From Arctic Sea Ice to tornadoes and typhoons, FirstNet is Mission Ready

June 28, 2023

by By Jim Bugel - President, FirstNet Program at AT&T

Disasters can strike anywhere at any time. And as America’s public safety network, FirstNet®, Built with AT&T must be ready. We have the obligation and honor to deliver communications that first responders in all 56 states and territories can count on in an emergency.

From the island territories to towns in the heart of tornado alley, all the way up to the northern most points of Alaska, FirstNet is here.

Northern Alaska

The North Slope Borough in Alaska is home to 10,000+ people and about the size of Michigan. But when ice cut through an undersea cable more than 30 miles off the northern coast, impacting service for the area, first responders turned to the FirstNet Response Operations Group™ (ROG) for emergency support. Working with local public safety, FirstNet ROG – led by a dedicated team of former first responders – took immediate action, prioritizing critical locations such as hospitals, air ambulance hangers, fire stations and dispatch facilities to ensure first responders could communicate with one another.

With the FirstNet ROG Section Chief for FEMA Region 10 onsite the following day, the team deployed assets, including the new Mini Compact Rapid Deployable, indoor connectivity devices and other satellite solutions. Now, first responders who support emergencies for towns like Utqiagvik (f.k.a. Barrow), Wainwright and Point Hope have dedicated connectivity to stay mission ready. And we continue to coordinate with local organizations who are working to cut through the sheet of arctic ice and fully restore service to the area.

Tornado Alley

The 2023 tornado season has brought a siege of deadly twisters to our country – especially within tornado alley. When a tornado hit Perryton, Texas, a small town located a few minutes away from the Oklahoma border, the area’s first responders turned to FirstNet for their essential communications. And with the dedicated FirstNet fleet of 150+ portable network assets exclusively available for public safety’s use, we’re giving first responders a level of support during emergencies that’s far beyond anything they’ve ever seen:

  • FirstNet ROG has deployed 3 Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs) to support mission-critical communications at the area hospital and the town’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) – where local, state and federal agencies are coordinating recovery efforts.
  • AT&T Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) – the largest, and most advanced program of its kind – also deployed a portable satellite dish to immediately restore backhaul from a macro cell tower and improve coverage for Perryton residents and businesses. And over the weekend, the team fully restored fiber backhaul to the site.

Another tornado recently touched down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, damaging homes, power lines and other infrastructure. When the Tulsa Fire Department requested FirstNet support, we deployed a FirstNet SatCOLT to provide first responders with dedicated connectivity on Band 14 – nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the federal government exclusively for FirstNet.

Tornado alley has also started expanding to new areas. Severe storms across Kentucky and Tennessee most recently brought tornadoes, hail and flooding to the area. At the request of public safety, we deployed 2 FirstNet SatCOLTs to Russell Springs and Jamestown, Kentucky – as well as portable generators – to support their recovery efforts. All of these assets will remain stationed to support area first responders until macro coverage is restored.

Island Territories

Across Puerto Rico, the largest U.S. territory, first responders in more than 70 communities are on the FirstNet network. In 2022, Hurricane Fiona devastated the island. And the path of this year’s Tropical Storm Bret – originally projected to pass over Puerto Rico – turned south toward the eastern Caribbean.  But in anticipation of major hurricanes, the FirstNet team collaborated with local telecom provider Liberty. They met with law enforcement, fire, EMS, as well as territory and municipality officials, healthcare organizations, and more in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to ensure they were aware of the FirstNet assets available in an emergency. This includes innovative technology like FirstNet Ready® devices, on-island mobile cell sites from the dedicated FirstNet fleet and in-building connectivity solutions.

On the other side of the globe (or about 9,500 miles away), Super Typhoon Mawar (equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic) was the strongest storm to hit Guam in 20+ years. It made landfall May 24, causing widespread flooding and commercial power loss in both Guam and Rota (the southernmost island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).

We coordinated with the public safety EOCs to support on-island, federal and mutual-aid responders’ recovery efforts. Each Pacific territory has a deployable asset on-hand from the FirstNet fleet. And, working closely with our local telecom provider, FirstNet ROG deployed 12 solutions to restore critical communications. Currently, the network is restored in CNMI and more than 95% operational in Guam. And we continue to prioritize cell site restoration efforts based on the needs of public safety.

We see FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country. From Mother Nature’s heaviest blows to man-made disasters like the recent train derailment in Montana, FirstNet is designed to be second-to-none in an emergency, no matter where disasters strike. And as public safety’s partner, we’re committed to helping keep first responders connected.

Go to to learn more about America’s public safety network. And visit our Disaster Recovery site to stay up to date with our emergency response efforts.