The FirstNet Network Platform Has Kept First Responders Connected Through Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and More

More than 3,600 public safety agencies across the country have now joined FirstNet. That’s a nearly 50% increase in the number of agencies subscribing to the nationwide public safety communications platform in less than 2 months.

With more than 250,000 connections on FirstNet, first responders from federal, state, local and tribal public safety agencies continue to turn to FirstNet for the communications capabilities they need, especially during emergencies and large events.

“FirstNet is being purpose-built to favor the important work first responders do. This is challenging and time consuming. It’s also necessary,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, FirstNet at AT&T*. “Much work still needs to be done to make sure FirstNet is a solution that meets the needs of all first responders. But we’re proud of how FirstNet has been delivering for first responders and the communities they serve when help is most needed. And we’re honored to see public safety embrace their network.”

Staying connected during Hurricanes Florence and Michael

Keeping first responders connected during Hurricanes Florence and Michael didn’t happen by luck. It happened because we were prepared to meet their needs.

We brought in the right assets and took the right steps to satisfy the FirstNet mission, helping public safety achieve their mission.

“We moved to the FirstNet system a few months before Hurricane Michael hit. And it was a no-brainer. Having the communications capabilities FirstNet provides was critical following the storm’s devastation,” said Colquitt Miller Emergency Services Director Doug Cofty. “Gaining that peace of mind around our communications meant we could focus on what mattered most – supporting our community.”

The FirstNet network platform is continuing to serve the thousands of first responders and National Guard members who are still actively aiding in Hurricane Michael recovery efforts. Working with public safety, we stationed 2 FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs) at the Harders Base Camp in Panama City, Fla.

Providing rural coverage during search and rescues

The Yankton Sioux Tribe Police Department recently conducted a search and rescue mission for a missing person in the area. Being in a rural part of South Dakota, the department requested a FirstNet deployable network asset to provide needed coverage for the operation.

“In situations like these, communication is critical, and time is of the essence. Knowing the mission was focused in an area with limited coverage, we requested a FirstNet SatCOLT to boost our connectivity. Communications were in place within hours of our request, helping us carry out our operation,” said Yankton Sioux Tribal Police Chief Chris Saunsoci. “Serving on the State of South Dakota’s Public Safety Communications Council, I helped advise Governor Daugaard’s decision to approve the build out of the FirstNet network platform by AT&T. After benefitting from FirstNet in real-life situations, it’s a decision I’m proud to have supported for the South Dakota public safety community.”

Monitoring restricted airspace at the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is New Mexico’s largest annual event. It attracts more than 900,000 visitors every October. And over 2 dozen first responder agencies are responsible for the safety of the event. The FirstNet team at AT&T provided devices and technical assistance to help those first responders stay connected.

This year, the Fiesta also employed a drone detection system operated by Aerial Armor to monitor restricted airspace above Balloon Fiesta Park and the surrounding area. We provided FirstNet connectivity to the system to help it maintain peak performance.

“Prior to connecting via FirstNet, we were seeing signal dropouts. This interrupted our ability to properly monitor the event. We worked with public safety officials at the Fiesta to get connected to FirstNet, allowing our operations to run much smoother. It also enabled us to get the right information – like pictures and text messages – to law enforcement right away,” said Brandon Lugo, operations manager at Aerial Armor.

According to preliminary numbers, there were 46 drone detections in the restricted airspace during the 9-day event with 12-15 apprehensions.

“With congestion on the network, we typically don’t have the connectivity we need via a traditional carrier to communicate at the level we need to coordinate with the people working in the Park. FirstNet gave us that. I was able to get real-time pictures and videos of incidents that needed attention from law enforcement,” said New Mexico State Police Sergeant Steven Carroll. “The ability to stop potential issues before they negatively impacted attendees was monumental.”

FirstNet is being built with AT&T, in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). It’s designed with and for first responders, making public safety’s mission the priority.

“Recent events continue to underscore the need for FirstNet,” said FirstNet Authority Acting CEO Edward Parkinson. “We’re still early in the build process, and we’ll continue to work side-by-side with the public safety community to ensure FirstNet lives up to its promises. But to see FirstNet in action and hear how first responders across the country have already benefitted from the service is a remarkable start and a solid testament to why FirstNet was created.”

For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, go to