This blog is a repost from TribalNet Magazine, originally published in Spring 2020. The original article can be accessed here.
At the tip of Northwest Washington State and south of the Canadian Border lies Neah Bay, a remote peninsula that is home to the Makah Tribe Reservation. The tribe’s unique location means that their culture and customs revolve around the ocean. It also means that the tribe contends with many water-related emergencies, such as drownings, rip currents that sweep people into the ocean, and a looming tsunami threat. For the Makah Reservation’s first responders who patrol the 1,100 square miles of rugged land and surrounding sea, resilient and reliable communications are essential.
While the Makah tribe faces unique challenges based on its surrounding landscape, the communications challenges it faces are all too common for tribal communities. Oftentimes, the infrastructure across Indian Country is not mature enough to meet all tribal first responders’ broadband needs. Many are looking to FirstNet, the nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety, for a solution.
As the buildout of the FirstNet network continues, first responders are experiencing improved coverage in both rural and urban areas, inland and along coasts and borders. FirstNet subscribers also have access to a fleet of dedicated network deployable assets, including Satellite Cells on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs), Cells on Wheels (COWs), Flying Cells on Wings (tethered deployables), and FirstNet One — a 55-foot Aerostat, or blimp — for use by FirstNet subscribers in the aftermath of major disasters. These deployables are available 24/7 on request and at no cost for FirstNet agencies. For tribal communities like those of the Makah Tribe, these assets can provide the coverage they need when they need it most.
“Having FirstNet on the Makah Reservation is definitely going to make the difference between life and death in many different situations. We look forward to it,” said Crystal Hottowe, Grants Writer and Makah Tech Team Chair.
As the network continues to grow, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) continues to work closely with tribal first responders like the Makah Tribe to address their unique communications challenges. The team is also collaborating with tribal associations through the Tribal Working Group (TWG), the only dedicated subcommittee of the larger Public Safety Advisory Committee. This year, the TWG is continuing to advance tribal priorities by updating the FirstNet Authority’s Tribal Consultation Policy, developing resources to help tribal public safety agencies prepare for broadband communications, and providing tribal-specific feedback on the FirstNet Authority Roadmap.
Learn more about the FirstNet Authority’s tribal activities, and hear more about our engagement with the Makah Tribe and how they operate as a marine tribe in the FirstNet Authority’s podcast, visit us at https://soundcloud.com/user-472553784/episode-33-tribal-public-safety-in-coastal-regions. For more information about participating in a FirstNet Authority engagement or to request a tribal consultation, email the tribal team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.