Miami-Dade dispatchers take calls and discuss issues inside of their center surrounded by information on various screens

Tactical dispatch and TERT: How FirstNet supports innovations for 9-1-1 and emergency communicators

Emergency communications professionals across the country utilize FirstNet to support innovative approaches to 9-1-1 and dispatch. FirstNet’s secure, reliable broadband connection helps telecommunicators deliver accurate, robust information to on the scene responders. FirstNet, and the technology ecosystem that has built up around it, is especially helpful for dispatchers placed in uncommon situations.

Tactical dispatch with FirstNet 

Tactical dispatchers support scenarios needing onsite assistance, such as active shooter incidents or large planned events. FirstNet is built for the demands of emergencies or events that strain a network system. The network is built to be resilient and hardened to help responders stay connected during disasters, and with priority and preemption service public safety personnel are guaranteed a fast lane during times of network congestion.   

When Atlanta hosted Super Bowl LIII, the Fulton County Emergency Services’ E9-1-1 required uninterrupted real-time communications at all times. Fulton County provided the failsafe for the City of Atlanta’s system during the event that brought more than 500,000 people to downtown Atlanta. Their headquarters is only three blocks from Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the game was played, so the agency decided to set up a back-up location in case of an incident. It was equipped with a voice over IP system, portable radio dispatch boxes, Fulton’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software, and 30 FirstNet Ready™ devices. Fulton set aside 20 of the devices as a back up to the voice over IP system if needed.

“We tested everything. It worked beautifully the week leading up to the Super Bowl and during the Super Bowl,” said Jim Millsap, technical division chief for the Fulton County E9-1-1 Center. “In the end, it was a very successful mission. Everything worked as we wanted it to, and we had the backup of the FirstNet phones if needed.”

For Andrew Knapp, Director of the Hamilton County Communications Center in Ohio, FirstNet’s robust and reliable platform provides essential functions for tactical dispatchers. He said, “Emergency Communications Centers have found that their service is not limited to the boundary of their own walls.” Hamilton County uses FirstNet for tactical dispatch because it allows them to remain operational at all times, despite their location, with access to the same tools and information they have in the dispatch center.

Priority and preemption give emergency communicators constant access to high-speed broadband through which they can access their normal systems, as well as voice and data. Dispatchers no longer have to resort to tracking calls with pen, paper, or spreadsheets when they are in the field—with FirstNet they can jump right into accessing their normal CAD system.

Portable routers and other technology solutions that have emerged with the coming of FirstNet make it easy for responders to pick up and move in a moment’s notice if it becomes necessary. FirstNet’s 72 FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) and Cell on Wheels (COW) dedicated network deployable assets are available at no additional cost to FirstNet subscriber agencies. These ground-based deployable solutions are designed to support a PSAP or ECC during an incident in an area with little to no coverage, or after a disaster that destroys existing infrastructure. Collier County (FL) Sheriff’s Office in Naples, Florida recently used a deployable at the Collier County Fair and Exposition to support dispatch and other command functions for several days throughout this remote area. 

TERT brings support, FirstNet provides interoperability

If a PSAP or ECC experiences a disaster or staffing crisis that impacts their ability to provide the required level of service, they sometimes turn to a Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT). TERT programs organize regions so that trained teams of individuals can be mobilized quickly and deployed to assist.

The ability to communicate is one of the most important objectives for first responders. FirstNet has been working since day one to deliver a broadband network with built-in interoperability to enhance the ability of public safety to work together in such situations. Equipped with FirstNet’s capabilities for data and voice, TERT teams have the assurance they will be able to communicate wherever they are sent, even if they aren’t familiar with the environment.

The high-speed network also paves the way for virtual TERT response. Collier County (FL) Sheriff’s Office is working with the Charleston County Consolidated 9-1-1 Center in South Carolina to test transferring non-emergency calls from Florida to South Carolina as a conceptual test of the ability for one ECC to remotely support another ECC from any distance. To learn more about these methods and the devices and systems they are using, sign up for the 9-1-1 Take newsletter, which highlights their experience in the April edition.

FirstNet is ready for emergency communicators

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) recently welcomed our newest board members, including Director Karima Holmes who leads the Office of Unified Communications for the District of Columbia. Director Holmes is a leader in emergency communications and has focused on next-generation technologies for 9-1-1, including public safety broadband.

“New technology is sprouting out everywhere, and FirstNet is such a critical effort for our emergency communicators. FirstNet was built with public safety’s feedback including input from the 9-1-1 community. As the FirstNet Authority oversees the network’s buildout, it will continue to engage with public safety telecommunicators to ensure the network brings the valuable tools PSAPs and ECCs need for our lifesaving work. FirstNet is important to the safety of our communities nationwide.”

Do you have thoughts about how FirstNet can serve 9-1-1 and emergency communicators? Contact me and let me know how we can buildout the network to better serve you.


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