Getting the Most Out of FirstNet

By James Careless

The fact that FirstNet provides first responders with dedicated, priority wireless broadband service across America is reason enough to use this system. That being said, there is much more that FirstNet provides to its users — even if they don’t know about it. Here is a guide to getting the most out of FirstNet for public safety agencies big and small.

FirstNet Central: Everything you need in one place

FirstNet Central is a secure, all-in-one, easy-to-use, personalized portal for FirstNet users. “We provide unprecedented system access to first responders, allowing them to see the status of the actual network and to receive alarms based on their locations using their own personalized online maps,” said Matt Walsh, AT&T’s Area Vice President for FirstNet Products and 911. “Using this same application, they can overlay information such as weather, traffic conditions, location of critical assets, and current events.”

FirstNet Central also has tools to help public safety agencies securely manage their own FirstNet users and group members; purchase, customize and control their FirstNet wireless devices; and manage their FirstNet apps. “We have more than 220 applications in that app store,” Walsh said. “We work really diligently to certify a set of applications for first responders, including testing and vetting them.”

That’s not all: FirstNet Central can help public safety agencies manage their accounts and billing, including provisioning their services and viewing wireless reports on system usage.

“We also have a fleet of over 180 deployables, or mobile cell sites, that can be booked through FirstNet Central to provide emergency wireless coverage to public safety agencies—at no cost to them,” said Brian Hobson, Acting Assistant Executive Director for Innovation and Investment at the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). “We have a variant of the program as well where the deployables are customer owned-and-maintained, and FirstNet helps them deploy these units as needed to support their operations.”

These are just some of the features available to FirstNet users through FirstNet Central. Sign up with FirstNet to find out more.

Get help through the FirstNet Authority’s Network Experience Engagement Program (NEEP)

For public safety agencies, getting ready for a large-scale event like the Super Bowl or a state fair may seem like a daunting process. This is why the FirstNet Authority, the federal agency mandated by Congress to ensure the building, deployment and operation of FirstNet, offers agencies operational assistance through its Network Experience Engagement Program (NEEP). NEEP offers pre-event planning support, post-event reviews, and training/exercise assistance — at no charge to FirstNet users.

“We can come in and help with those planning efforts to make sure that public safety agencies are properly integrating FirstNet into their responses. On the backend, we’re also there to help assess how well things went and what lessons can be learned for the future,” Hobson said. All it takes to request NEEP support is an email sent to

A handy how-to-guide for using FirstNet

Available as an online PDF, the 56-page FirstNet Authority Emergency Management Resource Guide is a free reference book on all things FirstNet. It explains what FirstNet is and how to deploy it, the mission-critical applications and deployables offered by the FirstNet Authority, and wireless network features that are unique to FirstNet, among other topics. “It’s a great resource guide that walks you through all the different ways that you could be using FirstNet, creates checklists for things you should be looking at, and is a great all-around tool for learning about FirstNet,” said Hobson.

Experts on call

Sometimes a public safety agency just needs an ‘expert on call’ to provide informed advice about using the network and accessing its many resources. This is where the FirstNet Authority’s team of Senior Public Safety Advisors can assist. Located across the country, these advisors — many of whom are current or former first responders — are here to provide guidance and support to FirstNet users.

Cool tech to check out

Want to see how the FirstNet Authority pioneers new applications and technology while keeping the FirstNet network functionally optimal? You can visit the Boulder FirstNet Lab. While there, you can also visit the Public Safety Immersive Test Center located in the same building. Designed to help first responders train realistically for a range of scenarios such as complex searches, the Test Center is equipped with a motion capture system, 62 high-speed optical tracking cameras, a color prime camera, augmented and virtual reality headsets, and gear/fixtures that add a tactile element to training simulations. Visits to both facilities can be booked for free by sending an email to

Quick answers, case studies, and more

Mindful that many of the questions posed by FirstNet users have been answered before, the FirstNet Authority has a “Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions” fact sheet available online. It has also posted a number of case studies explaining how public safety agencies are using FirstNet on its “FirstNet in Action” web page. Additionally, the FirstNet Authority offers newsletters and webinars, which you can sign up for at this web page. Add in the FirstNet Authority’s social media pages on X, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, and there are many ways to keep up with the latest news, announcements, and updates from the FirstNet Authority.


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