Estimated reading time: 19 minute(s)
By: Paul Guest
Billed as the first communications network dedicated to emergency services, FirstNet promises to deliver a dynamic and reliable vehicle for first responders to transmit and receive critical data in the field. Built with today’s real-time technology in mind, this innovative service not only enables situational awareness but elevates it to the status of instant intelligence. However, the service and equipment aren’t free. And while many departments have no issue making room in their budgets for mission critical equipment and services, the numbers and statistics cannot answer a key question on the minds of public safety agencies we at Zetron work with every day.
How will FirstNet change the way we work?
It’s a great question. While the rollout and adoption of FirstNet (and other dedicated public safety networks around the world) is not happening overnight obviously, it’s advanced enough for us to now have a much better idea on how to answer that than we did even just a year ago. So let’s take a look.
We’ll start with a summary of three high level, but highly important ways FirstNet is going to impact the daily lives of those in public safety. If you then decide you want to explore it deeper you’re in luck, because we have some additional informational resources we can offer to help you gain a deeper and more thorough understanding of the full impact that FirstNet and other national public safety broadband networks (NPSBNs) are going to have on Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) but let’s talk high level impacts first.
3 ways FirstNet Will Impact the Daily Lives of those in Public Safety
1. Evolutionary Responder Awareness and Command Visibility
Whether you’re an emergency dispatcher facilitating a multi-jurisdictional response to a natural disaster, a police officer responding to a report of shots fired, a firefighter searching for victims in a smoke-filled apartment building, or a paramedic juggling multiple patients at the scene of a mass casualty incident, the slightest shift in conditions could result in tragedy. Staying connected and cognizant of your situation and surroundings is crucial to doing the job effectively and ensuring everyone goes home safe. And while high profile incidents typically only make up a small percentage of calls, the ability to send and receive up to the minute information, communicate with your crew, and maintain real time location information accuracy for all responding personnel on every call is vital.
Aside from ascertaining incident details via text and audio, FirstNet also enables connectivity for accessing the internet, querying internal databases, and easily viewing and/or streaming live on-scene footage. Plus, because the network integrates with both departmental and Internet of Things (IoT) data systems, and supports Pusg-to-talk (PTT) and VoIP technology, access to the latest update or nearest backup unit is only a click away.
Speaking of interoperability, FirstNet transforms command visibility and takes resource coordination to another level. Besides enabling dispatchers, command supervisors, and field units to identify, deploy, and organize resources based on a real time, birds-eye view of the scene, FirstNet’s dynamic and flexible service allows for mobile crew coordination and inter-agency communication during peak air times without having to worry about bottlenecks or break downs due to congestion.
2. Uncompromising Coverage, Network Prioritization, and Service Reliability
During special events, critical incidents, or disasters, traffic can flood the network making it difficult to get through. Worse still, weak signals or dropped calls can distort the message, leading to further chaos or confusion. This legacy, but very real and frustrating issue is slated to be a distant memory for public safety communications agencies on FirstNet.
In fact, the network was constructed to ensure first responders receive lightning-fast, priority service, and a usable signal regardless of traffic or location. What this means is no matter the situation – there will be a signal, and the call will go through every time.
And while that sounds like a tall order, keep in mind the entire system was forged on the promise of reliability, resilience, and redundancy. Whether it’s by extending the reach of your traditional radio system or empowering public safety with service capable of handling substantial data needs – FirstNet was built to stay on and keep working. Even when others can’t.
3. Advanced Data Security
Data security is a hot button issue when it comes to emergency services. Whether you’re ensuring the confidentiality of a patient’s medical records in transit, preserving the integrity of digital evidence from a fire, or safeguarding vehicle data collected at a crash, as a professional, you must make sure the tools you use don’t compromise your effectiveness, or the credibility or liability of your agency.
Unfortunately, that’s not all you have to worry about. Right now, we are at a crossroads for cybersecurity. Every day, across the nation, public safety agencies are finding themselves caught in a never-ending battle to defend their information systems from malicious actors, ransomware, or other cyber attacks. Having encrypted technology is no longer an afterthought. It’s integral to the mission and is why data security is yet another area where FirstNet excels.
Because of the dynamic structure of FirstNet, both static and mobile data stays encrypted and secure throughout its journey. Meaning you can leverage mission critical data applications without worrying about sending sensitive information and it potentially falling into the wrong hands.
Recapping from the Top
To sum up, FirstNet will transform how public safety communicates. Instead of trying to adjust the approach to fit the limitations of the tools, first responders can focus on scene safety and mission success, knowing they have the right communication technology in place to support their capabilities.
Besides enabling first responders to collaborate and make critical decisions based on the latest updates, FirstNet’s advanced security features allow responders to send and receive sensitive information without risking integrity or confidentiality. On top of that, the system functions as a force multiplier – enabling command to deploy, manage, expedite, and reallocate resources on the fly.
But of course, the biggest advantage lies in FirstNet’s resiliency, redundancy, and ranking of network traffic. Simply put, FirstNet provides first responders peace of mind that they’ll always be connected with both field personnel and communications centers with a strong, clear signal – no matter the incident or location. As far as benefits go – you can’t put a value on that.
Ready to learn more about enhancing public safety communications through FirstNet or other NPSBNs? Check out some of our other new related resources today.
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