a user fee.

 

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor