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Alabama joins first responder communication network, FirstNet

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Tuesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced that Alabama would be the 24th state to be part of the FirstNet First Responder Network.

FirstNet came out of the 9/11 Commission with the goal of making sure first responders had a network that would not get jammed up in the event of a crisis. Governor Ivey said first responders deserve the best equipment as they serve and put their lives on the line.

"The very least we in state government can do is to ensure our first responders never have to worry about communicating with one another and the agencies they need to be responding to when duty calls," Gov. Ivey said.

FirstNet, partnered with AT&T will build, operate and maintain the wireless communication network at no cost to the state. Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Hal Taylor said AT&T will build around 30 towers all across the state for the network.

"Reliable, effective communications systems and networks are most important when lives are on the line," Secretary Hal Taylor said. "I am very pleased Alabama is opting in to be part of FirstNet. This network, and the new tools it will provide, will help our first responders do their jobs more safely and effectively, and it will help save lives all across the state."

The system will transform the way first responders and other members of public safety communicate and share information. The governor's office added FirstNet will:

  • Connect first responder subscribers to the critical information they need in a highly secure manner when handling day-to-day operations, responding to emergencies and supporting large events like college football games, which attract more than 100,000 fans to home games at some of the larger universities in the state.
  • Provide priority access to data communications for public safety personnel in agencies and jurisdictions across the state during natural disasters, such as the 2011 Super Outbreak that produced a record number of tornadoes in the state.
  • Enhance and expand network coverage across Alabama's diverse landscape, benefitting first responders and residents throughout the state's rural areas, including mountainous and tribal lands.
  • Provide first responders with access to dedicated network assets that can be deployed for additional coverage and support when needed.
  • Drive infrastructure investments and create jobs across the state.
  • Usher in a new wave of dependable innovations for first responders. This will create an ever-evolving set of life-saving tools for public safety, including public safety apps, specialized devices and Internet of Things technologies. It also carries the potential for future integration with NextGen 9-1-1 networks and Smart Cities' infrastructure.

Auburn Fire Division Deputy Chief Matt Jordan said that information relaying is critical for first responders, and having a system that can get them information about the emergency quicker can make a major difference.

"You need to know to the best extent that you can the circumstances that you're going into," Deputy Chief Jordan said. "We try to prepare for many different scenarios, but the more information you have, the better you are."

Back on Sept. 21, the Alabama First Responder Wireless Commission voted unanimously in a called meeting to send an "opt-in" letter of recommendation to Gov. Ivey. The AFRWC is made up of numerous state, local and tribal public safety organizations and professional associations. FirstNet and AT&T have come up with a plan to meet the communication needs of the state by doing things such as:

  • Expanding rural coverage beyond what is currently available from commercial carriers.
  • Offering affordable data services to public safety across the state.
  • Delivering a network for public safety with continuing expansive geographical coverage and increasing redundancy and resiliency.

Alabama's first responder AT&T subscribers will have immediate access to quality of service and priority access to voice and data across the existing nationwide AT&T LTE network. By the end of the year, preemption for AT&T LTE network users is expected. What that means is subscribing first responders will have 24/7, 365 access to the FirstNet network.

Governor Ivey said the network is expected to up by 2022.


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