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NDIT Team to Enhance the State's Public Safety Radio Network

A newly formed team within North Dakota Information Technology is taking an in-depth look at emergency communications across the state with a focus on interoperability, security and resilience.

Last year North Dakota expanded the Statewide Interoperability Radio Network (SIRN), a highly accessible network designed to fulfill the essential communication requirements of the public safety sector by increasing radio coverage and decreasing the need for disparate radio systems and modernizing overall functionality.

Earlier this month, North Dakota Information Technology (NDIT) announced the establishment of a new public safety team dedicated to enhancing the SIRN network to ensure seamless implementation for first responders across the state. That team will be led by Eric Pederson, the newly appointed public safety program manager.

“The Department of Information Technology just recognized that with the creation of the SIRN radio system, it would make sense to centralize all the core public safety personnel in one chain of command,” Pederson said. “It's not only the SIRN system that the new public safety team will be focused on, but also the next-generation 911 system, which is the backbone for the majority of our communication systems.”

The team will also be charged with integrating state systems and technology with FirstNet, the national public safety communications network that has been in the works since the terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001.

Although implementing a statewide project of this magnitude undoubtedly has obstacles, Pederson said this team was built with the right players in place to meet those challenges directly.

“I would say probably one of the biggest obstacles we’ve faced is just the pace of technological change and the pace of technological advancement,” he said. “There are so many technologies that can connect to the SIRN network. All of these technologies on the surface would seemingly work as a tie-in with any radio system, but when you start talking about connectivity and security and operationalizing them, there is just a lot of behind-the-scenes work ..."

With sensitive information disseminated over the SIRN network and the NDIT’s accompanying communication tools daily, Pederson said the agency realizes that data security is paramount, which is why their team works jointly with local and statewide security teams to ensure data integrity and privacy.

The zero-trust environment NDIT relies on to secure its systems will likely be both a blessing and a curse for the public safety team as they move forward with integrating new and existing technologies.

“While this might present some complications for integration, it also ensures that any integration we make doesn't compromise the security of the system as a whole,” Pederson said.

Pederson also noted that the SIRN network and some of the additional public safety products that NDIT uses will expand their AI use in the future as new technology implementation progresses, which has been an especially hot topic for government agencies over the past few months.

“I can see in the future all our communication products leveraging AI. They're all going to, for predictive quantities and just doing some of those back-end tasks that free up a person,” Pederson said. “Those new technologies are going to become more and more important as time goes on. And the creation of the public safety team just gives us a nice base to make sure that we're ready for those challenges as they come.”

The new public safety team and overall SIRN communication project also align with NDIT's broader vision of leveraging technology to empower people, improve lives and inspire success across the state.

“One of the major initiatives of our governor's administration is working as one, and instead of having multiple radio systems and multiple groups duplicating a similar effort, this way, over time, we'll be able to share resources,” Pederson said. “We'll be able to leverage technology evenly across the state where maybe some of your smaller jurisdictions on their own couldn't afford or couldn't manage the technology. We'll have access to it just because of the economy of scale of having a statewide public safety team to do the research, do the integration and manage the support for these types of systems.”
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for Government Technology. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Montevallo and a graduate degree in public relations from Kent State University. Silver is also a published author with a wide range of experience in editing, communications and public relations.