Between hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, a first responder communications network could not come sooner.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott choose to opt-in to FirstNet and AT&T’s State Plan for a Texas first responder network on Tuesday, Sept. 19, weeks after Hurricane Harvey barreled through. Maryland and Idaho also opted-in to FirstNet this week, but Texas is the largest state to opt-in so far. Now 19 states and two territories that have accepted their respective State Plans and will allow AT&T to construct a broadband network for first responder use.
“The safety and security of Texas communities is my number one priority and I want to provide our first responders with the best technology possible,” said Gov. Abbott to FirstNet in a statement.
AT&T and FirstNet have worked since late March to implement a public safety broadband network system across the U.S. for first responders. In emergency situations, this network would be capable of connecting public safety personnel so they can communicate with each other effectively to help those in need.
FirstNet and AT&T are not the only entities working on developing a public safety communications network. Verizon announced in August that it intends to create its own network for public safety. These networks have the same objectives: to provide priority access to this network to first responders in an emergency situation and at no charge to the state. For a state to have access to the Verizon public safety network, it does not have to opt-out of FirstNet.
Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria highlight the importance of having reliable public safety communications. Both hurricanes caused extensive damage to both Florida and Texas’s communication systems. According to the FCC, cell coverage was not nearly as affected as it had been in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, but the impact of two Category 4 hurricanes left many in the afflicted areas without coverage.
Four percent (320 of 7,804) of cells sites in the areas of Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey were down, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Carriers responding by sending teams in to fix the damaged areas quickly and efficiently. AT&T also deployed 25 drones in southwest Texas to explore the damage done to cell towers in areas that were unreachable any other way due to flooding.
Connected Real Estate Magazine will keep you updated on how the mobile industry continues to handle these natural disasters.