FirstNet Strengthens National Tribal Emergency Management Council’s Efforts to Deliver Essential Aid to Tribes Affected by COVID-19 

Dedicated FirstNet Portable Cell Site Keeps Critical Personnel Connected During Pandemic Resurgence 

The National Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC) has turned to FirstNet – America’s public safety network – for much-needed connectivity as they coordinate logistics and package food and medical supplies to support Tribal Nations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic across 32 states.

To help ensure the NTEMC and other public safety personnel have the mobile broadband they need, the FirstNet team at AT&T deployed a dedicated FirstNet portable cell site (SatCOLT) and is providing in-building networking solutions for longer-term use to the Foundation of Sustainable Community, DBA Farmer Frog logistics center, located in a remote area of Woodinville, Washington, where the NTEMC has established an Incident Command. NTEMC is also utilizing FirstNet Ready™ devices with AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk, allowing their staff on-site to communicate and coordinate their efforts via a shared talk group.

“The rapid support we received from the FirstNet team at AT&T to give us the communications we require was like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” said Lynda Zambrano, Executive Director, NTEMC. “Having a FirstNet SatCOLT available to us has been an invaluable asset to our mission. I’m encouraged to see that FirstNet has stepped up to support tribal first responders during this unprecedented public health crisis. It gives me confidence knowing that we have a network that will be there when and where we need it.”

Public safety agencies on FirstNet have 24/7 access to a nationwide fleet of land-based and airborne deployable network assets – like a SatCOLT – at no additional charge. These assets link to FirstNet via satellite without relying on commercial power, providing public safety with similar capabilities and connectivity as a cell tower. FirstNet Response Operations – led by a group of former first responders – guides the deployment of the FirstNet deployable assets based on the needs of public safety.

“Public safety, public health and transportation agencies are coordinating in nearly unprecedented ways to respond to COVID-19. Providing responders with dedicated communications assets was a top priority for the public safety community when creating FirstNet, and now it’s helping them be faster and more situationally aware on the front lines. We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring tribal first responders greater access to the connectivity they need,” said Bob Bass, President – AT&T Washington.

Built with AT&T through an innovative public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), FirstNet provides local first responders with interoperable communications across agencies and jurisdictions on a single, nationwide network purpose-built with them, for them. Emergency personnel, public health workers, and other medical staff at the center of the pandemic response are using FirstNet to effectively coordinate and communicate.

“We are pleased to see that the FirstNet deployable program is connecting first responders in tribal nations as they serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “The FirstNet Authority remains steadfast in our commitment to providing tribal first responders across the country with a secure, reliable network built to meet the needs of their life saving mission.”

NTEMC, working in partnership with Farmer Frog, is the recipient of several grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Washington State Department of Health that are allowing NTEMC staff to provide food and aid to Tribal Nations affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The group is also translating COVID-19 safety messaging into the Indigenous languages of several Tribal Nations, as well as other minority communities being served by the group. NTEMC has been heavily engaged in delivering food and medical supplies to Tribal Nations throughout 32 states, including Tribal Nations in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and more.

Supporting Tribal First Responders

FirstNet is built for public safety, for every first responder in the country – career or volunteer; tribal, federal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural. These first responders get a dedicated, prioritized network connection when needed, so that they can reliably communicate even when business and consumer traffic is surging.  And FirstNet is helping to extend coverage in rural and remote parts of America by building new purpose-built FirstNet cell sites. These new towers are improving wireless broadband for tribal communities such as the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Wisconsin.

FirstNet has also been on the front lines with tribal nations across the country as they work to combat the coronavirus. Navajo Nation, the largest tribal reservation in the country, has had one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates per capita in the United States. To provide critical connectivity for federal and tribal officials responding to the crisis, FirstNet Response Operations worked with Navajo Nation to deploy 2 SatCOLTs on the reservation – one in Arizona and the other in New Mexico. Additionally, a FirstNet portable cell site, followed by the installation of an in-building network enhancement, was positioned to support a tribal emergency operations center and COVID-19 testing site on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Keller, Washington.

Throughout the pandemic, NTEMC has been providing emergency management support and coordinating with Tribal Councils, Tribal Emergency Managers and Tribal Public Health Officers across the country that are working to protect tribal communities that have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tribal communities as far away as Scammon Bay, Alaska, as well as some of the largest Tribes, like the Navajo Nation and the Colville Tribes, have received aid from NTEMC as they combat the pandemic.

For updates regarding NTEMC’s support for Tribal Nations, follow NTEMC’s Facebook group. For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out or go here for more FirstNet news.