First Responder Communication Proved Critical During Earthquake Response Exercise

FirstNet utilized as an important tool during a disaster recovery and response training

Earthquakes rarely come with much warning and in California, the state with the most damaging earthquakes in the country, that threat is always a possibility.

First responders and the larger public safety community need to be prepared to face any surprise disaster, no matter the scale. That’s why over twenty local and state public agencies and 700 attendees gathered in Sonoma late this April to participate in a full-scale earthquake response exercise hosted by the California National Guard and CalOES Fire Rescue Branch.

From large building extractions and emergency medical response simulations to practicing general agency interoperability, the training let the public safety community work together to understand their roles in the hypothetical scenario—and FirstNet®, Built with AT&T, America’s public safety network, was there every step of the way.

“The purpose of this training exercise was to simulate the circumstances that would require agencies at the local, regional, state and federal level, NGOs and other members of the public safety community,” said Phil White, Lead Exercise Planner, Sentinel Response 2022. “A key component of creating a unity across such varied groups is communications. By providing participants with FirstNet enabled devices, the agencies were able to experience the importance of seamless connections.”

“One of our biggest issues during disasters is always coverage. California is very large and can be both rural and mountainous. Having that reliable connection can be game changing,” said Chief Brian Marshall, CalOES State Fire and Rescue Branch. “With FirstNet, we are able to utilize today’s technology to keep in touch with our firefighters. No matter where we are, time of day, whatever incident, we have communications, which is absolutely imperative to our team.”

Supporting public safety agencies during emergencies and planned events, FirstNet keeps first responders connected on the scene and can keep those lines of communications open as an incident evolves. At the response exercise, FirstNet was onsite to ensure that the technology was running smoothly and to supply deployable assets like High Power User Equipment (HPUE) which are devices that can significantly boost cellular transmission strength, and ROG the Dog, our trained therapy dog program that can be requested for first responders during natural and manmade disasters.

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) also attended the event to collaborate with local, state, and federal agencies. The FirstNet Authority works to understand public safety’s communication requirements, provides education about how FirstNet can support operations, and oversees enhancements to the network to meet public safety’s evolving needs.

“This exercise was an excellent opportunity to work together with our public safety partners, especially our federal partners, in the San Francisco Bay area to review their operations, observe training, and talk about FirstNet capabilities together,” said Chris Baker, FirstNet Authority, Senior Public Safety Advisor. “We want to assist agencies with integrating broadband into trainings and exercises.”

“With FirstNet at the training exercise, we were able to educate ourselves on the full capabilities of the network,” said Staff Sergeant Matthew Walker, California National Guard, 49th Military Police Brigade. “FirstNet’s ability to maintain a continuity of communication between all supporting entities during the training exercise allowed us to stay connected with teams across function. By being able to practice this communication, we are better prepared for our disaster response.”

During disasters, like the one practiced at the training, interoperability between agencies is absolutely critical to keep victims and first responders safer. FirstNet provides a level of connection that allows these agencies to stay in touch when they are on the front lines.

“Having FirstNet’s support at the mass-casualty exercise was important and appreciated,” said Simon So, Founder & CEO of Aerial Intelligence Group.  “Reliable communications in public safety operations is always important, but having a reliable network with multi-agency interoperability is critical in large-scale disasters with local, state, and federal responders.” 

Our FirstNet Response Operations Program is designed to help these different agencies stay connected during disasters. Guiding the deployment of FirstNet assets based on the needs of public safety, the program collaborates with agencies during training exercises and drills to ensure that we are prepared before disaster strikes.

Helping public safety agencies complete their mission will always be our top priority. As America’s public safety network, we are proud to work side by side with first responders to help ensure that are communities are receiving the help they need.

Learn more about how FirstNet, Built with AT&T responds to disasters at

First Responders holding cell phones and paperwork in a group at an earthquake response exercise.
ROG the Dog looking towards trainees at an earthquake response exercise.