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Building a National Network for First Responder Communication

Tue, January 16, 2018

Cross-posted with U.S. Department of Commerce Blog


Photograph: Alexandria (Va.) Fire Captain Phil Perry uses a mobile device while on board a fire boat on the Potomac River. The First Responder Network Authority is modernizing public safety communications infrastructure to provide fire, EMS, law enforcement and other public safety personnel enhanced data communications via wireless broadband services.


The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is working to modernize the communications infrastructure used by first responders across the nation. With all 50 states and Washington, D.C., joining FirstNet, they are moving forward to deploy a modern, mobile-broadband LTE network for public safety with their private-sector partner, AT&T.

In this blog, we explore how FirstNet can benefit one local community. Captain Phil Perry of the Alexandria, Va., Fire Department talks about the benefits of having an interoperable, high-speed network that is dedicated and specialized for police, fire and EMS responders.

As his fire boat patrols a section of the Potomac River that touches the shores of Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland, Captain Perry talks about the central role communications plays in an area where multiple jurisdictions and agencies can often respond to the same incident.

From the tragic airplane crash into the Potomac in 1982 to the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Captain Perry says the ability to share information among first responders affects the success, safety and speed of responding to both large-scale and more routine emergency situations.

“If we can get to the scene more efficiently with better information, it’s only going to make for better results,” Captain Perry says.

Deploying FirstNet across the country in every state will give first responders a fast, reliable and secure way to seamlessly share data and communicate with each other. For police, fire, paramedics and other public safety officials, this means they can instantly exchange information, photos and streaming video when they need to the most – during emergency situations when communications are critical to saving lives and protecting property.

Captain Perry says that having instant, comprehensive information enhances situational awareness and reduces the potential for any duplication of efforts. It also provides opportunities for responders to speed and concentrate their efforts.

“You can’t even measure it,” said Captain Perry. “Having a national network will completely transform how we communicate with each other and will improve the lives of so many.”

About the First Responder Network Authority: FirstNet is an independent authority within the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet’s mission is to ensure the building, deployment and operation of the nationwide broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. In March 2017, the Department of Commerce and FirstNet announced a partnership with AT&T to build and operate and the first responder network. It will deliver the technologies and infrastructure that public safety desperately needs for day-to-day operations, disaster response and recovery, and securing of large events.