Excellance recently chatted with Kelly Castle who is OhioFirst.Net’s Project Manager. Kelly discusses FirstNet, and how they are creating awareness about the initiative with a new video game entitled Next Generation Firefighter.
Kelly, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at FirstNet Ohio?
Kelly Castle: I am the Project Manager at OhioFirst.Net. FirstNet is a federal initiative that will build a dedicated cellular network for public safety responders from police, fire, ems and secondary sources. It will allow first responders access to a valuable network spectrum so they do not have to compete with all cellular users. In other words, it will give them priority over other customers so they can text, send pictures, stream video, use drones, telemetry, and other applications to save lives. The federal legislation allowed for a grant in order for states to do outreach and education about the project as well as collect data and provide it to FirstNet to tailor a network for each state.
What is FirstNet and how does it help first responders?
Kelly Castle: I thought about this idea because all the states were doing the same old power point presentations for outreach and it didn’t seem “cutting edge” enough to allow the audiences to experience what the benefit would or could be. Although I was never a gamer, my son grew up playing video games and it inspired the thought. It is transformational and seeing is believing.
The OhioFirst.Net program has developed a very unique way of getting their message out there by creating a video game to keep people engaged. Can you tell us a little bit about the game?
Kelly Castle: The game, Next Generation Firefighter, first takes the player through a burning building to rescue two victims with current technology. Then, it takes them through the building with modern technology in a heads up display which we call a Smart Helmut. The Helmut has mapping and thermal imagery available to them without having to use their hands and it is much easier to extract the victims. It could be timed to determine a winner if one were so inclined.
How long did it take to design and bring the game to life? And how big was the team that worked on it?
Kelly Castle: My consultant, Brandon Abley from Televate, is a game developer as a hobby so I knew he could put it together. He spent a lot of time with actual firefighters in order to make it authentic. So, with a bit of input from me and the fire guys, he put the game together in about six months. It is a lot of work (I had no idea!). We decided to make it available on our website starting tomorrow as a free download. If people like it, we may do other iterations such as Next Generation Paramedic or Next Generation SWAT Commander. We also, at some point, want to build a Smart Helmut with a heads up display that you can play with instead of on the computer or with a joystick. Who knows, maybe even adaptable for AR devices.
What do you hope to accomplish with the game and how have people responded to it so far?
Kelly Castle: The game allows people a fun interactive and tactile way to “experience” what the FirstNet network could provide. Although we debuted the game at the APCO Broadband Summit this week in DC, it will be much more effective when people can download it from our website and hear the audio etc.
To learn more and download the game when it releases online, visit the official OhioFirst.Net website.
OhioFirst.Net Program Manager Kelly Castle comes to the project with over 27 years’ experience in or around public safety. Kelly has been an Assistant County Prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General, Legal Advisor for the Columbus Division of Police and Columbus Fire Department, and Chief Counsel for Department of Youth Services. She has served on many statewide task forces and trained many disciplines in investigation, legal, ethics and policy issues.