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FirstNet Uplift Request Tool Provides Support During Extreme Network Congestion

June 29, 2021

As the only nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety, FirstNet gives first responders access to unique features such as priority, preemption, and quality of service. Primary users on FirstNet – including those working in law enforcement, the fire service, emergency medical services, emergency communications, and emergency management – have priority and preemption access to the network, even in times of extreme congestion. These features are always on and do not require any action from public safety, which allows them to stay focused on the mission at hand.

During major incidents, events, or disasters that can cause networks to become overloaded, public safety agencies rely on an extended community of support entities. This group often includes utilities, transportation, government agencies, and schools. Entities that support public safety are eligible to join FirstNet as Extended Primary users. During an emergency when communication between first responders and these Extended Primary partners is critical, the FirstNet Uplift Request Tool can be used to provide temporary elevation to the same priority level as Primary users.

Uplift Request Tool in Action

Teton County, Wyoming, is home to Grand Teton National Park and portions of Yellowstone National Park, as well as major ski resorts and tourist attractions. This diverse terrain means public safety needs to prepare for various hazards, including fires, floods, and winter conditions, as well as earthquakes, avalanches, and landslides due to the Teton Fault.

Teton County Emergency Manager Rich Ochs knows the importance of being prepared for these incidents as well as other emergencies. His agency switched to FirstNet to ensure they would be able to communicate no matter where they were in the county. Other public safety agencies have also made the switch, as well as the school district, a tow company that responds in support of public safety, and a local utilities provider.

“I explain to folks that we want the utility company, we want the tow truck drivers, we want the school district and their school busses and their school bus drivers on FirstNet,” said Ochs. “If we have a major disaster – for example, if we have a 7.6 earthquake in our valley – we want everybody coming to the party and we need them to help. And if they don't have effective communications, they can't help.”

Ochs works regularly with the Extended Primary users in the county to discuss logistics for uplift, including pre-populating FirstNet Central with a list of the devices that may need to be uplifted during an incident or event. Additionally, he has conducted several drills with the utilities company to practice when and how to uplift their devices.

When a major windstorm came through the county taking down trees and power lines, Ochs was able to uplift the appropriate devices for 24 hours to assist with coordination of cleanup and power restoration. He explained, “I wanted to Uplift the devices and have them connected to the network instead of the workers trying to make calls and not being able to get through. So, I uplifted the devices and it worked really well.”

Uplift Request Tool Overview

FirstNet Primary users always have the highest level of priority, preemption, and quality of service, also known as “QPP” or “First Priority®.” Through the Uplift Request Tool, FirstNet Extended Primary users can be temporarily elevated when communicating with first responders is critical, granting them the same levels of QPP experienced by Primary users. During times of network congestion, uplifted devices have priority access to network resources. This means a user with QPP will be able to get a connection, and stay connected, to the FirstNet network. Uplifting a device does not impact wireless coverage or connection speeds – it is focused on access to or retention of network resources. During times of normal network activity, an uplift will not provide a noticeable level of higher network performance for an end user because there is no congestion to delay access to the network.

Requesting Uplift

Uplift events can be created through the FirstNet Central portal, a centralized dashboard for FirstNet customers to manage their dedicated FirstNet services. Designated Uplift Managers at Primary agencies can uplift devices within the portal for a period of one to 48 hours. The request can be extended as needed in increments of 48 hours, up to a total of 30 days. Uplift requests may be initiated immediately, or for planned events where network congestion is anticipated, an Uplift event may be scheduled up to one year in advance.

Additionally, through the FirstNet Assist app, FirstNet users can view active uplift incidents within 50-99 miles of their current location and submit a request to have their device(s) added to the incident. These requests are sent to an agency Uplift Manager to consider for approval.

Keeping Communities Safe

When a large event or major disaster occurs, public works, utilities, and other entities provide vital support to allow first responders to protect and serve communities. The FirstNet Uplift Request Tool ensures these partner entities can communicate with traditional public safety agencies to collaborate and coordinate resources.

FirstNet is built by public safety, for public safety, and the ability to uplift partner agency devices to a higher priority level is one of many features on the network designed to help first responders do their jobs quickly and more efficiently.

To learn more about the FirstNet Uplift Request Tool, check out the video.


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