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Hot-air balloon participate on a field glow at third annual FireLake Fireflight Balloon Festival in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

FirstNet ‘immeasurable’ at Oklahoma balloon festival

January 21, 2020

In August, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN) hosted the third annual FireLake Fireflight Balloon Festival in Shawnee, Oklahoma, this year attracting an estimated 20,000 attendees. Large events like the balloon festival require months of advance preparation to ensure the community’s safety and security. As part of these efforts, festival planners had to prepare for potential impacts on public safety communications, including commercial network congestion.

After last year’s success using FirstNet at the festival, CPN public safety officials contacted the FirstNet-AT&T team to request communications support at the 2019 festival. The FirstNet-AT&T team distributed FirstNet SIM cards and devices to multiple agencies, including CPN emergency management, the CPN administrative branch, and CPN police, allowing them to take advantage of the network’s unique features and capabilities. CPN’s public safety officials relied on these FirstNet-enabled devices for seamless interoperability among the agencies supporting the festival.

FirstNet-AT&T also provided a Satellite Truck on Wheels (SatCOLT) deployable asset to supplement coverage at the event. The SatCOLT immediately connected area first responders and provided widespread coverage across the festival grounds. This was important as first responders coordinated response calls at cooling stations to treat approximately 200 overheated patrons.

“For us and the event staff, the FirstNet SatCOLT has been a very good addition to our toolkit. The capability of being able to communicate with first responders without interruption is immeasurable,” said CPN’s Director of Emergency Management Tim Zientek.

Zientek said that FirstNet connected about 60 first responders, almost double from the 2018 festival. Many users reported that the SatCOLT combined with access to in-building coverage greatly enhanced public safety communications at this year’s event.

Building FirstNet to meet tribal needs

Demonstrations at events like the FireLake Fireflight Balloon Festival are an important way to introduce the network and its capabilities to our nation’s tribal first responders. The demos also provide the opportunity for our team to collect feedback about users’ experience so that we can continue to advance and evolve the network to meet all first responders’ needs.

Whether consulting with tribes on demos, cell sites, or priorities and investments, our team remains committed to improving communications in tribal areas. To learn more about FirstNet or to request a tribal consultation, email the First Responder Network Authority Tribal team directly at