When the pandemic hit, the New Hampshire Department of Safety (DOS) worked with private healthcare organizations, and state and local agencies to set up testing sites. As soon as vaccines became available, the DOS set up a major facility at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon in an effort to vaccinate New Hampshire residents quickly and efficiently. With many logistical challenges ranging from weather to traffic, DOS turned to FirstNet to coordinate and monitor operations.
DOS oversees emergency communications, in addition to the state fire marshal, emergency medical services, state police, emergency management, and other services, for the Granite State. Because the DOS is home to several public safety divisions, interoperability and seamless communication are critical.
FirstNet gives DOS divisions a public safety-dedicated network with functions and features that meet their needs. The agency uses FirstNet daily for planned and unplanned events, training, data transfer, video streaming, and push-to-talk applications integrated with their land mobile radio system. Priority and preemption on the network ensure responders are able to carry out their operations without interruption.
FirstNet Supports State Vaccination Site
Unified command was crucial to managing the logistics of the vaccination site. DOS worked with partners to develop a communications plan that emphasized this structure and allowed for information to flow easily to and from the command center.
The team turned to “go-kits” consisting of PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras, battery packs, routers with FirstNet SIM cards, and other internet-based devices to maximize their utilization of the network and capabilities. “Go-kit” cameras were set up around the vaccination site and the footage was streamed back to the communication center on FirstNet. These cameras provided situational awareness of the onsite operations, and were instrumental in handling traffic flow. “Our first event started with three kits and the impact on decision making at unified command was substantial,” explained DOS Communications Administrator Sean Goodwin. “We quickly acquired additional kits, ultimately deploying more than 20 cameras.”
At the command center, officials were able to use the FirstNet network to send and receive compressive data to and from the vaccination site. First responders used drones to monitor traffic and keep an eye out for car accidents. They also used air quality sensors to monitor levels of carbon monoxide under the tents at the vaccination site. Because officials had this level of situational awareness, New Hampshire residents were able to arrive, get vaccinated, and leave in roughly 30 minutes.
Reliable Communications Improve Emergency Management
FirstNet provides public safety with a secure, dedicated connection. DOS officials selected FirstNet to support operations at the vaccination site because of the priority and preemption afforded to FirstNet users. These features gave decision-makers the confidence that they would have a reliable, unobstructed connection, even during times of network congestion.
“Having that ability to be able to have a certain level of comfort knowing that we were going to have a reliable communications system in place was very helpful to us here at the Department of Safety from an emergency management perspective,” said Mark E. Doyle, Director of the DOS Division of Emergency Services and Communications.
FirstNet continues to provide reliable communications infrastructure for New Hampshire’s COVID response efforts, as State and Local agencies conducted 14 “booster blitz” events on a single coordinated weekend in early December, vaccinating over 10,000 residents across the state.
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