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Closeup of hands of Hyannis Fire Chief holding a FirstNet-enabled cell-phone while on a boat at sea

By land and sea with FirstNet: Supporting Hyannis Fire on the cape

January 11, 2023

When schools let out and summer begins, many families flock to Cape Cod for the history, beaches, seafood, outdoor activities, and festivals. One of the more famous visitors to the area was John F. Kennedy, who ventured to Hyannis to visit what was dubbed his “summer White House” during his presidency.

Located in the southern part of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the town of Hyannis serves as the economic and transportation hub for Cape Cod. The town is home to the main hospital for the region, many schools, and an airport, rail station, harbor, and bus depot. Ferries run to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket 15 times a day. While Hyannis hosts a year-round population of approximately 30,000 people, tourists to the area can boost the town’s population to more than 100,000 people during the summer months.

Facing unique challenges in communicating on the water and throughout the town as the population swells and ebbs, the fire department has turned to FirstNet to keep personnel connected.

FirstNet in the Hyannis Fire District

The Hyannis Fire Department serves nine square miles and receives roughly 7,000 calls per year. The majority of those calls are medical, and the agency responds to approximately 20 fires a year. In addition to running fire engines and ambulances, the fire district supports water rescues. During a maritime emergency, personnel from the fire district will go out on one of the district’s boats to assist the U.S. Coast Guard and other partners. These emergencies happen roughly 50 times per year.

FirstNet supports the department through hotspots, agency cell phones, tablets, and wireless routers on fire apparatus. These devices allow agency personnel to share information while in the field. From dispatcher notes to building floor plans, mobile devices are critical to share information between dispatchers, shift commanders, and firefighters. Priority and preemption on FirstNet help ensure this data can be exchanged and responders have as much situational awareness as possible.

Good information supports good decision-making for firefighters

That situational awareness is critical for agency personnel as they approach the scene, whether responding to a medical call or fire; performing a water rescue; or supporting events like fireworks shows, car shows, and parades. Captain David Webb explained, “In the field, information is a great thing, but we need it fast, we need it now, and we need a lot of it.”  With FirstNet, responders in the field can access rapidly changing information on tablets, via text messages, or through voice communications. The ability to share this data across a variety of communication methods gives the right people the right information at the right time and ensures they can respond more efficiently and effectively.

During a brush fire near the airport in Hyannis, the agency was able to stream drone footage over FirstNet, giving the command post crucial insight to make real-time decisions. While the fire was relatively small at 1.25 acres, it was important for commanders to understand the area involved and monitor how close the fire was getting to the airport to ensure the safety of residents and individuals at the airport.

“To make good decisions, you have to have good information. And good information has to be shared as widely and as rapidly as possible,” said Hyannis Fire Department Chief Peter Burke. “FirstNet provides a tool for us to share information.”

Hyannis Fire invests in enhanced operations

Serving a unique population and across a unique landscape means responders need access to unique tools. Deputy Chief Mark Storie said, “We’re really trying to up our game. Any data or tools or equipment that can help us do our job, we take a look, and if it can benefit us greatly to do the job, then we invest in it.”  As public safety’s network, FirstNet is built to meet first responder needs, so as Hyannis Fire Department explores data, tools, or equipment to enhance operations, FirstNet is available to support the advanced technologies that require broadband connectivity.

“The tools that the FirstNet Authority provides allow us to respond quicker, more effectively, and more efficiently,” Chief Burke explained. “So, if we can respond quicker, that may save us 30 seconds—that is the difference between someone drowning or getting pulled out of the water.”


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