More than 10,000 racing enthusiasts gathered in Missouri as boaters tested the limits at one of the most popular powerboat racing event in the nation. The Lake of the Ozarks race has long been considered the summer season opener for area residents and tourists. The two days of boat racing, parties and concerts required months of planning and preparation to ensure that both competitors and spectators stay safe in and around the lake.
The Lake Ozark Fire Protection and Osage Beach Fire Protection Districts relied on the FirstNet network to ensure robust capacity to support communication and data needs for local first responders during the 2019 lake race.
The FirstNet network offered a communications solution that connected a wide range of public safety agencies that required uninterrupted real-time communications, including the Missouri State Highway patrol, Rocky Mountain Fire District, the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, Lake Regional Hospital, Lake West Ambulance, and Eldon Fire and Rescue Department. Details such as situating the Unified Command Center near the start and finish lines, and strategically positioning the FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SATCOLT) on a hill overlooking the entire race area- provided them with the bandwidth they needed to coordinate public safety resources and respond to any incidents.
Throughout the planning sessions, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) gathered valuable input from the agencies about their operational needs. To ensure efficient and effective communications between fire services, law enforcement and EMS, a pre-programmed talk group was identified as a necessity. Missouri Department of Public Safety provided LTE push-to-talk devices and enabled the link between FirstNet devices and the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network (LMR). AT&T FirstNet provided training on the devices that were stationed at patrol boats, fire boats, medical boats, land-based EMS, and the command center.
Missouri public safety officials also expressed a need for specific location tracking solutions. To address their concern, they used ArcTracker, a location tracking application that could be used to access GPS services on their FirstNet-ready phones. AT&T FirstNet hosted a Lake Race in-app event to test the application’s capabilities prior to race day, ensuring optimal performance and connectivity for the big day.
“The event went very well. Communication with the EPTT devices was seamless, and to have the SATCOLT on site made our communications between command and patrol boat work flawlessly,” said Matthew Birdsley, Assistant Fire Chief, Lake Ozark Fire Protection District. “I want to thank you all for your time and assistance during the planning stages of this event. We definitely look forward in working together more in the future.“
Working alongside public safety officials during all phases of the event planning process provides the FirstNet Authority with valuable feedback on their operational needs. This information contributes to the FirstNet Roadmap, a public-safety driven roadmap for the future of the network. The Roadmap builds on the organization’s nationwide engagement with public safety as we gather feedback on the most important communications capabilities for their missions. Incorporating input from hundreds of individual engagements, workshops, and summits with first responders, the Roadmap includes six prioritized technology areas to ensure the Roadmap reflects their specific communications needs including: the FirstNet Core, Coverage and Capacity, Situational Awareness, Voice Communications, Secure Information Exchange, and User Experience.
The Lake Race was an opportunity to witness the Roadmap’s principles in action. Missouri first responders had a unique user experience curated to match their needs, increased situational awareness through the use of GPS-enabled apps, enhanced voice communications while using EPTT, secure information exchange while communicating over the dedicated FirstNet network without the public’s interference, and increased coverage and capacity provided by FirstNet’s deployable assets.