By Wayne Hutchens, President, AT&T Alabama
In the public safety profession, communication is key. Yet, in times of emergency, a surplus of activity can cause traditional commercial networks to hit capacity. People understandably rush to get in touch with friends and loved ones while police, firefighters, EMS, and others work diligently to coordinate response efforts.
The tragic events of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the limits of regular commercial networks’ ability to manage the surge of traffic that often accompanies a crisis or severe weather event. It was clear that emergency services professionals needed new communications tools to safely execute their missions.
Today, that vision for a dedicated and resilient communications platform is a reality. The FirstNet network, Built with AT&T, in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority, provides prioritized connectivity and hosts cutting-edge devices and applications to ensure that first responders are well equipped to do their jobs.
The brave men and women in public safety are steadfast in their commitment to protecting our communities. The creation of FirstNet honors that commitment with a pledge from AT&T to continue to innovate. This will help first responders save time in the field. And, the ability to make decisions quickly, marshal resources, and coordinate action can directly translate into lives saved. That is why continuing to expand access to this dedicated, highly secure and reliable platform is so important.
Another important aspect on FirstNet is interoperability. Public safety officials know firsthand that emergencies are not typically confined to boundaries. They recognize that incident response can cross jurisdictions and involve neighboring authorities, requiring the need to rapidly disseminate information. That’s why the FirstNet platform is designed to be interoperable.
Most importantly, a tool built for first responders should benefit from their knowledge and expertise. That is why FirstNet sought direct input from emergency services professionals to create an application ecosystem – the App Catalog. The App Catalog gives first responders a place to find new solutions that are purpose-built and tested according to their needs. FirstNet is innovative, and we are incredibly excited to keep building out the platform’s capability and offerings. We have worked with developers, hosted hackathons, and with the rise of the Internet of Things and Smart Cities, it means that the future of public safety will be increasingly connected. Sensors in vehicles, infrastructure, drones, and gear have the potential to help detect, assess, and target response efforts more effectively. FirstNet is committed to ensuring that these and future technology solutions can be deployed to help save lives.
AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority have made outstanding progress on FirstNet adoption since its launch in 2017. Today, over 5,250 public safety agencies across all 50 states and 6 U.S. territories rely on FirstNet. That’s over 425,000 connections. Its powerful broadband LTE network helps FirstNet users manage incidents and mitigate harm to individuals and infrastructure in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
AT&T looks forward to our continued work with our local, state, and federal authorities to provide innovative public safety assets and solutions, and to maximize the presence of FirstNet to benefit Alabama’s finest – our first responders and the communities they serve.