The 2023 tornado season has brought a siege of deadly twisters to our country – especially within tornado alley. When a tornado hit Perryton, Texas, a small town located a few minutes away from the Oklahoma border, the area’s first responders turned to FirstNet for their essential communications. And with the dedicated FirstNet fleet of 150+ portable assets exclusively available for public safety’s use, we’re giving first responders a level of support during emergencies that’s far beyond anything they’ve ever seen:
- FirstNet ROG has deployed 3 Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs) to support mission-critical communications at the area hospital and the town’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) – where local, state and federal agencies are coordinating recovery efforts.
- AT&T Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) – the largest, and most advanced program of its kind – also deployed a portable satellite dish to immediately restore backhaul from a macro cell tower and improve coverage for Perryton residents and businesses. And over the weekend, the team fully restored fiber backhaul to the site.
Another tornado recently touched down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, damaging homes, power lines and other infrastructure. AT&T NDR immediately deployed portable generators to cell sites without commercial power. And when the Tulsa Fire Department requested FirstNet support, we deployed a FirstNet SatCOLT to provide first responders with dedicated connectivity on Band 14 – nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the federal government exclusively for FirstNet.
Tornado alley has also started expanding to new areas. Severe storms across Kentucky and Tennessee most recently brought tornadoes, hail and flooding to the area. At the request of public safety, we deployed 2 FirstNet SatCOLTs to Russell Springs and Jamestown, Kentucky – as well as portable generators – to support their recovery efforts. All of these assets will remain stationed to support area first responders until macro coverage is fully restored.
As the largest U.S. territory, first responders in more than 70 communities across Puerto Rico are on the FirstNet network. Last year, Hurricane Fiona devastated Puerto Rico and the path of this year’s Tropical Storm Bret – originally projected to pass over the island – fortunately turned south toward the eastern Caribbean. But in anticipation of major hurricanes, the FirstNet team, in collaboration with local telecom provider Liberty, met with public safety stakeholders – spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, territory and municipality officials, healthcare organizations, and more – in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to ensure they all had a deep understanding of the FirstNet assets available to them in the event of an emergency. This includes innovative technology like FirstNet Ready® devices, on-island mobile cell sites from the dedicated FirstNet fleet and in-building connectivity solutions.
And on the other side of the globe (or about 9,500 miles away), Super Typhoon Mawar (equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic) was the strongest storm to hit Guam in 20+ years. Making landfall on May 24, both Guam and Rota (the southernmost island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), suffered from widespread flooding and commercial power loss. We coordinated with the public safety EOCs to support on-island, federal and mutual-aid responders’ recovery efforts. Fortunately, each Pacific territory has a deployable asset on-hand from the FirstNet fleet. And, working closely with our local telecom provider, FirstNet ROG has deployed 12 solutions to restore critical communications. Currently, the network is fully restored in CNMI and more than 95% operational in Guam, and we continue to prioritize cell site restoration efforts based on the needs of public safety.
We look at FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country. From Mother Nature’s heaviest blows to man-made disasters like the recent train derailment in Montana, no matter where disasters strike, FirstNet is designed to be second-to-none in an emergency. And as public safety’s partner, we’re committed to helping keep every area of the United States safe and connected.