During everyday emergencies and large-scale disasters, first responders from different agencies and disciplines work together to help keep our communities safe. From the moment they’re informed of an incident until their mission is complete, the public safety community needs to stay connected at every step. And that’s precisely why FirstNet®, Built with AT&T – the only network built with and for America’s first responders – was created.

Today, more than 21,800 agencies and organizations use FirstNet to stay mission ready. But FirstNet is designed for every first responder and those critical to supporting their emergency response. That means whether you’re a career officer with an agency-provided device, an emergency room doctor who signed on at their local AT&T store or a volunteer firefighter in a rural town who subscribed online, every individual of the public safety community has access to FirstNet. Providing all first responders access to FirstNet was also a key requirement by the public safety community, and we’re proud to deliver this level of accessibility as part of our commitment with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority).

Access to the FirstNet network – and its entire ecosystem of public-safety centric tools – is vital to strengthening our communities’ incident response. And it’s especially important within the Fire community. According to the National Fire Protection Association, of the more than 1 million firefighters in the United States, 67% are volunteers. If we limited FirstNet access to only agencies, 2 out of every 3 firefighters in our country would be at risk of their critical calls not going through due to things like commercial network congestion or throttling.

Enabling individuals of the public safety community to subscribe to FirstNet is also a game changer for departments in small communities or isolated areas. Unique to FirstNet, first responders have always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data with multiple priority levels. The FirstNet Uplift Tool can be used by public safety agencies to provide temporary elevation to the same priority level as first responders. This furthers public safety’s command and control of their network and allows public safety to quickly adapt to dynamic emergencies.

Organizations that take advantage of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies can also group team members with FirstNet Ready® devices to ensure in the event of an emergency they can quickly be uplifted to the highest level of priority on public safety’s network. And in an emergency or major planned event, these agencies have access to public safety’s nationwide fleet of 150+ dedicated FirstNet assets – all at no additional cost. This capability is critical during wildfires, which often draw rural departments to an incident and require constant communication with agencies statewide.

And we’re making it even easier for individual first responders to sign on to FirstNet by delivering ‘FirstNet and Family,’ a simplified experience that gives America’s first responders (and their families) the best of 2 networks – public safety’s FirstNet network and the AT&T commercial network – to keep their worlds connected. For those who dedicate their lives to serving their communities, many only see the badge, the firehose, or the stethoscope; but first responders are also moms and dads, husbands and wives, daughters and sons. As public safety’s partner, we’re ensuring they have the best customer experience for their entire household, while also delivering on the best connectivity required for their professional operations and familial commitments. Public safety gets mission-critical, always-on priority connectivity on FirstNet, and their family members save 25% on eligible unlimited wireless plans1 on the AT&T commercial network – all on a single account.

Every connection on the FirstNet network undergoes a rigorous verification process to ensure that only those who protect and serve are using public safety’s network. FirstNet eligibility is based on federal law and guided by our contractual commitment with the FirstNet Authority. In partnership with the FirstNet Authority and in consultation from public safety, we go further to ensure only those conducting public safety services and those that are directly supporting their critical missions are afforded the opportunity to join FirstNet. Public safety agencies can directly identify eligible first responders via FirstNet Central. And we use independent 3rd parties to confirm eligibility against robust data sources for each individual member of the public safety community. By strengthening first responders' incident response, FirstNet helps firefighters, law enforcement officials, paramedics, doctors, nurses, emergency response personnel and more connect to the critical information they need—when they need it.