It’s weeks like these why we prepare. We prepare for the worst that mother nature can deliver so that when it matters most, public safety is prepared with the connectivity they require. It’s why America’s first responders called for the creation of their own network – FirstNet®. And it’s not a commercial network. With FirstNet, public safety is our number one priority. We provide public safety agencies a level of support during emergencies that’s far beyond anything previously experienced; we are the only provider with assets dedicated for exclusive use by public safety; And, as public safety’s partner, we’ll continue to set the bar on what success looks like for network resiliency now and in the future.
After slamming the Florida coastline last Wednesday, Hurricane Ian battered the state with record flooding only to intensify and make landfall again in South Carolina over the weekend. Public safety – spanning federal, state, tribal and local agencies – quickly went into action. So far, public safety has requested FirstNet emergency support 100+ times for Ian. And we have been there for them each time. Assets from the dedicated FirstNet Fleet have supported first responders in affected areas, including Charlotte, Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Lee, Manatee, Orange and Sarasota counties in Florida, as well as Charleston and Georgetown counties in South Carolina. Currently, there are 20+ assets on air. This includes portable cell sites, in-building solutions and satellites to provide backhaul to macro cell sites. Now, sheriffs, firefighters, search & rescue teams and those providing mutual aid have the dedicated connectivity where they need it most.
On Sanibel Island, Ian ripped away several parts of the causeway that were the island’s only access to Florida’s mainland. Boats were the only way to reach the island. A Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) was too heavy to travel via the available boats, so the team deployed a Compact Rapid Deployable (CRD), which is a lighter, new addition to the fleet that gives us better flexibility to support public safety. These assets link to FirstNet via satellite and do not rely on commercial power availability, making them ideal for search and rescue missions thanks to their on-the-go coverage. Using an Amphibious Vehicle (AV) from the AT&T Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) fleet, the team was able to load the CRD into the trunk of the AV, drive it to the channel and set sail (or engage the hydraulic drive system to motor and navigate like a boat).
North of Sanibel Island, the FirstNet team coordinated with federal agencies to deploy a CRD and other assets via a Blackhawk helicopter to Pine Island. First responders on the island had dedicated connectivity with Band 14– nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside specifically for FirstNet – and the team was able to turn on Wi-Fi calling to give residents connectivity on the AT&T network. In fact, within 5 minutes of the asset arriving, people were able to make an urgent call to let others know they were safe. In all, these deployments exemplify the power of the public-private partnership that created FirstNet.
In addition to deploying FirstNet assets, the team has been expediting cell site restoration based on public safety’s needs, deploying generators and providing FirstNet Ready® devices to first responders on the ground. And the AT&T Weather Operations Center (AWOC) has been in close collaboration with the FirstNet team to assess weather risk and help crews know when it’s safe to travel. Plus, FirstNet liaisons are embedded in state and federal Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) to help ensure first responders continue to have the mobile connectivity and devices they need.
And in the days prior to Hurricane Ian, Puerto Rico was once again struck by a devastating hurricane. Exactly 5 years after Hurricane Maria made landfall, the U.S. territory is now recovering from the extreme rainfall and winds from Hurricane Fiona. And FirstNet has made an instrumental difference in keeping public safety connected on the island.
Working in close collaboration with local telecom provider Liberty Mobile Puerto Rico Inc. and Liberty Mobile USVI Inc., we closely monitored the impacts of the storm across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Within 48 hours of the storm making landfall, the network in Puerto Rico had 83% of its cell sites operational, maintaining 99% of coverages, thanks to the hundreds of generators across the network. Today, the network is fully operational. Further testament to the resiliency of FirstNet, the network in USVI was fully operational throughout the entire storm. While severe damage in Puerto Rico will take time to repair, that’s why public safety has dedicated, on-island mobile cell sites and unparalleled support from the FirstNet, Built with AT&T team.
“Liberty is committed to keep providing the most reliable mobile service in Puerto Rico and USVI to the first responder community when they need it most. We were ready to support first responders during Hurricane Fiona,” said Victor Vera, director of RAN Engineering at Liberty Mobile.
We continue to coordinate efforts with the local EOCs and are supporting the communications needs of public safety on FirstNet – agencies spanning on-island first responders, FEMA and those providing mutual-aid support from the mainland. This includes everything from prioritizing cell site restoral to deploying in-building solutions in places like San Juan. And when the President surveyed storm damage, FirstNet was there to help connect on-island first responders supporting his visit. As public safety’s partner, we remain committed to keeping Puerto Rico’s first responder community connected.
FirstNet is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government. It is the only purpose-built network designed with and for first responders to keep them connected no matter the mission. These are the women and men who run toward danger to help protect our families, friends and loved ones. Our hearts are with the communities impacted by both Hurricane Fiona and Hurricane Ian. Where public safety goes, we go. And we’ll continue to be there for America’s first responders – today and for decades to come.
- Learn more about our response efforts and how we’re helping keep communities connected following Hurricane Ian here: go.att.com/ian.
- FirstNet CRDs are also available for agencies to own with a single person able to deploy within minutes, giving them even more control of their network in an emergency.
- For 140+ years, we’ve used our technology to keep people connected during disasters and life changing events. It’s why we’ve welcomed other carriers’ customers to roam on the AT&T network so we can stay #ConnectedTogether, even if their carrier’s service isn’t available after the storm. Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest news.