It’s rare for first responders to trust the general city IT department for critical public safety communications. But that’s been the case for years in the Charlotte metro area, where the city’s shared services agency runs one of the nation’s top public safety radio networks.

“I feel like I’m helping to provide the most state-of-the-art public safety services in the country,” said Chuck Robinson, director of Charlotte’s Shared Services, which provides a suite of services to city agencies and others in the surrounding area. “We are really enabling our police and fire responders to cut their response times, providing police the most accurate information in the field that’s available.”

Now Robinson is at the forefront of efforts to build a nationwide public safety communications network.

In 2012, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration created FirstNet as the governing body to direct implementation of a national network dedicated to the needs of public safety agencies. Robinson leads FirstNet’s deployment on Charlotte’s 4G network. He’s also chairman of the FCC’s Technical Advisory Board for First Responder Interoperability.

Robinson expects Charlotte’s deployment to influence how the rest of the country implements public safety broadband. “We have always thought about this as a component of the national network,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t be successful on our own, so we were really excited by the opportunity FirstNet represents.”

Robinson, who entered public service in 1993 after retiring from the military, says projects like this are why he works in government.

“You’re working for something bigger than yourself. You could work for Ford. Yeah, they’re going to build great cars, but in the end, you’re working for the stockholder,” Robinson said. “I work for the citizens of Charlotte, and my whole thing is to give them the best possible value for their tax dollar.”

Photo by Bob Leverone

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Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  |  GT Staff Writer

By day, Hilton Collins is a staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines who covers sustainability, cybersecurity and disaster management issues. By night, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and if he had to choose between comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. He can be reached at hcollins@govtech.com and on @hiltoncollins on Twitter.