Adopting FirstNet early is key to developing the tools Citizen Potawatomi Nation needs, emergency manager says

Posted on November 12, 2018, Updated on November 14, 2018

by Tim Zientek, Director of Emergency Management, Fire and Housekeeping with Citizen Potawatomi Nation

As director of emergency management for Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma, I’ve worked with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security for many years. That’s how I learned about the 9/11 Commission report – and about FirstNet. And I believe it’s going to change the way public safety agencies communicate — for the better.

It’s already having a big impact for us.

At Citizen Potawatomi Nation we expected more than 30,000 visitors to our FireLake Fireflight Balloon Fest in August. So, we asked the FirstNet team at AT&T for a Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCoLT) to enhance our communications during that weekend.

We wanted our visitors to come and enjoy the festival. But we also wanted to make sure we had dependable communications in case of emergencies. If someone were to have a medical emergency, we wouldn’t be able to get to them without communication.

The result: All the devices that connected to the SatCoLT worked flawlessly*.

Rural areas

Citizen Potawatomi Nation incorporates about 1,000 square miles in the state of Oklahoma. It takes in most of Potawatomie County and six miles of Oklahoma County and Cleveland County. We dispatch for 28 agencies within Potawatomie County. So, we have three dispatchers on staff, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To protect the safety of people within our jurisdiction — whether they’re Citizen Potawatomi Nation or not – we need reliable communications. That’s why we signed up for FirstNet.

Whether it's a manhunt, a large grass fire, or a wildfire, our officers need to be able to call back in to dispatch or to the command center and say, ‘I need this resource.’ It helps save lives. It brings the entire community together when we can talk to each other either on the radio or off the radio.

In addition, many Native Americans live in rural areas. Some have no electricity or running water. And we need to have connectivity in these areas.  The goal for FirstNet for us is to provide coverage in these areas. 

Adopting Early

So, it was important that Citizen Potawatomi Nation sign up early on – while FirstNet is in the build-out stage, simply because it is new.

I want to be able to give the First Responder Network Authority and the FirstNet team at AT&T feedback about how the FirstNet network platform is functioning and what we can do together to improve it. If you’re building this network for us, those of us in public safety should make sure it’s doing what we need it to do. 

It’s not fully built out yet. But it’s up and coming. And it’s a tool that first responders will come to depend on for a very long time.

*Individual results may vary.