responders (FirstNet)

FirstNet posts resource guide for emergency managers

To help emergency responders get the most benefit from the nation’s dedicated nationwide wireless broadband network, FirstNet authorities have issued a guide detailing the network’s major features and how public-safety agencies can best leverage those assets in their communities.

The guide covers a number of topics related to emergency management communications, including features managers may use in their daily roles as well as those dedicated to incidents. It begins by explaining FirstNet’s suite of tech platforms and apps and also highlights functionalities that can be used for local mutual aid.

During emergencies, efficient communication is critical. FirstNet can improve cellular reception for responders operating in areas with low connectivity by accessing a number of FirstNet-exclusive deployable assets. With more than 100 satellite trucks and cell-on-wheel (COW) assets, FirstNet can support its subscribers at no additional cost, the guide explains. Agencies can contact the customer care line to request a deployable asset to make sure they have connectivity during disasters or other critical incidents.

As they prepare for response operations, emergency managers can also use FirstNet Central, an online system that is available through a browser-based portal that can be accessed from emergency operations centers or even mobile command posts, provided there is a network connection. The system includes a Network Status Tool, which allows public-safety agencies to increase their situational awareness and assess how various conditions, such as weather, can affect communications.

Similarly, FirstNet’s Uplift Request Tool helps primary agencies -- like law enforcement, fire service or emergency medical services -- avoid the issues created by a congested network, by elevating the priority and preemption status of their communications. With this tool emergency managers can “uplift” network traffic of specified groups during an emergency situation, expediting communication during critical moments and ensuring that responders are not competing with the general public for bandwidth during emergencies.

Aside from emergencies, FirstNet also provides tools for responders’ everyday use. Users have access to a catalog of applications, all of which are pre-vetted for public safety. With FirstNet’s app development portal, mobile developers can access the software development kits and application programming interfaces to ensure their apps meet responders’ needs.

The guide also provides advice on building and using a device cache – preconfigured smartphones or basic phones, tablets, or wireless internet hotspots that can be handed out mutual aid partners responding to an emergency. Agencies should preload cached devices with the apps they use and integrate them with radio networks. FirstNet’s deployables only work with FirstNet Ready (Band 14-enabled) devices, the guide adds.

Finally, the report offers recommendations on how agencies can amend their existing emergency communication planning documents. A number of pro tips and use cases throughout the guide will also help public-safety agencies take advantage of FirstNet’s ecosystem of apps, devices and capabilities.

Read the full guide here.

About the Author

Shourjya Mookerjee is an associate editor for GCN and FCW. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and has written for Vox Media, Fandom and a number of capital-area news outlets. He can be reached at [email protected] – or you can find him ranting about sports, cinematography and the importance of local journalism on Twitter @byShourjya.

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