State: New FirstNet Partnership Is 'Major Step Forward' For First Responders

State: New FirstNet Partnership Is ‘Major Step Forward’ For First Responders

Kane County’s Office of Emergency Management is applauding a state of Illinois partnership with FirstNet to ensure that wireless broadband technology are available to public safety personnel statewide.

Gov. Bruce Rauner along with officials from numerous first responder agencies formally announced the partnership on Monday (Dec. 18, 2017) at the MABAS Readiness Center in Wheeling.

“Communication is a life or death proposition in emergencies. Opting in to FirstNet’s dedicated network means first responders — fire, EMS, police — always have an open channel when it comes to doing their lifesaving work,” Rauner said.

Illinois joins dozens of states opting in to the national First Responder Network, a communications network that is being built, operated and maintained at no cost to participating states through a public-private partnership between FirstNet and AT&T.

Is this a good thing for Kane County? OEM Director Don Byrant says the short answer is “yes!”

“FirstNet will give the public safety community a new tool we never had before in making available a true interoperable communications platform with dedicate bandwidth,” he said.

According to a state of Illinois news release, FirstNet participation will:

  • Provide first responders with prioritized network access;
  • Connect subscribing first responders with critical information needed in a highly secure manner, whether for day-to-day operations or large-scale emergencies;
  • Create an efficient communications experience for public safety personnel in jurisdictions across the state when responding to natural disasters;
  • Enhance network coverage across the state’s diverse landscape, particularly benefiting those in rural areas;
  • Drive infrastructure investments and create jobs across Illinois; and,
  • Usher in new lifesaving tools, including apps, specialized devices and technologies, with the potential for future integration with NextGen 911 networks and Smart Cities’ infrastructure.

‘A Major Step Forward’

Joe Galvin, statewide interoperability coordinator for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said Monday’s opt-in letter signing culminates a years-long effort to ensure broad-based participation.

“Illinois has assembled a 100-member multidiscipline, multijurisdictional stakeholder group that has provided input on what emergency responders will require in a broadband network,” Galvin said. “All the information gathered has been provided to the First Responder Network Authority and has been incorporated in to the offering provided to Illinois.”

“FirstNet is a major step forward for law enforcement — and for all first responders,” added Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz. “Whether we’re heading toward the aftermath of a tornado or an incident involving an active shooter, public-safety workers need their communications devices to work, oftentimes in adverse conditions. This will give them the best possible chance to save lives and provide aid to the injured.”

FirstNet, short for First Responder Network Authority, is an independent authority established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It grew from a key 9/11 Commission finding that clogged communication lines made it impossible to warn firefighters that the Twin Towers were collapsing, and generally hindered effective response.

“The ability to exchange data between public safety agencies and various other disciplines will be greatly enhanced with the development of the FirstNet network,” said Chief Jeff Macko, president of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. “Voice communications on FirstNet will be a significant supportive adjunct to the current land mobile radio systems.”

Alsip Fire Department Deputy Chief Robert Ricker agreed that FirstNet will be a blessing.

“This will provide enhanced communication capabilities for first responders from all levels of government, whether operating at a small local event or a larger regional disaster,” he said. “With FirstNet, we will have additional tools at our disposal to help with decision-making.”

Joseph Klinger, acting director for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, also welcomed Monday’s announcement.

“This decision is a culmination of a four-and-a-half-year effort leveraging input from first responders across all of Illinois,” he said. “It is essential for lifesaving activities that public safety has the ability to make cellular phone calls, access critical information and transmit video during an incident.”

And Kirk Lonbom, the acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), said the action demonstrates the governor’s vision to modernize state government.

“The decision to opt in to FirstNet will enable DoIT to provide enhanced services and innovative solutions in support of public safety and emergency management,” he said.

“Governor Rauner’s decision to join FirstNet demonstrates his strong support and dedication to public safety throughout the state,” added First Responder Network Authority CEO Mike Poth. “We are honored to serve Illinois’ first responders and deliver to them a reliable, broadband communications network that will help them save lives and protect communities.”

Video of the event will be posted here<>.