Transforming first responder communications in Alaska with FirstNet

October 7, 2022

by AT&T

Photo courtesy of JR Ancheta, UAF

The University Fire Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is preparing the next generation of Alaska firefighters with FirstNet®, Built with AT&T.

Supporting the University of Alaska Fairbanks Troth Yeddha’ campus, the City of Fairbanks and the surrounding rural and suburban areas, University Fire Department is staffed mainly by full time university students, who achieve on the job training, certifications and a college degree. To prepare the next generation of firefighters, the department focuses on the latest technologies to ensure that the firefighters can continue to innovate fire response throughout their careers.“

University Fire Department strives to be the gold standard of student-based fire departments,” said Forrest Kuiper, Fire Chief at University Fire Department. “Our premier fire and EMS training has made us a leader in firefighting innovation in the state. Our work with FirstNet embodies our vision of integrating innovative solutions for our men and women on the frontlines to help increase safety and connectivity.”

Chiefs at the department use FirstNet devices to stay connected to their student firefighters on the scene. The department’s vehicles and fire apparatus will be equipped with FirstNet MegaRange™, high power user equipment (HPUE) that can significantly boost cellular transmission strength on Band 14. Band 14 is the only LTE band in the U.S. enabled by 3GPP standards for use of HPUE. This affords University Fire and the students extended coverage while working alongside the Alaska Land Mobile Radio (ALMR).

With these FirstNet services, University Fire can transmit patient data to the local hospital in near real- time and receive critical incident intelligence from its dispatching service. As the technology continues to develop, University Fire will be able to leverage the latest fire service technologies, such as biotelemetry embedded in firefighter PPE, augmented reality thermal imaging tools, and autonomous or unmanned vehicle deployment.

University Fire has been one of the pioneering agencies in the state to use FirstNet to augment its existing voice and data capabilities. Through the interconnection between FirstNet and existing public land-mobile radio networks, we can expand the areas where public safety communications exist in Alaska and allow current and future technologies to work as needed by the fire service.

“Interoperability throughout the state will bring more opportunities for our department to work alongside other first responders during an emergency,” said Kuiper. “This network integration will allow the fire service technology to evolve and bring about better voice communications, personal protection equipment, Next Generation 9-1-1 integration and more possibilities.”

FirstNet is the only network built with and for America’s first responders, providing first responders truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it. Plus, first responders on FirstNet get unique benefits, like always-on priority and preemption so they can have the  dedicated connectivity they require. FirstNet is designed to improve interoperable communications across public safety entities nationwide, allowing first responders to communicate with one another easily and quickly.

This is especially important in Alaska, where uncertain weather, isolated conditions and mountainous and snowy terrain can be a challenge for fire departments trying to coordinate. 

“University Fire is leading the way for Alaskan fire departments to adopt innovative technological solutions,” said Omar Saucedo, Director, External Affairs AT&T-Alaska. “We are honored that the department chose FirstNet to elevate its communications capabilities. It’s our mission to give first responders the cutting-edge tools they need to achieve their mission safely and effectively.”

University Fire joined FirstNet to provide its firefighters unthrottled access to an entire public safety ecosystem of mission-ready tools and capabilities, including:

  • The only nationwide communications platform that allows us to coordinate emergency responses efficiently and effectively across agencies and jurisdictions.

  • Always-on priority and preemption for first responders, to give us reliable access to the connection we need – and protecting us from network congestion.

  • A separate, dedicated and highly secure network core purpose-built for public safety’s sensitive communications.

  • Innovative tools – like public safety-centric applications, mission-critical solutions and connected devices – to give us more actionable information for heightened situational awareness.

  • A dedicated fleet of 150+ deployable network assets available at no extra charge during planned events or urgent crises.

  • Access to holistic public safety health and wellness tools and resources, like ROG the Dog, that go beyond network connectivity — driven by the FirstNet Health and Wellness Coalition, which represents more than 5.1 million first responders.

To learn more about University Fire, visit To learn more about FirstNet, go to