Supporting first responders requires a reliable connection and FirstNet allows us to have virtually seamless communication
Posted on February 13, 2020
When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in 2017, it knocked out everything – the repeating towers, the electricity. We couldn’t communicate.
So, we had to double-down on our manpower and send our drivers out in twos or threes.
The devastation just north of Corpus Christi was beyond description. We were lifting trees off homes and cars. We were taking motor homes out of trees. And we were assisting the fire department and EMS in rescuing people from their homes and out of vehicles.
We’d send our drivers out at 7 in the morning and ask them report back at noon. We didn't know what tasks they would have to perform when they got there. But if they didn’t report back by noon, we'd have to go look for them.
As a manager of a company employing 30-plus people and responsible for their safety – not having direct and clear communication was a serious concern. A lack of communication is not a good thing for any industry. And it's certainly not a good thing for anyone working closely with public safety.
That led to us to go out and look at what was available. And that’s why we’re on FirstNet.
Communication is critical
Apollo Towing Service frequently works with local law enforcement. And it’s important for us to have direct communication with our local first responders – on a day-to-day basis.
We work with Corpus Christi Police Department, Corpus Christi Fire Department, the Nueces County Sheriff's Department, the Nueces County fire district. And we work very closely with the San Patricio County Sheriff's Department.
FirstNet service has allowed us to have virtually seamless communication with all of them. They can give us very clear and accurate locations and descriptions. This allows us to get the right equipment and the right people at the right time in the right location.
It helps us expedite all those services to get a roadway open. And it prevents secondary accidents and backups in traffic.
Harbor Bridge incident
An example of something else we do is a call we got from the Corpus Christi Police Department and the Corpus Christi Fire Department about a year ago.
An 18-wheeler loaded with lumber lost control on the Harbor Bridge. While trying to avoid an accident, it had veered over the centerline and jumped over the Jersey barrier. And it was dangling precariously over the water. The only thing that stopped it from going into the water was that the trailer weighed more than the cab. But the cab was tilting and teetering over Nueces Bay.
It would have been a contamination scenario, and it would have been a huge mess for everybody involved.
We deployed our 50-ton rotator, which is a large tow truck for recoveries, and went out with the fire department. We were able to grab that vehicle from the side and over the top of the bridge, and bring it back onto the roadway where they could tow it back to its customer base.
I worked for the Corpus Christi Police Department for 22 years. And there were multiple occasions where we requested tow service and they would send the wrong equipment, or they'd send the equipment to the wrong location.
Now that I’m on the other side, I can take those experiences back to the towing industry, and see what we can do to improve it and move it forward.
Apollo Towing spent a lot of time, money, resources, and manpower trying to bridge the gaps when we lost communication. A lot of times, it required an assistant manager or a manager to call a third party to say, "Is my operator there on site? Can you have them call in and tell us they're doing okay?"
Now that’s we’re on FirstNet, we use multiple FirstNet services. We use the push-to-talk service every day. Our dispatchers use that to talk to our drivers. Our drivers use it to report back to the dispatch.
We use a tablet system in our heavy-duty trucks; the phone system in the light duty trucks and mobile apps on all of those systems. The ability to send photos of job scenes and job sites in a very short amount of time has worked very well for us.
I would strongly recommend FirstNet service to all those who support first responders. It has done nothing but improve the communication, and the service ability and timeliness of our services.
Michael Staff is Vice President of Apollo Towing. Before joining the company, he was a patrol officer for the Corpus Christi Police Department for 22 years. This included accident reconstruction and follow up, and hit-and-run accident investigation duties. In his time there, he investigated over 10,000 incidents, about 150 fatality accidents, and completed approximately 50 reconstructions on major accidents.
Apollo Towing Service
- 21 years in business
- 32 employees
- 28 full-time assets that are deployable at any particular moment or instance
- Serve an area in south Texas, down to the Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville to Laredo, up to San Antonio, to Houston, and back to the Corpus Christi area