The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) continued its collaboration with the Region VII states — Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri — when we convened for a recent FirstNet User Forum in Altoona, Iowa. The forum was hosted by the Iowa Statewide Interoperable Communications System (ISICSB) and brought together more than 115 stakeholders from public safety agencies to learn about the latest FirstNet developments and regional initiatives underway. We also shared updates about the FirstNet Authority Roadmap (Roadmap) and captured input from participants.
Dave Buchanan, FirstNet Authority Executive Director of Public Safety Advocacy, welcomed participants with a video highlighting FirstNet use by a local EMS agency — the West Des Moines EMS. In the video, Rob Dehnert, Assistant Chief, shares his agency’s communications needs, and how the FirstNet network is delivering a truly differentiated experience for him and his agency, improving patient care and response times. “Now my communications system [FirstNet] goes ocean to ocean, from Canada to Mexico and everything in between,” said Dehnert about operating over the FirstNet network. “If we’re all on the same network, and singing off the same sheet of music, we can go 1,000 miles away to help someone.”
Discussion then focused on the importance of public safety input to the Roadmap, a document that will help guide future enhancements to the network and the FirstNet Experience. Buchanan noted that the Roadmap will be “an illustration of how we want to invest in the network moving forward.” Participants learned more about the Roadmap’s focus on coverage and capacity, situational awareness, voice communication, secure information exchange, and user experience through stand-alone sessions led by our team. During these sessions, several agencies shared their firsthand experiences as early adopters of FirstNet, providing critical insight into their experience to date and their future needs.
In a session focused on network deployable assets, we highlighted the use of FirstNet-dedicated deployables and discussed best practices for requesting and operating them. The event also featured a deployable demonstration, as well as public safety vehicles on display with equipment and devices connected to FirstNet. Thank you to the Des Moines and Altoona Fire Departments, as well as the Iowa Department of Public Safety, for hosting this demo.
To round out the regional engagement, FirstNet Authority Board member and Southern Platte Fire Protection District Chief Rich Carrizzo provided an update on the FirstNet network, emphasizing the value of capturing the operational needs of first responders to shape the network’s future. Chief Carrizzo recalled the difference a FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) made to local public safety earlier this year at the Garmin marathon in Olathe, Kansas. The SatCOLT boosted coverage and capacity along the racecourse and provided first responders the opportunity to experience the network’s prioritized and preemptive capabilities in action.
We were excited to support the forum and engage with the region’s public safety community on the Roadmap. We remain committed to delivering a dedicated public safety broadband network and advanced communications capabilities that first responders need now and in the future. Thank you to the ISICSB’s Hollie Davidson and Lieutenant Tom Lampe who were instrumental in arranging the forum and to AT&T FirstNet participating in the forum. We look forward to future collaboration and engagements with Region VII to promote innovation in public safety communications technology.