Last year saw the release of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) Roadmap, the launch of network investment planning, and significant buildout of the network. It also saw a renewed commitment from our FirstNet Authority team of expert public safety advisors to engage with public safety and improve, expand, and bring innovation to FirstNet.
Through targeted engagements, our team has been working to better understand public safety’s technical and operational broadband needs and how FirstNet is impacting public safety operations today. Since January, our team has taken part in more than 900 in-person and virtual engagements, meeting with nearly 21,000 public safety stakeholders from across the country. Whether engaging in person or virtually, we have received recommendations and ideas to positively influence the FirstNet network’s path forward.
Focusing on issues important to public safety
During the first half of Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 2020), our team traveled extensively with many engagements focused on the FirstNet Roadmap and its six technology domains. Originally identified with the help of public safety, the six domains outline the network capabilities that public safety considers most vital to their operations. As the FirstNet Authority plans for the future, we continue to look to public safety for key input on all the technology encompassed within these domains. In turn, this feedback will impact how we prioritize our programs, resources, and investments. In FY 2020, our team held more than 50 Roadmap engagements across the country to capture the wide range of public safety broadband communications needs that arise across all disciplines.
In addition to these engagements, we held focused engagements on hot topics for first responders, such as FirstNet’s deployable resources. At these sessions, our team offered practical advice about how to request and integrate deployable assets, which can bolster coverage and capacity during disasters, critical incidents, or planned events. Working together with AT&T, public safety had opportunities for hands-on demonstrations of network assets, equipment, and devices connected to FirstNet, such as at AT&T’s Network Disaster Recovery Showcase in Olympia, Washington.
Navigating engagements in the post-COVID-19 era
When the pandemic hit, the FirstNet Authority team quickly pivoted to a virtual engagement approach. Over the past 100+ days, our team has hosted more than 30 online events for both national audiences and 20+ states, touching on a wide range of topics—from the FirstNet Central Portal to operational use of FirstNet.
As FirstNet Authority CEO Ed Parkinson said, “The Public Safety Advocacy group is always out there, engaging with public safety, being the voice for public safety, gathering input, gathering data, and bringing it back into the FirstNet Authority.” Staying actively engaged with and committed to our public safety community has been critical, especially as we have seen demand on the network increase.
Hearing directly from first responders
When it comes to understanding the FirstNet experience, hearing FirstNet users’ lessons learned is vital. That’s why our team frequently invites local FirstNet subscribers to participate in our engagements and share their firsthand experiences. A few highlighted users are:
State of Illinois FirstNet Update Webinar. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) Deputy Chief of Operations shared his experience deploying over 1,200 smartphones on FirstNet. CPD detectives depend on FirstNet’s extended capacity for reliability and speed for real-time access to a range of department systems and applications, including mobile device management, camera systems, computer-aided dispatch, body-worn cameras, and crime analysis capabilities.
State of Michigan FirstNet Update Webinar. A lieutenant from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office shared his experience using FirstNet-enabled devices in prisons for telehealth capabilities and court proceedings. Deputies use smartphones enabled with push-to-talk applications that allow staff to communicate without tying up radio channels. FirstNet also serves as another communications option in the event that the agency’s land mobile radio system is unavailable.
From shared stories such as these, we have been able to collect invaluable information and critical insight into first responders’ use of public safety broadband to date, and start a dialogue about their future needs. This feedback has directly informed enhancements to FirstNet products and services, such as the Advanced Network Status Tool, FirstNet Push-to-Talk, FirstNet Central, and the FirstNet App Catalog.
Connecting with FirstNet
Whether large, small, urban- or rural-based, in-person or virtual, the FirstNet Authority’s engagements helped our team gain valuable feedback to better understand public safety’s critical communication needs. Hearing straight from the public safety user community continues to inform our Roadmap, and it ensures that we can support improvements or innovations to the network that will have the biggest impact for public safety operations.
The FirstNet Authority team is looking forward to the year ahead and continuing to work together with public safety to ensure their voice is heard as we advance the FirstNet experience.
Learn more about how FirstNet is transforming public safety communications — contact your local FirstNet Authority Public Safety Advisor and sign up for our discipline newsletters. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for the latest FirstNet Authority updates.
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