More than 3,600 public safety agencies now on FirstNet

October 23, 2018

by AT&T

FirstNet has kept first responders connected through hurricanes Florence and Michael, and more

More than 3,600 public safety agencies across the country have now joined FirstNet. That’s a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of agencies subscribing to the nationwide wireless communications ecosystem in less than 2 months.

That accounts for more than 250,000 connections on FirstNet. And first responders from federal, state, local and tribal public safety agencies are continuing to turn to FirstNet for the communications tools they need – especially during emergencies and large events.

“FirstNet is being purpose-built to favor the important work first responders do. This is challenging and time consuming. It’s also necessary,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T – FirstNet Program. “Much work still needs to be done to make sure FirstNet is a solution that meets the needs of all first responders. But we’re proud of how FirstNet has been delivering for first responders and the communities they serve when help is most needed. And we’re honored to see public safety embrace their network.”

Staying connected during Hurricanes Florence and Michael

Keeping first responders connected during times of crisis is part of the reason FirstNet was created. During Hurricanes Florence and Michael, FirstNet brought in the right assets to help public safety achieve its mission.

“We moved to the FirstNet system a few months before Hurricane Michael hit. And it was a no-brainer,” said Doug Cofty, emergency services director for the city of Colquitt Miller. “Having the communications capabilities FirstNet provides was critical following the storm’s devastation. Gaining that peace of mind around our communications meant we could focus on what mattered most – supporting our community.”

FirstNet is continuing to serve the thousands of first responders and National Guard members who are still actively aiding in Hurricane Michael recovery efforts. Working with public safety, we stationed 2 FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs) at the Harders Base Camp in Panama City, Fla.

Providing rural coverage during search and rescues

The Yankton Sioux Tribe Police Department recently conducted a search and rescue mission for a missing person in the area. Being in a rural part of South Dakota, the department requested a FirstNet deployable asset to provide needed coverage for the operation.

“In situations like these, communication is critical, and time is of the essence,” said Yankton Sioux Tribal Police Chief Chris Saunsoci. “Knowing the mission was focused in an area with limited coverage, we requested a FirstNet SatCOLT to boost our connectivity. Communications were in place within hours of our request, helping us carry out our operation.”

Chief Saunsoci served on South Dakota’s Public Safety Communications Council and helped advise the governor’s decision to approve the build out of FirstNet.

“After benefitting from FirstNet in real-life situations, it’s a decision I’m proud to have supported for the South Dakota public safety community,” Chief Saunsoci said.

Monitoring restricted airspace at the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

In New Mexico, the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta attracts more than 900,000 visitors every October. More than two dozen first responder agencies are responsible for safety at the event. FirstNet provided devices and technical assistance to help those first responders stay connected.

This year, the Fiesta also employed a drone detection system operated by Aerial Armor to monitor restricted airspace above Balloon Fiesta Park and the surrounding area. And FirstNet provided connectivity to the system to help it maintain peak performance.

“Prior to connecting via FirstNet, we were seeing signal dropouts,” said Brandon Lugo, operations manager at Aerial Armor. “This interrupted our ability to properly monitor the event. We worked with public safety officials at the Fiesta to get connected to FirstNet, allowing our operations to run much smoother. It also enabled us to get the right information – like pictures and text messages – to law enforcement right away.”

According to preliminary numbers, there were 46 drone detections in the restricted airspace during the 9-day event, with 12-15 apprehensions.

“With congestion on the network, we typically don’t have the connectivity we need via a traditional carrier to communicate at the level we need to coordinate with the people working in the Park. FirstNet gave us that,” said Steven Carroll, New Mexico State Police sergeant. “I was able to get real-time pictures and videos of incidents that needed attention from law enforcement. The ability to stop potential issues before they negatively impacted attendees was monumental.”

 “Recent events continue to underscore the need for FirstNet,” said Edward Parkinson, CEO, First Responder Network Authority. “We’re still early in the build process, and we’ll continue to work side-by-side with the public safety community to ensure FirstNet lives up to its promises. But to see FirstNet in action and hear how first responders across the country have already benefitted from the service is a remarkable start and a solid testament to why FirstNet was created.”