FirstNet CTO Team Gets “Hands-on” Fire / Rescue Training

June 2, 2015
FirstNet team members participate in fire academy training.
FirstNet team members participate in fire academy training.

By Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet Acting Chief Technology Officer

Several members of the FirstNet team have worked as firefighters, law enforcement personnel, paramedics, dispatchers, and in other public safety and emergency management fields. Their operational backgrounds provide FirstNet with valuable insight into how first responders prepare for and respond to emergencies of all sizes, as well as the communications capabilities they need to execute their mission.

For those on the FirstNet team who do not have extensive public safety backgrounds, there are many opportunities to bolster their “real world” knowledge and experience through training and tutorials, as well as our outreach and consultation with the public safety community.

Members of the FirstNet CTO team recently participated in an eight-week program at the City of Boulder Citizen’s Fire/Rescue Academy. Operated by Boulder Fire and Rescue, the program promotes education, practice, and development of skills for fire service personnel.

The CTO team members were trained on a number of hands on scenarios at the Boulder Regional Fire/Rescue Training Center, including using hydraulic tools (also known as the “Jaws of Life”) to extract victims from vehicles, preparing equipment and donning bunker gear before going into smoke-filled environments, and learning about water rescue and wild fire suppression and mitigation. They also participated in a number of hazardous materials (HAZMAT) exercises.

While the training provided them with valuable “real world” public safety experience, it also enabled the team members to interact with firefighters and other rescue personnel about their current and future communications needs. For example, the team had a number of discussions with members of the Boulder Fire and Rescue team about the applications and devices that they use today, including mobile data terminals, which provide them with access to valuable reference materials, such as building inspections and electrical code. The Boulder HAZMAT team leader also showed how he uses a smartphone to access HAZMAT reference material, incident command structure forms, and other information using an application.

Additionally, they discussed the benefits of having increased access to broadband services through the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN). One potential example that stood out was using wearables and biometrics to measure a firefighter’s heartrate and pulse – which is typically taken manually - before the firefighter enters, and after he or she exits, a live fire scene.

The program was a great learning opportunity for members of the CTO team, and I would like to thank Boulder Fire and Rescue for this opportunity.
There are a number of similar programs across the country. For example, FirstNet Board Vice Chair and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Chief (Ret.) Jeff Johnson recently invited members of the CTO team to participate in a similar community fire academy in Oregon, where they were joined by FirstNet Board members Barry Boniface and Frank Plastina.

Additionally, in Fairfax County, Virginia, the Citizen's Police Academy provides classes to the public that provide information about the Fairfax County Police Department’s training, policies, and operating units.

At FirstNet, we will continue to look for opportunities to bolster our understanding of the first responder operating environment. If you know of any training opportunities in your community, please send the information to


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