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When law enforcement needs help—elevating extended primary users on FirstNet

April 18, 2023

Law enforcement officers are among the most important users of the FirstNet network, along with other public safety agencies like EMS, fire services, 9-1-1, and emergency management. When help is needed from the wider community, public safety can temporarily give other subscribing organizations elevated access to the network. This keeps everyone connected and communicating when it matters most.

Primary public safety always has priority

FirstNet was designed to ensure public safety officials have access to network resources when they are needed. Primary users include law enforcement, fire, EMS, emergency management, and emergency communications responders. These users always have access to priority and preemption on the network without the need for any additional steps.

During an incident, law enforcement often works with other partners in the community to support their response. These partners might be called upon to provide transportation, clear roads, clean up debris, or restore utility lines. They need the ability to communicate effectively during a response to support primary user missions. These users are referred to as extended primary users.  

Who qualifies for extended primary status?

Extended primary users can include school security and resource officers, certain healthcare professionals, public works, and utilities, among others. They are critical in helping public safety during incidents that may otherwise overwhelm communities.
Extended primary users have no impact on primary users’ access to network resources.

Which organizations qualify as extended primary users is determined by terms of the contract governing the public-private partnership between the FirstNet Authority and AT&T. The types of organizations that qualify as extended primary users have been developed through input from primary users.
As part of our oversight role, the FirstNet Authority conducts a regular review of the organizations that are granted extended primary user status. Extended primary users are required to provide documentation demonstrating their participation within a public safety support role to qualify. Our review team may request additional eligibility information to make sure these organizations are supporting public safety.  

Public safety’s unique ability to uplift

Priority and preemption on FirstNet is an always-on feature for primary subscribers that ensures law enforcement and other public safety officials can always access network resources over other users.

During incidents or events, communications between first responders and other organizations is critical to an effective response. When public safety identifies a need, they can temporarily uplift extended primary users on the network using the
FirstNet Uplift Request Tool.  

Uplifting extended primary users is one of FirstNet’s unique features designed for the needs of public safety operations.

How uplift works

The Uplift Request Tool can be used to elevate extended primary users during incidents or events when the network may get congested. Only authorized and trained individuals from primary agencies can uplift. For example, when a school shooting occurs, law enforcement can uplift school security, school administrators, or bus transportation to better coordinate the response.

Only authorized primary users can uplift extended primary users. Extended primary users can’t uplift themselves.

Primary users have local control. Public safety can uplift on the fly or schedule an uplift in advance. The uplift can last from 1 to 48 hours and be extended as needed for the situation.

Communicating with all stakeholders

In Annapolis, Maryland, officials have instituted a citywide adoption of FirstNet. The rollout includes primary users like the Annapolis Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management. It also includes extended primary users like public works, the transportation department, and recreation and parks.

Chief of Police Edward Jackson said that this citywide approach enhances law enforcement’s ability to protect the community. “What FirstNet provides is the ability to communicate with all stakeholders, whether we’re talking about public works, the Office of Emergency Management, or any city or state agency,” he explained. “It gives us the ability to communicate in real time.”

FirstNet provides the vital connectivity and lifesaving tools first responders need. During a disaster or planned event, support organizations can be granted elevated access to FirstNet to ensure the best possible response.     


To learn more about how FirstNet is helping public safety and the law enforcement community to leverage innovative public safety communications, sign up for the Law Enforcement Take with Harry Markley