Serving those on the frontlines of the West Coast wildfires

August 23, 2018
Firefighters monitor Sugar Pine/Miles Fire in Oregon. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, July 30, 2018.
Firefighters monitor Sugar Pine/Miles Fire in Oregon. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, July 30, 2018.
By Kevin Nida, First Responder Network Authority Senior Public Safety Advisor

As wildfires are roaring across the West Coast, the need for connectivity amongst first responders is more crucial than ever.

Enter FirstNet.

When the ongoing Miles Fire forced the residents and community of Prospect, OR, to evacuate, the Fire Incident Management Team called in FirstNet for support. A Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) is deployed at base camp where nearly 2,000 first responders gather to coordinate their response efforts as the wildfire has grown over the past month.

Deployable equipment, like SatCOLTs, give public safety access to a connection and additional capacity during prolonged response to natural disasters or in remote areas where additional coverage is need. The additional capacity is also important when large numbers of public safety personnel are called in to help with a response.

“Before FirstNet deployed the SatCOLT to our base camp, our first responders couldn’t send a text message, let alone speak on the phone to their families,” said Tualatin Valley (OR) Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Mike Duyck. “As it stands today, we might have weather challenges, but the coverage FirstNet is providing is meeting our needs, giving us better situational awareness, and bringing comfort to our responders during a time of stress and anxiety.”

FirstNet also supports responders with the devices they need for enhanced situational awareness and coordination during wildfires. For example, when severe wildland fires tore through the Napa Valley and Sonoma region of California in October 2017, some firefighters experienced challenges with their communications.

“FirstNet came out and deployed some devices to help my crew with communications on the fire ground, as well as help us with the operation and tasks they needed to get done,” said Stockton (CA) Fire Chief Erik Newman. “To have a real event and a crew that knew nothing about FirstNet come back and talk about the communications being awesome … you can’t beat that.”

Now, California is once again confronted with massive wildfires that have taken lives and property. Our network partner, AT&T, has deployed network assets to several sites in the State to help public safety and the communities they serve communicate and coordinate to fight these fires.

There are not enough words to thank the first responders battling these relentless wildfires. Day in, day out—they put themselves in harm’s way to protect their community. FirstNet is public safety’s network – built for them, by them to meet their lifesaving needs. We are proud to serve them.

My thoughts are with the communities and first responders in my home state of California and all those facing ongoing fires along the West Coast. To all my fire service colleagues—keep safe.

Kevin

Kevin Nida is the First Responder Network Authority Senior Public Safety Advisor for California. He has served in fire, EMS, law enforcement, 911 and the private technology sector for 40 years. Nida was involved in radio interoperability, an early builder BTOP project and many other public safety based projects in the Los Angeles area. He retired as a fire battalion chief for the Los Angeles Fire Department. For more information about the First Responder Network Authority, visit www.firstnet.gov.

Listen to Podcast – Episode 04: Live from FRI with CA Fire Chief Erik Newman


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