2020 has proved more than ever why FirstNet is needed. As the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built specifically for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community, FirstNet is critical to those who put their lives on the line, day in and day out, to protect and support our communities. And we have a responsibility to help ensure first responders, emergency management, medical professionals and those who support public safety can be confident in their critical communications capabilities. Where public safety goes, we go.
This year, public safety’s network is being tested in completely new ways, and it continues to hit the mark for our first responders. From continuing to combat COVID-19 to responding to tornadoes, wildfires and floods, there’s no question 2020 is one we will remember forever. And now, forecasters at the National Weather Service expect a more active than usual Atlantic hurricane season.
FirstNet stands at the ready to be there to support response and recovery, no matter the disaster or emergency. We make public safety’s mission the priority. With a dedicated fleet of more than 76 deployable network assets – available at no additional charge – we’re providing fire, EMS, law enforcement and more with unthrottled access to connectivity when and where they need it, including in the immediate aftermath of a storm when commercial power and other infrastructure may be disrupted:
- The Original 72: These dedicated mobile cell sites, including assets such as Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs), provide first responders with similar capabilities and connectivity as a cell tower. Plus, they’re housed across more than 50 locations nationwide to enable a 14-hour delivery window following the initial emergency request.
- FirstNet Flying Cell on Wings (COWs™): In 2019, we took the FirstNet fleet airborne with the addition of 3 Flying COWs. They are able to reach heights of up to 400 feet, making them ideal for situations like wildfires and mountain rescue missions where the terrain may have previously made it difficult to maintain connectivity. During Hurricane Michael, a Flying COW provided service to first responders in hard-hit Mexico Beach, Fla to support the recovery.
- FirstNet One Aerostat: FirstNet One brings a first-of-its-kind public safety communications solution to help keep responders connected during large-scale, catastrophic events – like potential upcoming major hurricanes. Flying up to 1,000 feet, it can replace multiple ground-based portable cell sites and free those dedicated assets to be used by other agencies nationwide.
- The Pacific Territories: As part of expanding the FirstNet footprint to the Pacific territories, we have also added an on-island portable cell site for each territory. One of these assets is currently supporting COVID-19 response operations in Guam.
- AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Fleet (NDR): With more than $650 million invested in the U.S. and another $15 million invested internationally, the AT&T NDR program is one of the largest, and most advanced of its kind. In addition to the FirstNet fleet, public safety will be able to tap into the 300+ assets, from the AT&T NDR fleet when available.
Since launching the dedicated FirstNet fleet, we have seen tremendous interest and use of these portable cell sites for public safety agencies’ emergency response needs. In 2018 alone, FirstNet supported public safety during 100+ emergency operations. And last year those numbers quadrupled, accounting for more than 450 requests for deployable support by public safety agencies. We’re only halfway through 2020, and public safety has turned to FirstNet deployable network assets for additional support during 200+ emergencies and planned events, including supporting the COVID-19 response operations at quarantine sites, field hospitals, testing sites and EOCs.
That’s why I’m excited that public safety’s dedicated fleet is continuing to grow thanks to the recently announced network investment by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). Beyond expanding our original 72 dedicated portable cell sites, next year, we’ll be able to bring public safety agencies new types of assets for their response efforts, like mobile command vehicles. In the event of an emergency, a mobile command vehicle can be stationed near the scene or disaster and provide a central communications hub for first responders. It’s just one of the ways FirstNet continues to innovate for public safety.
FirstNet Response Operations – led by former first responders – guides the deployment of the FirstNet fleet based on the needs of public safety, coordinating across federal, state, tribal and local agencies with a focus on life safety, incident stabilization and property conservation.
As with every hurricane season, the need to be prepared is critically important this year. Connectivity is vital before, during and after any event. That’s why we pre-stage assets and remain vigilant for any storm’s potential impact. We are experienced; constantly improving the process and ready to respond for FirstNet subscribers at a moment’s notice. That’s what it means to be public safety’s partner.
FirstNet is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority – an independent government agency. We continue to deliver on the vision of Congress and the first responder community. With dedicated, advanced services built to mission-critical standards interoperating across agencies and jurisdictions, custom apps and devices built for law enforcement, fire and EMS, it’s clear FirstNet stands above commercial offerings. And more than 12,000 public safety agencies and organizations – accounting for over 1.3 million connections – would agree.
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