FirstNet to provide reliability and security when disaster strikes

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This blog is the latest in a series on 10 ways FirstNet will help public safety save lives and secure communities. FirstNet is developing the first nationwide public safety broadband network to provide first responders the advanced technologies they need to save lives and keep their communities safe.

Across America, first responders in every state face the challenge of preparing for and responding to natural disasters – from floods to wildfires, blizzards, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and more. Having reliable communications is an integral component of any plan or response effort.

Major weather events or acts of nature often affect communications infrastructure. Electrical power failures caused by strong weather can also impact communications networks. FirstNet can help public safety save lives and secure communities by ensuring a reliable communication system is in place to assist public safety and rescue crews before, during, and after a natural disaster.

The FirstNet network is intended to provide for mission critical data communications over a dedicated, reliable, and hardened connection with a robust ecosystem of devices and applications available to public safety. With this connection, first responders will be able to share real-time data such as texts, voice, images, videos and location information to help with a faster, more effective response.

With FirstNet, reliability will be built into the network through a hardened system with redundancies and a diverse use of technologies. This will provide public safety officials what they need to share information and communicate without interruption. Importantly, the FirstNet network will work the same for public safety officials fighting wildfires in California or recovering from floods in the Midwest.

During FirstNet’s consultations with the public safety community in all 56 states and territories, the topic of discussion often turned toward natural disasters and how a reliable broadband network could help response efforts. Here are three examples from around the country:

Texas

Harris County, Texas is one of FirstNet’s five Early Builder projects where testing on FirstNet’s Band 14 spectrum is taking place. The Brazos County Office of the Sheriff has an agreement in place for testing the Harris County LTE network. In addition to increasing officer efficiency, Lieutenant Thomas Randall says the ability to stream live video feeds from a patrol car back to the station is improving remote management back at the Brazos Sheriff’s Office and enhancing situational awareness.

“In a rural county of 585 square miles like Brazos, when a sergeant is 30 minutes away … I can see if I need to send additional help or if we need to send more resources to the scene,” Lieutenant Randall said. “During a major accident, a flood, tornado, burglary, or other situations where we need to establish a perimeter, I am finding that I don’t have to roll all of my command to the scene – we can pull it up and help position units to where they have a good view of the perimeter.”

In April 2016, major flooding affected Houston, Texas and surrounding areas. Texas Guardsmen and Task Force 1 Rescue teams from College Station in neighboring Brazos County assisted in the response. TX Army National Guard Photo

In April 2016, major flooding affected Houston, Texas and surrounding areas. Texas Guardsmen and Task Force 1 Rescue teams from College Station in neighboring Brazos County assisted in the response. TX Army National Guard Photo

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania’s consultation meeting, State Police Captain William Williams discussed the Valentine’s Day Winter Storm of 2007. The storm produced heavy snows that interrupted power and telephone services, blocked approximately 150 miles of roadways and stranded some drivers in their vehicles for more than 20 hours.  With respect to communications, the storms caused numerous failures among road sensors and power, telephone, radio, and backup systems. 

Captain Williams stated, “adding a dedicated public safety broadband network will allow public safety officials to effectively do their jobs even when typical networks or means of communications fail.”  He said public safety grade voice and data communications would have enhanced interoperability and benefited first responders during this severe winter storm.

The winter storm that struck the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region on Valentine’s Day 2007, piling up snow and ice, snarling both car and airline traffic and plunging thousands into the dark was classified as "major," or a Category 3, on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, or NESIS, according to the NOAA National Climatic Data Center. NOAA Photo

The winter storm that struck the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region on Valentine’s Day 2007, piling up snow and ice, snarling both car and airline traffic and plunging thousands into the dark was classified as „major,” or a Category 3, on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, or NESIS, according to the NOAA National Climatic Data Center. NOAA Photo

Oklahoma

In 2006, Oklahoma experienced devastating wildfires that spread quickly and evolved into about 2,800 separate blazes that required more than 600 personnel and 35 aircraft to combat.  Oklahoma’s incident command post was active for 83 days.  

During a consultation meeting with FirstNet, Mark Goeller of Oklahoma’s Forestry Service said improved broadband coverage would equate to faster, more reliable data transfer and resource tracking via the applications that aid wildland firefighting (e.g., Esri Collector app, GIS, automated flight following, fire response dispatching software).

FirstNet will continue to coordinate closely with public safety officials across the country to ensure that when disasters happen, they have the communications tools needed to save lives and property. To learn more about FirstNet in your state or territory, visit FirstNet.gov: http://firstnet.gov/consultation.

Shawnee, Okla., January 18, 2006 -- Oklahoma Forestry Division's Mark Goeller coordinates multiple fires from Operations in the Incident Command Post. Each mark on the map represents one of the many fires that have burned more than 400,000 acres since November in Oklahoma. Bob McMillan/ FEMA Photo

Shawnee, Okla., January 18, 2006 — Oklahoma Forestry Division’s Mark Goeller coordinates multiple fires from Operations in the Incident Command Post. Each mark on the map represents one of the many fires that have burned more than 400,000 acres since November in Oklahoma. Bob McMillan/ FEMA Photo

Are you involved in public safety in your community? Click HERE to let us know how you want FirstNet to help you improve your communication and outcomes for your community. Or visit our Tumblr blog to share how you use advanced technology on the job.