New network, ‘FirstNet,’ to offer first responders more efficient communication

Local News

From wildfires on Mount Charleston, and flooding in the valley, to shootings on the Las Vegas Strip and dangerous crashes on major roadways; a new broadband network is meant to help first responders save lives during all those situations with more efficient communication.

It’s called FirstNet.  In a report regarding 1 October released earlier this week, FEMA recommended it for public safety departments here in the valley.

“The dropped phone calls; the text messages were delayed,” said Chief Greg Cassell, Clark County Fire Department.

Clark County Fire Cheif Greg Cassell says mobile communications for first responders on 1 October was a challenge.  That’s because thousands of people were on the same system the night of the tragedy.

“The cell networks just became overwhelmed, and it was very tough to get some messages in and out, either voice or texting,” said Cassell.

The Clark County Fire Department is now implementing a new network to avoid that in the future.

FirstNet is the first-ever nation-wide network dedicated exclusively to first responders. It’ll help them not when they’re out in the field instead of in emergency operation centers. This means it ensures the network delivers when public safety needs it most.

FirstNet promises a fast and reliable communications system for wireless devices, like cell phones and laptops.  It’s pretty much a freeway for public safety.

“When nothing’s happening, other customers can come on that freeway, but when a situation like Route 91 happens, everybody who’s not public safety will come off that freeway, and it opens up those communication airwaves just for police, fire, EMS and any other responders,” said Chrissie Coon, the spokeswoman for FirstNet.  “So my hotspot, I’ve already got it connected to my computer.”

CCFD has hotspots, and they’re transferring their phones to the system.

Chief Cassell says despite FEMA’s report on 1 October, which recommends FirstNet, it was already on the department’s radar because of its benefits.

“Texting, data transfers, video transfers, anything that we need to do to move information from point A to point B will be much more robust and much more efficient,” said Cassell.

FirstNet is being built up across the country, with 2,500 agencies signed on.  CCFD hopes to have it up and running within the next two years.

“I’m excited for the technology to be developed,” Chief Cassell said.

The broadband network is a private-public partnership between FirstNet and AT&T.

It’s all being paid for by AT&T, which is investing 40 billion dollars over its 25-year contract.

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