FirstNet Network is Putting Richmond's First Responders First

February 21, 2018
By Lori Stone, Region III Lead

Not long after testing FirstNet’s new mobile capabilities over a high-speed wireless network, public safety agencies in the City of Richmond announced that they would be among the first in the country to subscribe to FirstNet services provided by AT&T and bring next generation technology to first responders.

The decision to subscribe to FirstNet came shortly after Richmond’s public safety officials tested the FirstNet network and witnessed the network in action. Officers experienced firsthand FirstNet’s advanced speed and improved interoperability, all while being able to receive live camera and weather feeds for monitoring, pull up suspect information to aid in crime solving, or tie CAD interfaces to 911 call centers. The FirstNet network proved it could handle everything from day-to-day operations, to emergencies, to large scale events and everything in between.

“We heavily use mobile data in order to be more efficient in delivering information to responders and to retrieve information independently from the communications center,” said Stephen M. Willoughby, Director and Chief of the Department of Emergency Communications, City of Richmond. “FirstNet allows us to have priority and preemption so it is available to us all the time.”

Now with FirstNet, Richmond’s emergency first responders have essential access and capacity over wireless connections and the most advanced tools to send information seamlessly to mobile applications designed for mission-critical operations.

“We're looking forward to turning our mobile command center into a FirstNet point of access,” said Jackie Crotts, Deputy Director of Technology, Department of Emergency Communications, City of Richmond. “In the 2011 earthquake, we lost all cell communications throughout the city because everyone saturated the network -- if that situation happens again, our public safety users will be able to have access to the [FirstNet] network.”

As more public safety agencies across the county are subscribing to FirstNet, the transition is being touted as a prudent administrative and fiscal choice to keep public safety at the forefront of technology. “We made the decision to transition to FirstNet to take advantage of reduced pricing and cooperative contracts,” explained Crotts. “There were no upfront costs and the transition was very smooth because the city didn't have to purchase any new devices.”

With FirstNet coming online and more public safety agencies subscribing to the network, first responders across the county are gaining unprecedented access to an emergency communications option that offers interoperable, mission-critical services, greater network security, coordinated network deployment and better network sustainability.

More from FirstNet in the video below:

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