Chris Algiere is the Director Federal & National Programs at FirstNet, an independent authority within the U.S. Chamber of Commerce whose mission is to develop, build and operate the nationwide, broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. First response and other critical installation resiliency issues will be discussed during an ADC 2019 Defense Communities National Summit general session: “The Future of DOD Resiliency Policy,” Mon., June 10.
Natural disasters are a threat to installation resiliency across the country, and first responders are usually the “advance team” in the aftermath. What is FirstNet and how does it help installations become more resilient?
No community is immune from natural disasters, including our military communities. Recently, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, experienced a tornado, and in the aftermath, fire department members, security forces and base chaplains went door-to-door to check on residents. In March, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., endured extensive flooding, and last fall, Hurricane Michael destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Many other installations have faced similar situations.
The ability to communicate is key for response and recovery efforts, and that is where FirstNet comes in. FirstNet is the only nationwide public safety broadband network dedicated to first responders. The network enables public safety personnel – including first responders on military installations – to stay connected even during times of network congestion.
FirstNet also has a fleet of deployable network assets that can be rolled into an area affected by a natural disaster. These assets are dedicated to FirstNet subscribers and can be requested at no cost. In fact, deployable assets were used in response efforts to the disasters in Ohio, Nebraska and Florida. This is a feature that first responders use when they need it, and we are proud to deliver it.
How can communities and states better prepare for the threat of natural disasters?
Planning and preparedness is key to reinforcing community resiliency. With FirstNet, installations have another tool to ensure their first responders can communicate when the community needs them the most.
In a digital world, an internet connection often becomes the fastest means for emergency managers to order supplies after a disaster. In this way, FirstNet helps responders connect quickly to support response and recovery efforts.
Overall, FirstNet is enhancing traditional radio systems with data communications. By providing first responders a cellular connection they can depend on – with “always on” priority and preemption – they can now make use of smartphones and other digital resources like never before. With additional information at their fingertips, FirstNet is helping public safety be better prepared for any emergency.
FirstNet is also for daily public safety operations. How can FirstNet help installations provide public safety services?
Today, FirstNet is enabling responders from different agencies and jurisdictions to seamlessly communicate with one another. With one network, public safety personnel on an installation can easily communicate with one another and public safety from agencies off base. More than 7,250 public safety agencies are using more than 600,000 connections on FirstNet today for everyday operations and for every emergency.
Another advantage of FirstNet is that security of the network was planned for and incorporated from the start. Adversaries will always look to disrupt our nation’s communications and critical infrastructure through cyberspace. With a dedicated network, a security operations center to monitor the network and end-to-end encryption, protecting public safety’s vital communications is always front of mind for FirstNet.
Part of a series highlighting the faces and ideas of the upcoming ADC 2019 Defense Communities National Summit in Washington, D.C., June 10-12