Today, first responders rely on more than 10,000 separate, incompatible and often proprietary radio networks to communicate with each other during emergencies. Because they’re not connected on one network, it’s hard, and at times impossible, for emergency responders from different jurisdictions or from different public safety organizations to communicate and work together to save lives.
That’s where the FirstNet network will come in. FirstNet will help solve the communications challenges that our nation’s public safety personnel have faced in responding to local emergencies, as well as large-scale emergencies such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
The FirstNet network will be a single, nationwide, interoperable LTE network for public safety communications. Built through an innovative public-private partnership, it will give first responders true priority in emergency situations to send voice or text messages, images, video and location information in real-time. It will enable information sharing across disciplines and jurisdictions; dramatically increase situational awareness; and support faster, more effective responses to emergencies or disasters.
Harry Beck, Fire Chief for the City of Mesa Fire/Medical Department in Arizona, sees opportunities for this type of integration between fire, medical and law enforcement. “There is some synergy [for fire] with the data that’s collected from law enforcement, as well as the data that fire collects for law enforcement,” he said. “And the ability to share that back and forth, especially in real-time in the event of an emergency, is absolutely critical.”
Real-time information sharing will allow public safety to better use its limited resources to improve the overall outcome of coordinated emergency responses, he added.
The FirstNet network will help fire departments like Chief Beck’s, as well as law enforcement, EMS and other public safety agencies in all 56 U.S. states and territories, break communication barriers and support interoperable communications among first responders nationwide.