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FirstNet in Action: Law Enforcement and Fire

Updated: May 23, 2019

By Licia Wolf

The FirstNet public safety LTE network launched just last year, and the effects of a reliable dedicated broadband network for first responders is already changing operations and achieving widespread positive effects. Utilizing a growing ecosystem of applications designed for public safety use, the abilities of first responders to communicate with dispatchers and each other is producing notably improved and quicker response.

Changes in First Responder Operations

First responders are becoming equipped with LTE connected devices (mobile phones, tablets, and laptops) that are outfitted with specialized applications for communications through FirstNet. Each mobile device must be set up with a suite of apps that allow it to operate in the most efficient way possible (e.g., MC-PTT, geospatial data, thermal data). With so many apps, teams, and individuals covering police and fire in a given area, standard operating procedures must be defined to determine what information should be recorded and shared and with who.The use of interoperable connected mobile devices allows law enforcement and firefighters to share data and critical information. The type of information will depend on the incident and agency involved.

Law Enforcement

InFirstNet allows sharing of data in fusion centers, which enables criminal intelligence-sharing between government agencies among local officers. Previously, local agencies have been dependent on officers reporting into their station, with limited communications between the field and station. Now with unlimited voice and other data flowing between first responders, dispatch, fire and EMS, officers have more time in the field to do their jobs.

Critical information shared:

  • Criminal records

  • Police database information (both local and state, local, or federal)

  • Photos

  • Real-time audio/video feeds

  • Surveillance video (drones, helicopters, street and vehicle cameras

Example: A bank robbery - previously the police might receive a black and white photo faxed to the station after a few hours, which could not be accessed by officers in the field. The new system provides color photos sent right to their mobile devices, along with any information from combined databases, allowing law enforcement to begin pursuit quickly and increase the probability of apprehension.

Law Enforcement Use Cases

  • Major Events: The FirstNet system allows seamless communication among units and between agencies as well, allowing incidences to be handled rapidly and to dispatch the correct responders to the location within the event.

  • MC-PPT and group sharing reduces amount of mis-information that may be transmitted. The commander can monitor events in real time from anywhere, reducing chaos.

  • For search and rescue and suspect searches, drone video feed coverage is increased, and latency is reduced.

  • Police body and in-car cams which produce encrypted video. Dash cams have a 360o camera that records both inside and outside of the vehicle. The chain of custody is now verifiable and provides data protection, both for the suspect and the officers

Fire Fighters

As for law enforcement, interconnectivity within and between teams is a key factor in the use of LTE and FirstNet. In the event that a disaster takes out all cell communications – such as a large forest fire or other wide area catastrophic event - FirstNet will deploy Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs) as needed. This was the case after the Camp Fire in Northern California.

Fire Fighter Use Cases

With a system of mobile devices and apps used with FirstNet, fire fighters can receive up-to-the-minute information on their mobile devices that provide data about the location, size the fire, if there are people in a burning building, and more. Further, they can send information back to dispatchers, share data with each other, with EMS teams, and other outside agencies.

Critical information shared:

  • Images and real time video of fires

  • Temperature, humidity, wind, and road conditions

  • Structure locations

  • Additional hazards

  • Water supply locations

  • Thermal imaging cameras placed on helicopters or drones can gauge extent of a fire in burning building, and find bodies through heavy smoke

  • Biosensors and body cams will allow real-time monitoring of fire fighters. If a team member experiences physical jeopardy, an alert will be transmitted, and help can be dispatched quickly. Previously only bulky LMR devices were used that are difficult to handle wearing fire gear, and no alerts were present.

  • Mapping tools – mapping applications can locate lookout positions, escape routes, safety zones, and water sources that can be shared with appropriate team members ​

During every-day and emergency situations, FirstNet increases security and situational awareness for law enforcement and firefighters by allowing immediate sharing of critical information among and between agencies. This provides revolutionary improvements in operations and the ability to save more lives.

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.

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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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