FirstNet is making a difference for law enforcement agencies across the nation—in both daily operations and at big events, whether planned or unplanned. In northern Virginia, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office relies on FirstNet for everyday use, emergencies, and large events.
FirstNet’s impact on daily operations
Officers’ day-to-day communications can be fundamentally improved with dedicated mobile broadband designed for public safety. FirstNet was built for public safety, with priority network access and coverage and capacity expanding across the nation.
In Loudoun County, a mixed suburban and rural community that sits on the outer reaches of the Washington, D.C., metro area, the Sheriff’s Office uses FirstNet for all mobile communications and connections. With more than 600 devices issued to their 700-person department, almost everyone carries a FirstNet-enabled device. The agency’s mobile data computers connect via FirstNet, and their command bus is now serviced by FirstNet as well, enabling the team to remotely dispatch in the field.
Next, they are expanding their e-citation platform so that motorcycle patrol can instantly upload to the CAD system via FirstNet instead of having to wait until they’re near a Wi-Fi location. The Sheriff’s Office is also looking into using FirstNet to establish a tertiary emergency communications center at an alternate facility.
Major incidents call for FirstNet
Whether dealing with a pandemic, a natural disaster, or a major planned event, first responders need reliable communications.
Captain Craig Schleiden leads the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office emergency communications and technical services sections and is immersed in emerging technologies. When considering FirstNet, he took into account the unique features that were offered to public safety, particularly the importance of having a dedicated core that separates public safety traffic from commercial users.
“On a daily basis, FirstNet makes a difference for us,” he said. “And when we have a critical incident, we still can communicate.”
For example, when Loudoun County hosted a Senior PGA golf tournament that brought together an estimated 50,000 people, commercial networks were saturated with texts, videos, photos, and social media posts. Despite the crowds, the Sheriff’s Office was able to communicate using FirstNet with no issues.
“It was nice knowing we were not using the same bandwidth or network as those attending the event,” Captain Schleiden said. “And when critical incidents happen, we know that FirstNet will be there for us and that we will be able to communicate amongst our law enforcement and public safety partners, as best as possible.”
Collaboration is key
While FirstNet brings many capabilities, the success of the network is also dependent on the planning, preparation, and governance established by users. With the local fire department, health department, and office of emergency management also using FirstNet, Captain Schleiden and other local public safety officials recognized the need to coordinate their approach to technology and FirstNet integration.
For the last several years, Captain Schleiden has led a regional group of FirstNet users to collaborate on how to best use the network. In the beginning, the group covered FirstNet basics: what is FirstNet, what differentiates the network for public safety, what are the benefits and challenges. The FirstNet Authority and AT&T presents to the group, participates in discussions, and answers questions. As the group has evolved, topics now focus on upcoming features and leveraging existing functionality. For example, the group recently covered the details of requesting deployables.
“Instead of everyone navigating it on their own, we all came together to give FirstNet a broader audience,” said Captain Schleiden. “We’ve had good discussions, which is what it’s about.”
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