FirstNet exercise (First Responder Network Authority/YouTube)

Responders test FirstNet in rescue exercise

In Gore, Va., a remote area in the northern Shenandoah Valley, responders from local agencies as well as elsewhere in Virginia and Maryland participated in a search and rescue exercise that tapped FirstNet's mobile communication links.

Using satellite cell on light trucks (SatCOLTs) and cell on wheels (COW) equipment from FirstNet to link to the first responder network via satellite, responders were able to use their push-to-talk devices and share data not only between the incident scene and the command post, but also with the agencies’ headquarters hundreds of miles away.

“There are places, just like right here, where you don’t have the best coverage,” said Jim Junkins, Director of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center in Virginia. "When FirstNet can come out and bring equipment and connect to a satellite and expand the cellular network -- the data, the access -- those are big things that make it happen pretty quick."

FirstNet exercises give local responders and opportunity to work with the public safety broadband network during situations they may not experience every day, such as large-scale disasters or in areas where connectivity is limited.

Fire fighters and paramedics will also get help understanding how to use FirstNet's mobile broadband services and adopting the technology in their own jurisdictions under a new alliance between AT&T and  the International Association of Fire Fighters. Through the partnership, the association will provide FirstNet with input on providing mission-critical voice capability as the service grows to meet the needs of its public safety users.

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