September is National Preparedness Month, an important reminder for Americans to prepare for disasters and emergencies. The 2021 theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”
In public safety, every month is Preparedness Month. One of the best ways for the public safety community to prepare for emergencies and disasters is with FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network.
FirstNet Authority supports preparedness
As an independent government agency, the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet Authority, works to understand public safety’s communication needs and provide education about how FirstNet can support their mission. One way we do that is by helping agencies be ready to use broadband technologies in their operations. FirstNet was built with interoperability, security, and priority and preemption designed for public safety to use for every day operations and large-scale events or emergencies.
The FirstNet Authority provides three types of support for FirstNet that are especially helpful to emergency managers and public safety agencies as they prepare for all hazards:
Pre-planning with FirstNet Authority experts
Our team of experts at the FirstNet Authority offers pre-planning support to FirstNet users. We meet with public safety agencies preparing for impending disasters or large events to evaluate how FirstNet’s broadband technologies can be used. We convene all the relevant participants and work together to:
- Understand the scope of the event
- Identify priority locations where broadband communications are needed
- Determine the broadband capabilities and technologies public safety will use at those locations
All of this information is documented and provided to our network contractor, AT&T, to use in determining the right solution to support the event.
When Cleveland, Ohio was designated as a site for one of 2020’s presidential debates, the Cuyahoga County Emergency Management Agency contacted the FirstNet Authority for pre-planning support. The agency’s Adam Griffith credited the pre-planning with executing a safe and successful event.
“When we hosted the presidential debate in September, we worked with the FirstNet Authority team on a planning call where we talked about the event and what our communications needs were. That turned it into a really well-planned event, and it was great that the FirstNet Authority team was able to assist us,” he said. “We’ve also used the FirstNet Authority’s pre-planning support for when Cleveland hosts the NFL draft and hope to use it for next year’s NBA All-Star game too.”
Exercise inject catalog to practice using broadband
To assist agencies with integrating broadband into trainings and exercises, the FirstNet Authority developed the FirstNet Inject Catalog. This comprehensive, searchable tool poses more than 800 realistic injects (for operations-based exercises) and questions (for discussion-based exercises) related to common public safety broadband activities.
To make it easy for emergency managers to use, the FirstNet Inject Catalog was designed in the same Excel format as the widely-used Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) Master Scenario Events List (MSEL). If you are interested in learning more about the Inject Catalog, contact FirstNetExercises@FirstNet.gov.
Post-inquiry reviews for lessons learned
A post-inquiry review is pre-planning in reverse. After a disaster or event, it’s helpful to look back on the successes and challenges of the incident or event to better prepare for similar incidents or events in the future. That’s why the FirstNet Authority offers the post-inquiry review program.
When a post-inquiry review is requested, the FirstNet Authority facilitates a discussion among all participating agencies to work through a series of questions capturing successes, challenges, best practices and lessons learned. The discussion focuses on planning, logistics, operations, and technology. Then we put this information into a report for public safety agencies, the FirstNet Authority, and AT&T to help with future communications planning.
Preparedness with FirstNet results in better response
The FirstNet Authority offers these three types of support to help agencies understand how to best use FirstNet during disasters or large events. The results are often more timely and efficient decision-making, better coordinated response, and well-managed resources and logistics.
If you’re interested in one of these supports, contact your public safety advisor to set up a meeting.
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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