Huber Heights exploring wireless network reserved for first responders

Local News

Leaders here believe a new system could revamp public safety. 

Friday, representatives from AT&T demonstrated aspects of FirstNet for first responders and city officials.

The system delivers a dedicated, reliable broadband network, reserved specifically for emergency response crews.

“In any major event, more than likely we are dealing across a multi-jurisdictional type of response. That is law enforcement, fire, EMS, we could even be involving hospitals at the time. And communication is critical,” said Huber Heights Fire Chief Mark Ashworth.

The flood of communication during a crisis can bog down wireless networks. The issue was brought to the forefront after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when first responders faced challenges connecting and relaying information.

Ashworth explained, “Everybody gets on the cell phone at the same time and what it does is it slows and actually locks that system out.”

Congress established the First Responder Network Authority to address communications issues, tasking it with creating FirstNet; a dedicated public safety network so crews could more quickly and effectively respond to emergencies.

In 2017, AT&T earned a 25-year award to build, operate and maintain the network. One year later, more than 350 agencies in more than 40 states and territories subscribe to FirstNet.

Friday, Huber Heights leaders said they were impressed with the system.

City councilman Richard Shaw said, “They can have that priority access and that communication with our state, federal and local partners, Wright Patterson Air Force Base if anything was to happen. “Also on top of that, we can link our hospitals, our utilities into this FirstNet system so we really have a good, all-around, big bang for our buck communications system.”

The communications platform is paid for by a public-private partnership, which Shaw says alleviates costs for taxpayers.

Huber Heights first responders said the capabilities would streamline communication.

“To have something available… that isolates us from everybody else during an emergency; that’s pretty important to us,” Ashworth said.

Over the next five years, the service could be available to 95 percent of the country.

To learn more about FirstNet, click here.

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