First responders need wireless broadband

Public Safety, First Responders Rely on Mobile Wireless Networks

First responders need universal coverage, both in terms of disaster response and resiliency. First responders rely on wireless broadband as they rush to the front lines for fires, crime scenes, and disasters and need mobile connectivity on site to protect themselves and the public. In many rural areas, the closest hospital can be an hour or more away. Wireless broadband like 5G can turn an ambulance into a mobile emergency room during that “golden hour,” saving lives and preventing disabilities.  

As I said in testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, a flexible, all-of-the-above approach — deploying fiber, fixed and mobile wireless — will best achieve all Congressional broadband and climate change goals.

Many current and potential applications for public-safety officials are powered by wireless broadband. A combination of wearables, sensors, cameras, and other Internet-connected technologies are being used by public-safety departments to enhance their efforts in a variety of settings.  For example, FirstNet, the dedicated network that Congress established to support first responders, has nearly 80 deployable assets available at no cost to subscriber agencies, utilizing Band 14 for the best public-safety experience. In Chicago and Miami, for example, police departments are utilizing technology that uses an array of smart acoustic sensors to identify gunshots and isolate their location. In Sea Isle City, New Jersey, cameras and sensors are being used to monitor flood risk.  Electronic flashing road signs are automatically activated to alert drivers when the flood risk is high.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, often referred to as drones, can get information to first responders faster in an emergency. Drones equipped with cameras are increasingly being used in search-and-rescue situations to scour areas that may be difficult for people to access. In January 2019, a search-and-rescue team in Utah used a drone to locate a 60-year-old hiker stranded on a ledge.  During the Camp Fire, 16 Northern California emergency-responder agencies worked together using a team of drones to map and track the fire, helping them develop and implement their containment strategies.

Advances in wireless technology have helped spur the development of tools utilized by public-safety officials. As next-generation wireless devices and networks roll out across America, 5G will enable a whole new generation of public-safety innovations. Public safety and disaster response will benefit from broadband infrastructure, including wireless broadband.