Emergency Management professionals across the country are using FirstNet for many aspects of emergency planning and response. That’s because the nation’s only public safety broadband network is built for emergencies. Read on to learn how emergency managers nationwide are incorporating the unique benefits of FirstNet in emergency operation centers (EOCs), for incident management teams, in exercises and drills, and with deployables.
FirstNet supports emergency operation centers
FirstNet is an important resource in EOCs, whether during large planned events or disaster scenarios.
When the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl in 2020, over one million fans gathered for a championship parade and rally. Kansas City’s public safety agencies spent weeks preparing to ensure their teams were ready for large crowds and any unexpected emergencies.
An important part of the city’s preparation included FirstNet. Michael Binder, Senior IT Analyst for Kansas City, tested the FirstNet network before the event and during the parade while working in the EOC. FirstNet was the only communications network with a team on site in the Kansas City EOC during the parade, and the team provided support and training for the uplift tool, local control portal, and advanced network status tool—features that aren’t available on commercial networks.
“We deployed 80 FirstNet devices to our public safety officials and tested voice calls, sent and received video, and verified push-to-talk functionality,” Binder said about the city’s preparation. “The FirstNet team was in the EOC giving us hands-on support. And what better time to put something like this to the test than a Super Bowl Champions parade.”
When disaster strikes, FirstNet becomes an even more important resource. For example, Hurricane Florence brought unprecedented flooding to Whiteville, North Carolina. Hal Lowder, Director of Emergency Services, said, “When everything was down, FirstNet was working.” When the land mobile systems in the county dispatch center failed, the emergency management team was able to rely on FirstNet during the hurricane for push-to-talk communications, weather updates, and storm monitoring.
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) has also worked closely with emergency managers in preparation for numerous National Special Security Events to better understand how the network will be utilized and participated in post-event after action meetings to document outcomes.
FirstNet critical to exercises and drills
The key to excellent emergency management is preplanning. That’s why FirstNet is critical to exercise and drills.
A routine emergency management exercise at TF Green International Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, simulated an aircraft accident with mass casualties. Care teams at the scene needed to communicate with the emergency communications center, but the land mobile radios utilizing simplex frequencies could not span the distance. The team turned to FirstNet.
“Communications is unfortunately one of the common failures in most drills and exercises,” said David Schnell, Emergency Management Preparedness Branch Chief, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. “Having [FirstNet] introduced into the realm of drills and exercises makes it easier for first responders to be able to view real data in real time and also assist with the actual response to the victims.”
FirstNet helps unify communications for incident management teams
Emergency managers know the challenge of communicating in a disaster area when first responders from other jurisdictions or entities flood the area. The lack of interoperable communications can become a serious impediment to response. FirstNet helps emergency managers tackle this challenge by providing seamless interoperable communications for subscribers, no matter where they travel.
Matthew Haverkos, Director of the Butler County Emergency Management Agency in Ohio knows firsthand how FirstNet can help with emergency preparedness. He traveled with the county’s incident management team to Florida after Hurricane Michael hit, damaging cell towers and wiping out coverage. As a FirstNet subscriber, he had cell service when other commercial carriers failed.
“The team was navigating the terrain with little to no cell or data coverage. I had cellphone and hotspot service with AT&T FirstNet and by day two of recovery efforts, I was providing a data link to the emergency operations center,” he said. “With other carriers struggling for coverage… we are fortunate to have access to the FirstNet network.”
Deployables boost coverage when needed most
Emergency managers benefit from knowing how to effectively request FirstNet deployables. When needed, deployables can be requested to enhance network coverage, at no extra cost to subscribers. FirstNet’s current fleet has 72 deployables plus three flying cell on wings and an aerostat or blimp—and the fleet is expanding.
Deployables proved critical when a mudslide washed out a large chunk of highway 70 in Hawkins County, Tennessee, causing one fatality and long-term road closure. In surveying the scene, public safety officials determined cell coverage wasn’t adequate for coordination with the command center. As FirstNet subscribers, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security worked with the Department of Transportation and FirstNet to request a deployable to boost coverage at the scene.
“The FirstNet team worked with us to quickly get a dedicated deployable, enabling reliable voice communications and live streaming capabilities, so we could get quality video from the mudslide site back to our Transportation Management Center,” said Steve Borden, Director, Region One, Tennessee Department of Transportation. “After the impressive collaboration we’ve received, I’m glad to know that with FirstNet public safety has a network that has our back.”
Interested in learning more about how FirstNet is helping transform communications for emergency managers? Contact your local FirstNet Authority Public Safety Advisor and sign up for our Emergency Management quarterly newsletter.
For more information on FirstNet products and services, visit FirstNet.com.