FirstNet benefits rural areas without existing infrastructure
Cities in the Los Angeles area participate in the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System, which coordinates public safety communications for 88 municipalities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County. In 2018, FirstNet integrated 76 LA-RICS sites across the county into its broadband network. The region finds particular value in deploying equipment using FirstNet in rural areas of the county.
Authorities harness the power of FirstNet through mobile FirstNet vehicles (known as Satellite Cell on Light Trucks or SatCOLTs) or mobile towers (known as Cell on Wheels or COWs) when public safety agencies respond to emergencies where there are little established infrastructure. As such, much of Southern California has relied on FirstNet to maintain communications while battling wildfires in what has been a dangerous year for them. Authority FirstNet also touts the tools’ abilities to track the locations of individual firefighters responding to wildfires.
EXPLORE: How local governments are expanding interoperability to improve emergency response.
In July, the Los Angeles Police Department further invested in FirstNet, distributing FirstNet-enabled Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max smartphones to its officers. The department also equips each patrol car with Cradlepoint routers that support FirstNet access via Band 14, the spectrum dedicated to public safety communications.
Similarly, the Los Angeles County Sheriff‘s Department installed a Sierra Wireless router in each of its vehicles with FirstNet as the primary wireless network and T-Mobile as the backup network. The routers support LASD’s automated vehicle location system, which displays incident and vehicle locations as well as vehicle status and other critical information.
FirstNet Communications can bypass coverage interruptions in crowds
Chris Stratmann, section chief of the response operations group at AT&T, said the company has funded more than 90 SatCOLT vehicles across the country, according to a report from K2 Radio in Wyoming.
This revelation came from testimony to the Casper City Council in Wyoming about the benefits of FirstNet to the Casper Police Department, which sent the trucks to assist with rallies around the solar eclipse in 2017 and a rally in 2022. When large crowds gather, as in these cases, devices overwhelm normal cell service. The SatCOLT is able to bypass these coverage interruptions with its dedicated bandwidth, supporting public safety response if necessary.
RELATED: How New York is investing in emergency wireless communication.
Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters said his department hopes to purchase a smaller version of the FirstNet mobile vehicle in the form of a trailer to deploy at specific events. The trailer would cost around $70,000, significantly less than the estimated $750,000 cost of a complete SatCOLT.
Real-time high-speed mobile communication saves lives
In Texas, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office has been a long-time customer of Panasonic Toughbook mobile computers. Each sheriff’s office patrol vehicle carries one of the rugged laptops. The Sheriff says the office’s goal is to give deputies the same abilities in the field that they would have while working at a computer at a desk in the office.
Panasonic recently launched the Toughbook 40, which incorporates 4G and 5G modems supporting FirstNet and has dual SIM cards for redundancy. Using FirstNet bandwidth, Brazos County Sheriff’s Deputies can quickly transmit large files, such as videos and maps, from their patrol cars to headquarters, an emergency operations center, or other locations. other vehicles via their Toughbooks. Officials can act quickly on real-time information with FirstNet’s robust communications.
DIVE DEEPER: FirstNet Authority is launching a virtual lab for public safety research and training.
Deputy Sheriff Josh Hearen shared with Panasonic the story of how a deputy monitored a storm from his vehicle in case a town needed emergency help. Head Office easily watched the Deputy’s live stream on FirstNet’s Band 14.
“He didn’t have to relay a message or explain the damage,” Hearen said. “Command staff could see this and make their own assessment.”
This article is part of StateTechit is Citizen Blog Series. Please join the discussion on Twitter using the #StateLocalIT hashtag.