While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is nationwide, its effects are being acutely felt right now in New York City. So, when Governor Cuomo implemented a plan for sharing health care resources across hospitals and health systems in the state, part of that plan requires transporting patients between facilities to address the changing capacity challenges.

That’s when FirstNet – the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community – stepped in to help ensure EMS and other first responders have the interoperable connectivity they need. Coordinating with New York State public safety agencies, government officials and city hospitals, the FirstNet team at AT&T deployed a cross-agency solution that is truly helping those who save lives.

Patient Transport

Hundreds of ambulances from outside the region have entered the city through mutual-aid efforts. They’re being marshaled out of Fort Totten and Randall’s Island, so we deployed FirstNet portable cell sites and new, temporary in-building solutions to increase network capacity solely for first responders and command staff.

Next, emergency personnel needed a way to quickly and efficiently manage the ambulance fleet for patient transfers. All ambulances have now been equipped with FirstNet Ready™ ultra-rugged Sonim XP8 with AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk (EPTT). This provides visual location information of the ambulances across the city, geofencing alerts, and allows dispatchers to send messages or alerts directly to first responders. FirstNet provides a common, interoperable platform to enable reliable communication across multiple agencies and jurisdictions. ePTT also enables communication to first responders’ land-mobile radios, while also reserving public safety’s radio channels for other communication needs.

When managing patients and working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, “mobile hygiene” is top of mind. That’s one of the reasons why we recommended this FirstNet Ready device – the Sonim XP8 is ideal for ambulances due to its resistance to chemicals. The XP8 can be fully submerged and can withstand a variety of different cleaning products from simple soap and water to heavy-duty cleansers and disinfectants, such as bleach and isopropyl alcohol.

U.S. Naval Hospital Ship Comfort

We are also working with public safety officials to help ensure connectivity for the USNS Comfort, a Navy medical treatment facility sent to relieve pressure on the city’s overburdened hospitals. The Comfort’s 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms will largely be used for non-coronavirus patients, freeing up much-needed space at the city’s overburdened hospitals. With Band 14 spectrum on the port, this VIP communications lane means FirstNet subscribers are protected against commercial traffic congestion. That’s unique in the industry and something public safety won’t get anywhere but on the FirstNet network.

The FirstNet Difference

FirstNet was created following the communication challenges public safety experienced during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Those challenges made it clear that the needs of public safety demand more than what commercial offerings provided at that time. Nearly 20 years later, New York City is once again facing a crisis – and time is of the essence. That’s why I am so proud of the team on the ground supporting the incredible work of these medical professionals and first responders across this great city.

From activating devices, deploying FirstNet portable cell sites, installing microwave and more, the FirstNet team was able to take action the same day public safety requested support from their network. That wasn’t possible immediately following 9/11. Both inter- and intra-communications stalled because agencies – city, state and federal, as well as extended mutual-aid users – used disparate communication systems. But with FirstNet, agencies across jurisdictions can reliably communicate.

As public safety’s communications network partner, serving America’s first responders is our mission. Where public safety goes, we go. This is what FirstNet was designed for. FirstNet is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). And I am honored to have the privilege to serve this brave community that stands on the front lines, no matter the emergency.

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