AL becomes 24th state to join FirstNet for first responders - FOX10 News | WALA

AL becomes 24th state to join FirstNet for first responders

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Gov. Kay Ivey poses for a photo with other officials and first responders. (Source: WSFA 12 News) Gov. Kay Ivey poses for a photo with other officials and first responders. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Alabama will become the 24th state to join the federal FirstNet First Responder Network, a communications network just for first responders, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Tuesday morning. 

The goal of FirstNet is to prevent first responders from having their network clogged during vital situations. Ivey said FirstNet comes as a result of the issues on 9/11 when a jammed communication system created major issues during the disaster.

“Reliable, effective communications systems and networks are most important when lives are on the line,” Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Hal Taylor said. “I am very pleased Alabama is opting in to be part of FirstNet. This network and the new tools it will provide will help our first responders do their jobs more safely and effectively, and it will help save lives all across the state.” 

According to Taylor, AT&T will build around 30 towers throughout the state, which will help service the program, investing money to make sure the technology does not go obsolete.

“They [AT&T] are the support for FirstNet for 25 years. And they have put over $40 billion into this to be sure that does not happen,” Taylor explained. 

The State of Alabama will not have to pay anything for the system, which Ivey said should be up and running by 2022. The funds are from the federal government.

FirstNet will transform the way Alabama’s firefighters, police, emergency medical services (EMS) and other public safety personnel communicate and share information. According to the governor's office, it will:

  1. Connect first responder subscribers to the critical information they need in a highly secure manner when handling day-to-day operations, responding to emergencies and supporting large events like college football games, which attract more than 100,000 fans to home games at some of the larger universities in the state.
  2. Provide priority access to data communications for public safety personnel in agencies and jurisdictions across the state during natural disasters, such as the 2011 Super Outbreak that produced a record number of tornadoes in the state.
  3. Enhance and expand network coverage across Alabama's diverse landscape, benefitting first responders and residents throughout the state's rural areas, including mountainous and tribal lands.
  4. Provide first responders with access to dedicated network assets that can be deployed for additional coverage and support when needed.
  5. Drive infrastructure investments and create jobs across the state.
  6. Usher in a new wave of dependable innovations for first responders. This will create an ever-evolving set of life-saving tools for public safety, including public safety apps, specialized devices and Internet of Things technologies. It also carries the potential for future integration with NextGen 9-1-1 networks and Smart Cities' infrastructure.

“Keeping Alabama’s residents, visitors and first responders safe is of the highest concern,” Ivey said. “From volunteer emergency responders in our rural communities to those on the front lines in more populated areas, our public safety community deserves access to the tools they need most. This collaboration with FirstNet and AT&T will allow us to provide our first responders increased capabilities to communicate as effectively and efficiently as possible, while also ensuring that our residents and businesses have the best possible services provided to them in times of emergency.”

(News conference with audio begins at 2:10 mark)

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