Helping public safety prepare for storm season

August 10, 2022

by Jason Porter, President, Public Sector and FirstNet Program at AT&T

The 2022 hurricane season is in full swing with 3 storm systems having already been named by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). With FirstNet® – America’s public safety network – communities can feel safe knowing their first responders can reliably communicate with one another throughout any disaster.

As public safety’s partner, we’re helping deliver on the vision of the first responder community and Congress – from engaging with public safety in local communities to expanding the dedicated FirstNet fleet.

Side-by-side with public safety

Where public safety goes, we go. That’s why the FirstNet, Built with AT&T team has been hard at work connecting with public safety agencies in storm-prone communities as they prepare for this year’s hurricane season. The FirstNet Response Operations Group (ROG) – led by former first responders – has been to Saint Croix, Saint John and Puerto Rico to ensure public safety agencies in the Caribbean have the mission-centric tools they require. And with on-island portable cell sites from the FirstNet fleet, they can quickly deploy assets to provide a “bubble” of connectivity following a major storm – all at no additional charge.

The team also is connecting with agencies along the Gulf – from Orlando, Tampa and Tallahassee in Florida to Baton Rouge in Louisiana and towns along the Texas coastline. FirstNet brings first responders a level of connectivity and advanced capability that’s helping to transform the role communications plays in their response. That means public safety will have dependable access to the critical information they need while in the field.

Expanding the dedicated FirstNet Fleet

We’ve designed FirstNet to be second-to-none in any emergency. We’ve built resiliency into every layer of the network to help safeguard it from Mother Nature’s persistent unpredictability. It’s also for this reason the public safety community stressed the importance of access to its own dedicated fleet of deployable assets when calling for the creation of their network.

As the only carrier that can provide end-to-end emergency communication solutions, we have a commitment unlike any other to deliver for public safety. That’s why we continue to go above and beyond our contractual commitment with the federal government. We’ve added 2 new Communications Vehicles (CVs) to the dedicated FirstNet fleet. This now gives public safety access to a fleet of 150+ land-based and portable cell sites.

FirstNet CVs provide an extra level of communications support beyond the standard deployable asset for first responders when needed. In addition to providing connectivity via LTE (high-quality Band 14 spectrum) and/or Wi-Fi similar to a Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT), CVs provide an air-conditioned command space for 2 first responder communications personnel with multiple monitors, a television and charging stations, as well as a large exterior screen and speakers for briefings. And since they are equipped with a generator that can run for multiple days before refueling, CVs also include a lavatory, microwave, mini refrigerator and sleeping bunk for when deployed during the harshest of conditions.

So far this year, the FirstNet ROG team has deployed over 450 solutions to support public safety – helping them stay connected and operate faster, safer and more effectively when lives are on the line. In addition to the 150+ assets in the FirstNet fleet, public safety can tap into the 300+ assets from the AT&T Network Disaster Recovery fleet when available. Check out this video to see more of the unique assets we have on hand for this year’s storm season.

In addition to the FirstNet fleet, public safety agencies can purchase their own deployable network assets, giving them more control over their network. Dozens of agencies across the country – such as the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, Washington Military Department and Michigan State Police – are using their own Compact Rapid Deployable (CRD) to support their immediate connectivity needs in extremely rural areas and following major disasters.

Michigan State Police recently deployed its own CRD at a National Guard aircraft exercise conducted in the Upper Peninsula to support officers and other local first responders. And the department plans on using this asset at future events and during weather emergencies like the tornado that struck Gaylord, Mich. in May.

FirstNet is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority – an independent government agency. So far, more than 21,800 public safety agencies and organizations – accounting for 3.7 million connections1 – are on FirstNet today. It’s clear FirstNet stands above best-effort commercial offerings. And we’ll continue to set the bar for success in network resiliency and disaster response – now and in the future.

Additional Resources:

1 As of July 21, 2022 announcement