• HigherGround

Transitioning to FirstNet: Rollouts and Testing

Updated: May 23, 2019

By Licia Wolf

Since its launch in 2018, over 5,250 public safety agencies have joined FirstNet. PSAPs around the country are realizing the benefits of interoperability with multiple devices and teams, as well as the speed of an unimpeded communications network.

Once a PSAP facility is equipped to handle multiple sources of data, using FirstNet streamlines communications for both dispatchers and first responders. A few organizations have shared their experiences using FirstNet and have provided examples of how this system can be utilized.

Real-Life Examples for First Responders

Las Vegas - The City of Las Vegas Fire and Rescue recently underwent a demonstration of the enhanced capabilities afforded with FirstNet during a 3-day public music event that brought an additional 180,000 visitors to an 18-block area. FirstNet Ready™ mobile devices were dispensed to 30 Las Vegas Fire and Rescue first responders. The devices were equipped with an app for push-to-talk with multidiscipline talk groups and interoperability between the agency and other area first responders.

During the festival, voice, text, videos, and location-based information was made accessible and without delay over FirstNet, and communications among first responders and dispatchers was far easier than before. The ambient noise experienced with radios was greatly reduced using mobile LTE devices instead, and the direct push-to-talk groups allowed quick, clear communication between different teams. Photos were also efficiently shared in the same way.

Plain Township, Ohio - Following a 2-month test with FirstNet’s router card, Plain Township Fire Department noted no interruptions in network connection. “Based upon the savings and the persistence of the cards, and our network communications, we made the decision to change our vehicles over to FirstNet, and it’s been a positive decision because it’s saved us money and it’s been reliable” says Assistant Fire Chief Jack Rupp.

Continuous Testing

In order to ensure successful service, FirstNet operates the Innovation and Testing Lab in Boulder, CO, where it develops and tests technologies involving public safety functionality and features unique to FirstNet’s mission-critical broadband network. This includes quality of service, priority, pre-emption, and other future mission-critical services and applications.

Recently the FirstNet test lab team met with local fire fighters to review their communication challenges. Areas that have been targeted for development are:

  • “Hardening,” or ruggedization, of devices, to allow operation in harsh environmental conditions

  • Device design that enable firefighters to operate mobile devices while wearing bunker gear, SCBA, and conducting very strenuous activities in harsh environments

  • Bridging between LMR radio channels and broadband voice MCPTT groups

  • Opportunities for building additional sensor and/or communication technology into firefighting equipment such as SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) gear

  • Using IoT to link such things as gas detectors, thermal imaging cameras, etc. to broadband devices that firefighters can use

  • Common use of critical applications by ALL first responder agencies in an area to allow agencies that are likely to work together act as a unified team in large and/or complex emergency incidents

  • Off-network device-to-device (D2D) communication (aka "direct mode" and "locally-routed path”/repeater for 4G techies) while out of cellular coverage - critical for MCPTT adoption by firefighters, especially in rural mountainous regions

In some cases, the LTE network still does not provide adequate coverage, especially in rural areas, in which case other means such as radio repeaters or satellite communication may come into play.

Development and testing are also in process for various FirstNet applications, which were discussed in our last blog.

HigherGround provides call recording and other data capture for PSAPs. For questions about our capabilities email us at info@higherground.com. HigherGround is FirstNet Ready.

If you would like to comment on this blog, you can express your thoughts and opinions below.


About the Author - Licia Wolf is the Marketing and Communications Manager at HigherGround. She holds a Ph.D., and a professional background in electronics, internet marketing, and print/imaging technology. Click here for more information on Licia and the rest of the HigherGround team.

HigherGround, Inc. provides best-in-class, reliable data capture and interaction storage solutions that enable clients to easily retrieve critical information. Our interaction recording and incident reconstruction solutions transform data into actionable intelligence, allowing optimization of operations, enhanced performance, and cost reduction.


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