The new partnership between the Anchorage Police Department and cellular service providers is helping police officers improve the reliability of communications tools during emergencies.
The division is now equipped with cellular devices that support FirstNet, a communications platform designed for public safety. In an emergency, the first responder can bypass general public transportation to communicate more effectively with other emergency personnel.
“This is the government's system for public safety,” said Anchorage Police Director Justin Dorr. "Public security through FirstNet has bandwidth reserved for us only, and it allows us to prioritize existing commercial handset bandwidth.
“If the first responders need to use their mobile phone, it will pass,” he said. “Even if there are some very big events, everyone is using their mobile phone and overloading the network.”
The collaboration was achieved by AT&T, which won the bid for the service and will make changes - including the installation of a new cellular tower in a remote area of Alaska - to enable the deployment of a dedicated wireless public safety broadband network.
“It's critical for first responders to be able to get the job done,”said Shawn Uschmann, director of external affairs at AT&T. "In an emergency, there are two characteristics - called 'priority' and 'preemptive strike' - which puts the first responder in a leading position.
“There are a lot of things to worry about,” he said. "Communication should not be one of them."
According to reports, FirstNet started rioting in Southcentral, Alaska, before the earthquake on November 30, although the incident helped to emphasize the demand for this technology. Uschmann said the contract will be implemented in the next 25 years.
"What I experienced was to use that phone to contact people who didn't belong to the system. Sometimes the phone didn't pass, and even the text was delayed," Dole said. “Contacting people through FirstNet phones, I have instant communication with these people.”
Doll added that he wants to make sure that people know that there are a lot of people in the department on the spot to help them as needed.
“Our society is accustomed to instant personal communication,” he said. “So our first responders have the same access.”