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The First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet Authority) Technology Headquarters in Boulder, CO - home to the FirstNet Innovation and Test Lab

John Hunt started with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) three years ago, but his support of public safety has been 34 years in the making.

This article previously appeared in the Nov 2018 issue of the IAEM Bulletin, the official newsletter of the International Association of Emergency Managers, www.iaem.com. Imagine a mountain town of 7,000 residents welcoming 500,000 guests. That is the scenario that Sturgis, South Dakota, faces every summer in August. For 78 years, this Black Hills community has hosted the country’s largest motorcycle rally, and every year is a little different. In 2018, FirstNet debuted in the Black Hills of northwest South Dakota, and public safety experienced the difference of communicating over the FirstNet network.

Every summer, thousands of people travel to western Indiana for the Terre Haute airshow—a two-day event that features the Navy’s famous Blue Angels and other aircraft. While pilots spend months preparing to perform daring tricks in the air, public safety and state and local officials spend months preparing for the event on the ground. With several local, state, and federal first responders supporting the event, organizers for the 2018 event were looking for ways to enhance public safety communications.

Last week, I joined the Western Fire Chiefs Association and public safety officials for a site visit to the burn area of the Camp Fire in northern California. This trip was an opportunity for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) to learn about the public safety response to the fires that devastated Paradise, California—a town of 27,000 residents in the foothills East of Chico—directly from those fire chiefs and other first responders who were on the ground during the wildfire.