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Honoring Our Nation’s First Responders

By Chief Richard Carrizzo, Fire Chief for the Southern Platte Fire Protection District (Missouri) and Vice Chair of the First Responder Network Authority Board

First responders are at the core of our communities. Emergency medical officials treat those in pain. Firefighters carry victims to safety. Emergency managers marshal resources. 9-1-1 call takers field distress calls day and night. Law enforcement officials make sure our neighborhoods remain safe.

On October 28, we recognize their sacrifices and contributions on Honoring the Nation's First Responders Day.

Serving America’s first responders

First responders across the country put their lives on the line to keep Americans safe. An estimated 4.6 million people serve as career and volunteer firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics in the United States. Their daily jobs come with extraordinary challenges that they face with bravery and dedication.

America’s first responders are at the heart of the FirstNet Authority’s mission. We oversee a communications network that is dedicated to the public safety community.

The FirstNet network was designed to address the communications challenges public safety faces in both day-to-day incidents and large-scale emergencies. From its launch in 2018 through today, the network is giving the public safety community reliable, secure communications for disasters and everyday operations.

Providing unique government oversight

The FirstNet Authority has several responsibilities to ensure FirstNet delivers a reliable and secure connection for first responders, including:

  • Planning for the network in consultation with public safety officials
  • Overseeing key elements of the network, including availability, performance, and enhancements
  • Directing investments back into the network to advance FirstNet for public safety’s evolving communications needs

This is unique to FirstNet. No other carrier gives public safety the same level of assurances and government oversight.

Bringing coverage where first responders go

When there’s an emergency, communication is critical to those responding to the scene. That’s why the FirstNet Authority works with the public safety community to ensure they have the coverage they need to communicate. In addition to delivering coverage via fixed cell sites and infrastructure, we have invested in new coverage enhancements for public safety’s network. These solutions bring FirstNet into hard-to-reach areas not covered by fixed infrastructure, providing first responders the ability to communicate when and where they need to.

One such solution is in-building booster cells that improve connectivity at indoor locations like firehouses, police stations, 9-1-1 centers, and emergency operation centers.

Public safety agencies can also access compact rapid deployables — portable mobile assets that function similar to a cell tower. These deployable assets are small and light enough to hitch to a pickup truck or float on an amphibious vehicle, so that first responders can bring coverage to the scene of an emergency.

Another unique feature for first responders is high-power user equipment, which is only licensed for FirstNet’s Band 14 spectrum and boosts signals up to six times the normal strength. This solution can extend the network in rural and maritime locations, and on tribal lands, ensuring public safety personnel have more reliable connectivity to communicate and send information.

Investing in public safety

These solutions are informed by public safety feedback. Our staff engages with first responders every day — at conferences, during ride-alongs, through webinars, and other targeted public safety events. The goal is to understand how they’re using broadband in response operations, and then support them through programs, investments, and other activities.

By getting actionable feedback directly from first responders, the FirstNet Authority can target investments and resources to further drive innovations for public safety wireless broadband. Following this approach, we have made strategic investments to upgrade the network for 5G and boost coverage to serve public safety wherever their mission takes them.

This is having a broader impact beyond the network itself. There is now a more competitive and innovative marketplace serving first responders. Once an afterthought in new technology rollouts, the public safety community is now a growing market for the IT sector to consider when developing devices, apps, and software.

Honoring first responders

First responders do a demanding job that requires personal sacrifice, bravery, and heroism. They need reliable, secure communications with devices and apps designed for the work they do.

To all the people who selflessly serve as first responders to keep our nation safe — you have our gratitude today on National First Responders Day and every other day of the year.

Bureaus and Offices